Electing executives with no executive experience was chic in the last election cycle. The bills for on-the-job training are stacking up two years later.
For whatever charm that idea held then, it left Seattle with Mike McGinn in the mayor's office. McGinn, an attorney and non-profit operator, has no experience in any productive segment of society but now manages a large organization dependent on taxes from private enterprise. The majority of the city's tax revenue is generated by for-profit businesses and spending by the people on their payrolls. In spite of that, Seattle is the state's epicenter of anti-business sentiment and its mayor displays no knowledge of the private sector. Growing tax revenue may be a greater challenge than just coming out of the recession.
The mayor's disdain is reflected in his policies and, more recently, his budget. The city is about $67 million short of continuing business-as-usual. That would be no cuts in any programs or staff, and raises for all. So the plan is to maintain as much of the business-as-usual by, among other elements, assaulting downtown businesses with parking fees double those in Manhattan and clobbering "advantaged neighborhoods" with a withdrawal of services.
Queen Anne faces the loss of its community center with it myriad services to the youth and seniors of the neighborhood. It was to become a studio for the PBS program, BizKid$, until that organization withdrew, however the city may continue shopping it around. The mayor thought the kids and seniors could bus it to other venues around town, a plan that would regularly expose an at-risk population to downtown drug sales as they bus to other facilities. The mayor insists such sacrifices are necessary if we are to paint more $10,000 bike boxes on our streets, apparently his top priority.
Another disconnect from reality is the mayor's "Jobs Plans," a bureaucrat's vision of what appeals to the private sector. According to the mayor, nightlife, increasing the "green factor" and adding to congestion through his Walk, Bike, Ride program make a city more attractive to business. Never mind that more businesses per capita are locating in suburban cities, not Seattle.
The city's budget director is hoping for a modest turn-around in 2011 - 2012, but the mayor's policies may further damage downtown businesses while his transportation policies persuade others to expand or locate elsewhere. Eventually their employees leave too. Then business-as-usual becomes a further reach.
Over the last decade, the city's tax revenues grew by almost 50 percent, vastly higher than inflation and double the growth of the state as a whole. Even at that rate taxes could not keep pace with our politicians' ability to spend the windfalls.
Now the scramble is on for more taxes or spending cuts. It is difficult to look at the list of city departments and not come up with several that could be entirely eliminated with no harm to the citizenry. The Department of Economic Development with a staff lacking real world experience and controlled by anti-business politicians, comes to mind. Need more tax revenue? License adult bicycle riders. Or, better yet, enforce traffic laws on cyclists. That would fill the city's coffers to overflowing in no time at all.
Formerly McGinn headed the Seattle Great City Initiative a non-profit, we-know-best, operation. Now that he has his hands on the levers, one would think that the mayor believes that great cities come about by pitting neighborhoods against one another, destroying the transportation system, and driving business out. Does he know Detroit once was a great city too?[[In-content Ad]]