By Stacy Nguyen
Northwest Asian Weekly
“[Seattle Mayor-elect Mike] McGinn explained that rather than making courtesy calls to all the council members, he thought it better to just walk over and meet face to face on a casual basis,” said Seattle City Councilmember Nick Licata in a release. “This is a departure from Mayor Nickel’s style, which was to rely more on his deputy mayor Tim Ceis to walk the council hallway.”
Licata’s observation is a reemphasis of what McGinn has been articulating throughout his campaign for Seattle mayor. McGinn calls the period of time between now and Jan. 4, when he is sworn in, as an “open source” transition.
“We ran our campaign a little differently than campaigns are normally run,” McGinn said, speaking to the public through a YouTube video. “We’re going to run our transition in the same spirit and style as our campaign. … It’s very important to us to hear from everyone in Seattle about what they think is important.” McGinn has met with former Seattle mayors Norm Rice and Charles Royer and former King County Executive Ron Sims to gain insight and advice on the best way to build a strong team to lead the City of Seattle forward. However, McGinn stresses, “We’re not just going to talk to important elected officials.”
McGinn is making a dramatic departure from predecessors. Rather than appointing a list of civic leaders and activists to make up his transition team, he is relying on a broader collection of community input.
McGinn is asking a number of community leaders to solicit opinions from their contacts in the general public by answering three questions about how to better the mayor’s administration.
How will McGinn do this? “We’ve asked some of the people who’ve worked on the campaign to serve as our ambassadors.” These ambassadors are going out into the community to talk to colleagues, friends, and acquaintances. The ambassadors will then report the information back to McGinn.
“I applaud this effort and wish him well in his administration’s first challenge: figuring out how to best use this flood of information,” said Licata. “This could be the start of an open and vigorous conversation on where Seattle should be headed.”
Darryl Smith and Kip Tokuda have agreed to serve as transition facilitators and oversee the outreach efforts. Smith lives in Columbia City in Southeast Seattle and serves as board chair for the Seattle Great City Initiative. Tokuda is a former Washington State Representative and is currently the chair of the House’s Children and Family Services Committee.
“[McGinn] is very welcoming in trying to push an inclusive form of government,” said Tokuda. “It’s only been one week since the concession, but I feel very positive.” Tokuda was at McGinn’s latest transition outreach meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 17, at an office in a building across from City Hall. Out of 25 people in attendance, there were many Asian Americans: Mike Woo, Naomi Sanchez, Al Sugiyama, Mark Okazaki, Cherry Cayabyab, Diane Narasaki, and Thao Tran. Thao Tran is the full-time staff member at McGinn’s office. Frank Irigon, Candace Inagi, and Linh Thai are Asian Americans who have attended previous meetings.
“Mike is really trying to reach out to all communities, to gain trust in his administration,” said Okazaki, who is the executive director of Neighborhood House.
McGinn’s approach garners some skeptics. Ballard News-Tribune columnist Brian LeBlanc answered McGinn’s three questions and cautioned McGinn against changing too much. LeBlanc, who describes himself as “part of the loyal opposition” wrote, “Don’t just reach out to the people who are agitating for change; seek out the people who are concerned about all the change, and ask them what is bothering them.”
McGinn plans to hold three regular town halls: One in the north end, south end, and central area on Nov. 30, Dec. 1, and Dec. 2, though the exact place and time has not been confirmed yet. ♦
For an updated list of people who are involved in McGinn’s transition team and who have attended his outreach meetings, visit mcginnformayor.com or new.seattle.gov. To cast an idea for McGinn to consider, visit www.ideasforseattle.org.
Assunta Ng contributed to this report.
Stacy Nguyen can be reached at email@example.com.
Updated Nov. 23, 11:30 a.m. to include additional Asian Americans at McGinn’s meetings.