McGinn vs. Mallahan: As Seattle mayor, what would either do to save Puget Sound?

  Seattle mayoral candidates Mike McGinn and Joe Mallahan have come out with some positions about ailing, polluted Puget Sound, which despite its beauty needs as much rescuing as the Florida Everglades and Chesapeake Bay. Both seem to target the No. 1 issue facing the waterway, which is the polluted gunk flowing off streets, roofs and other surfaces as stormwater. Could we see plants growing on more rooftops in the future?
  Their positions are light on details.
  But they strike the right chord with environmentalists we reached.
  First, check out the positions of the mayoral candidates…



Puget Sound is our region’s greatest natural gem. However, despite what most citizens assume based on its surface appearance, the Sound is in serious trouble. The city must adopt an outcome-based strategy that limits sewer overflow and the discharge of heavy metals from vehicles. We need to bring Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) street-sweeping pilot project to scale to reduce non-point source pollution. We also must work in concert with SPU to reduce impervious runoff through the use of green roofs and natural-drainage swales. Over the long-term, Seattle must enhance its infrastructure to manage the city’s maxed-out sewer-overflow basins.
Mike McGinn’s plans, as excerpted from his Green Jobs position paper:



“The impact of street runoff is well documented, carrying thousands of tons of pollutants into Puget Sound each year. Over the past decade, the City of Seattle has been a leader in pioneering low impact development practices, but we need to move these techniques beyond the pilot stage if we are serious about protecting the Sound. Investing in these facilities will not only provide good paying construction and trades jobs, but will also lower our long-term infrastructure costs.”



* Require low impact development techniques for all new right-of-way construction.

* Develop a public-private partnership program to build out porous pavement sidewalks and raingardens to fulfill the city’s promise to bring sidewalks to all neighborhoods.

* Allow buildings with green roofs a reduction in stormwater utility rates.


Sound good?

Yes, say Erika Schreder, a scientist at nonprofit Washington Toxics Coalition, which recently released a study suggesting that everyone pollutes the Sound when they wash clothes. (She and other environmentalists stressed their organizations’ nonprofit statuses forbid them to endorse candidates.)

“It’s great to see both candidates focusing on stormwater—Puget Sound’s No. 1 problem, and an issue where city government can have a huge impact,” says Kathy Fletcher, founder and executive director of People for Puget Sound.

“It is increasingly obvious that if we are serious about saving the Sound, that our urban areas will have to change, and change quickly,” Fletcher says. “Saving rural watersheds and restoring estuaries and shorelines will not bring salmon and orcas back unless we also retrofit our cities to coexist sustainably with the Sound. It’s nice to see both candidates’ literacy about ‘impervious surfaces,’ and that they both are aware of low-impact building strategies like green roofs.  I also like their sense that now is the time to move beyond pilot projects to large-scale solutions.”

The positions also seem to promise some of the tough solutions desired in the fiery blog-post complaint of Mike Sato, spokesman for People for Puget Sound, who was dismayed by the recent launch of a Puget Sound Starts Here ad campaign that focused on four simpler acts — like getting the public to scoop dog poop.

After reading Mallahan’s and McGinn’s brief positions, Sato responded that “both have their heads in the right direction on stormwater and runoff pollution control— it will take infrastructure changes to reduce the flow of pollutants to streams, rivers and the Sound and it will take reducing the amount of impervious surfaces to allow water to percolate into the ground and not run off. These are the real and hard measures that have to be done. Seattle can take a true leadership position in Puget Sound and the nation with the right leadership on this and other environmental issues.”

Now, readers, what environmental questions do you have for the mayoral candidates? Let us know and we’ll see if we can get answers.

6 Responses to McGinn vs. Mallahan: As Seattle mayor, what would either do to save Puget Sound?

  • Bobby Bebar:

    Hello. I am curious on whether the candidates view expansion of the Metro electric bus routes (to replace diesel and diesel-hybrid buses) as a meaningful part of reducing greenhouse gases or improving Metro. Have a nice day.

  • Sally Deneen:

    Good-thanks for your question. Readers, what environmental questions do you have for mayoral candidates Mike McGinn and Joe Mallahan? Let us know and we’ll see if we can get answers.
    – Sally

  • Jim Pleasant:

    I too would like a comparison of the candidates on transit. You can’t have a comprehensive stormwater plan that protects Puget Sound without getting cars off the road. Every time we use our breaks, copper dust hits the street. Copper is very toxic to fish, even at extremely low levels. And that’s just one example of how cars impact water quality.

    Street sweeping is all very nice, but I am voting for the candidate who has been a strong transit advocate in Seattle for the past 15 years – that’s Mike McGinn. We need real alternatives to travelling in single occupancy vehicles.

    The mega-tunnel Mallahan is promoting will come at the cost of Puget Sound water quality.

  • Ira Sacharoff:

    Do either Mallahan or McGinn support bring back the Waterfront Streetcar?

  • Blue Light:

    “Both seem to target the No. 1 issue facing the waterway, which is the polluted gunk flowing off streets, roofs and other surfaces as stormwater.”

    Actually the “No. 1 issue facing the waterway” is increasing population into the area, the vast majority of which comes from immigration from outside the US and Canada. Researchers at Oregon State University have determined that, unless this population growth is checked, NOTHING (including tighter stormwater controls, increased wastewater regulations, greater water conservation efforts, etc.) will save the region’s wild salmon and the habitat on which they depend.

    Sorry, but stormwater is a symptom. Ask the candidates what they intend to do about controlling immigration into the region.

  • Sally Deneen:

    Hi Folks–
    Thanks for your questions, which I sent on to the McGinn and Mallahan campaigns about a week ago and again today. I am awaiting responses.
    Meanwhile, Kery Murakami will be on the media panel questioning City Council candidates next Tuesday at Downtown Seattle Association forum.
    He invites you to provide questions for him to ask: