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Originally published Tuesday, September 28, 2010 at 4:02 PM

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Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn's hissy fit over a tunnel-project signature

Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn overreacted to the City Council president's signature on a draft environmental-impact statement on the tunnel project to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct.

IF Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn is going to have a hissy fit, he should reserve his outbursts for a topic bigger than a signature on a draft environmental-impact statement.

Welcome to the loopy world of Seattle politics. Last week, the mayor asked his staff to seek more time before signing a supplemental draft environmental-impact statement on the tunnel replacement for the Alaskan Way Viaduct. A signature was required to preserve Seattle's position as a lead agency on the project.

McGinn's staff had been working on the paperwork for some time and he was expected to sign. With the clock ticking on a deadline, Council President Richard Conlin signed instead — to preserve Seattle's role.

McGinn lashed out in anger, calling a news conference, denouncing Conlin, asking him to rescind his signature and asking the governor not to accept his signature on behalf of the state, the primary agency on the project.

Because Conlin's signature does not purport to certify adequacy or inadequacy of the preliminary environmental review, says Pete Holmes, the city's attorney and top legal authority, it is not an affront to the executive authority of the mayor. The signature neither binds the city nor impedes the mayor's powers.

Relations are poor between the mayor and council. At his news conference, the mayor proclaimed the city was no longer so-called "co-lead" on the project, an action that potentially clears the way for the city to sue.

But government by news conference doesn't bring out the best in anybody. And the allegation that Conlin violated the city charter, so far, has not been borne out

"We do not have a charter crisis," declared Holmes.

To make that more clear, and drawing a sharper line of distinction, the City Council Monday introduced an ordinance to confirm it is city policy for Seattle to remain "co-lead" on the project. It is also a way to show support for Conlin.

The council vote on the ordinance is next Monday This ought to be unanimous, but a couple of council members are soft when it comes to challenging McGinn.

This editorial page has one more bit of advice for McGinn: He should come out and say honestly he is trying to block the tunnel and wants to use his time in office to make it go away. That campaign line about not standing in the way of the tunnel was just something he said to get elected.

The mayor's day-to-day actions speak much louder than those silly campaign words.

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