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Originally published May 19, 2011 at 3:57 PM | Page modified May 19, 2011 at 3:57 PM

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Hiller hire won't help Seattle Mayor McGinn connect with constituents

Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn's hiring of bicycle activist David Hiller compounds the mayor's image problems.

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TO the average Seattleite, Mayor Mike McGinn's hiring of David Hiller, outgoing advocacy director of the Cascade Bicycle Club, to work on transportation and external affairs is fodder for political insiders.

A mayor can hire whomever he chooses for personal staff, if there is a vacancy, which there was in this case. But considering gaps in the mayor's grasp of a broad range of issues, that does not mean Hiller is the best hire at the right time. He is not.

What's more, the mayor and his staff bungled explanations regarding his selection of Hiller, reminding Seattleites that they elected a rookie mayor with an inexperienced staff. Hiller has some real-world experience, but adding a like-minded bicycle activist to the team does not expand the mayor's horizons.

At this point, 17 months into his administration, McGinn really needs a bridge-builder, a healer, someone who can connect the sometimes single-minded mayor with average Seattleites.

McGinn needs help relating to folks in the business world and in the neighborhoods who may not share his activist agenda.

In the mayor's defense, his office staff is smaller than it was under his predecessor, Greg Nickels. But with more cuts looming in city government, it will be hard for council members and the public to avoid references to Hiller and his $87,500 salary in the context of cuts to various city departments.

McGinn is an unpopular mayor who has trouble being a leader for all of Seattle, even the people who did not vote for him. His challenge is to be a CEO for a complicated city, including people of varied political leanings.

He has yet to get a full grip on that complicated task.

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