In a uniquely political week, I was invited to participate in a rally convened by Governor Gregoire to increase pressure and support to keep the deep-bore tunnel alive, and an intimate Q&A session with a handful of ULI young leaders and Mayor McGinn—who actively opposes the tunnel.
I’ve never opted to participate in the political process because it seemed simultaneously tedious yet overly dramatic. I questioned the true importance or impact that any one of us could make; being a busy individual, why bother if my actions don’t make a dent and the politicos take all anyway?
What surprised me was what I realized while listening to a room of outspoken port employees, laborers, city council members, and the governor herself: they wouldn’t take time to address us if they didn’t need us, and if we didn’t actually have power. Never before did I really believe that calling a councilman or representative would make a difference.
Walking out after Governor Gregoire’s impassioned speech, I realized what viral marketing gurus know innately: one person—who has the power to encourage all of her friends to buy, support or boycott something—does indeed matter.
This awakening remained with me when I walked into the Mayor’s chambers listening to my peers inquire about his thoughts on the tunnel. He gave us his opinion on the dangers of cost overruns (which I believe is a red herring) and the reasons why he believes the tunnel is absolutely the wrong option. This stirred debate from our group, some of whom were also present at Gregoire’s rally two days before.
Unable to listen a minute longer to pointless rhetoric on both sides, I asked Mayor McGinn to talk about what has surprised him or what preconceived notion of his have changed since taking office six months ago. With that, actually took pause before admitting, “I thought the best when I took this job, but I was honestly somewhat naïve. This may sound strange, but I had no idea how truly political this game is. People don’t always do things because they believe in them; sometimes they act purely from politics. When I make decisions, like opposing the tunnel, I’m keeping true to what I believe, but the price is that I will offend some people. Every time I make a decision to support or not support something, I have to ask myself what I am willing to lose on in the future.”
Which supports my original revelation: people do indeed have power.
I came away thinking of something else Mayor McGinn said, and that was that we are in the point in our city’s growth where we need to transition away from the mindset of managing the perceived negative effects of growth and instead concentrate on what needs to change so that we can set innovation, abundance and economic development free to fluorish.