Is Mayor McGinn backing off from open government pledge?

Is Mayor McGinn backing off from open government pledge? »Play Video
Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn appeared Saturday at a West Seattle Youth Summit.
SEATTLE - What started with a controversial hire at Seattle's City Hall has become a back-and-forth about open government.

Just after Mayor Mike McGinn took the oath of office in January 2010 and pledged to take the new responsibility with "a sense of humility," he said:

"It is our intention first and foremost to be responsive to the public as large and to be open to the public at large."

Seventeen months later, some are wondering if that pledge to be open - has closed.

In an email to reporters on Friday, the Mayor's Office outlined what it considers the "right way" to approach the city's top dog.

The email even included photos to illustrate the "right" and "wrong" approach, and asked reporters not to "crowd around" the mayor at public events or come knock the door of McGinn's home.

At Saturday's West Seattle Youth Summit, KOMO News asked the mayor if setting ground rules for the press and the public is the way to carry out his pledge of open government.

McGinn responded this way:

"You know I'm available for interviews very often, as you well know. I have brown bags and open press events in my office."

KOMO News reporter Lindsay Cohen: "But you're setting ground rules and asking us to set up things in advance. As you know, news doesn't always happen on a schedule like that."

The controversy comes at a time when there are more questions than answers about a new hire at City Hall.

McGinn's office revealed this week that it will pay a nearly six-figure salary to former cycling advocate David Hiller to act as a transportation analyst.

Some question the $95,000-a-year hire in a time of budget cuts across the city.

Hiller's hire also has raised eyebrows because of some things he's said in the past about dangerous drivers.

In a January 2010 interview with The Stranger about careless motorists who hit and kill cyclists, Hiller said, "I'd love to hang these people up by their toenails at the edge of town and paint 'killer' across their chest and let them hang there until the buzzards peck their eyes out.'"

With the mayor saying he had no time to speak to the press on Saturday, KOMO News didn't even have the chance to ask him about Hiller. The mayor's office said earlier the salary is within their budget.

"I ask for a little reciprocity from the press as well," McGinn said.

Later on in the afternoon, the mayor agreed to speak to KOMO News, but only if we first spoke to kids that he was meeting with.

He told us that while he didn't necessarily approve the email to reporters, it was supposed to be written with humor.