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Seattle’s new mayor

State Sen. Ed Murray, D-Seattle, defeated Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn in the Nov. 5, 2013, mayoral election. He takes office in January and is working on his transition.

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SEATTLE — Mayor Ed Murray announced Thursday he is going to send the City Council a proposed parks levy that would be used to repair, maintain and restore basic services at the city’s parks, community center and Woodland Park Zoo and Seattle Aquarium.


Seattle Mayor Ed Murray giving his first State of the City Address on Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014. (Photo: KCPQ-TV/Seattle)

The mayor’s package — which will be put to a public vote — would increase the tax homeowners at a rate of about $.42 per $1,000 of assessed value and collect about $54 million a year. It would cost the owner of a $400,000 home in Seattle about $14 a month, or around 50 cents per day. In addition, the park district will be a junior taxing authority with the ability to levy up to $.75 per $1,000 of assessed value of homeowners.

If passed by the council and the approved by the voters, Murray’s proposal would:

– Fund on average 40 additional parks and community centers maintenance projects each year, including ongoing funding to complete as many as 12 maintenance projects at the Woodland Park Zoo and Seattle Aquarium;

– Keep community centers open for more hours, provide funding to make upgrades to existing community centers, and leave open the possibility of adding more community centers as the city grows;

– Expand programming for seniors, people with disabilities and underserved populations;

– Develop 14 new parks on land already in city ownership; and

– Provide funding for an urban parks partnership model to promote creative collaborations in downtown to activate parks with a focus on safety.


Seattle Mayor Ed Murray giving his first State of the City Address on Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014. (Photo: KCPQ-TV/Seattle)

SEATTLE — Mayor Ed Murray’s office put out a news release Thursday to say he was mourning the death of former Seattle Department of Neighborhoods Director Jim Diers.

But Diers is not dead — or even sick.

In the first news release sent out Thursday afternoon, Murray said he was “very saddened by the death of Jim Diers. … His service to this city was unmeasurable. My thoughts go out to the Diers family. He will be missed.”

About 35 minutes later, the mayor’s office sent out a “CORRECTION!” to the news release.

“The Mayor’s office was mistakenly informed of the death of Jim Diers. He is alive and well.”

Diers must have been relieved to hear that.


Seattle Mayor Ed Murray giving his first State of the City Address on Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014. (Photo: KCPQ-TV/Seattle)

SEATTLE — Seattle Mayor Ed Murray gave his first State of the City Address on Tuesday.  He’s been on the job for just six weeks, but he’s already set an ambitious agenda, including police reform and transportation upgrades and new funding for parks.

At the outset, the new mayor made it clear that combating income inequality will be his biggest priority.

“As Americans and as residents of Seattle we face the largest income disparity in our history,” Murray said.  “What we can do here today on the issue of income inequality is something that we can truly be a leader on for the rest of the nation.”

One of Murray’s first acts as Mayor was to set up an Income Inequality Task Force.  He has given it an April deadline to come up with a viable plan for a $15 an hour minimum wage.

He’ll continue to feel pressure from the newest City Councilwoman Kshama Sawant, a member of the task force, who has led the charge for $15 without exceptions.

“It is critical now for all public officials, including the mayor, to state not just a vague support for $15 an hour, but actually what are we standing for, what is that bill going to look like,” Sawant said.

The new mayor also used Tuesday’s speech to argue that police reform is finally on track, something he was relentless in criticizing his predecessor about on the campaign trail.

“This is the first time since this has started that we’ve heard from the Justice Department that Seattle’s police force is moving in the right direction,” Murray said.

On transportation, the mayor committed to increasing to 75% the number of people who commute to work by something other than a single occupant car.

He called for a Neighborhood Summit later this spring.

Local News

Seattle hosts historic inauguration

SEATTLE — A large crowd assembled Monday afternoon at Seattle City Hall to witness the swearing-in of Mayor Ed Murray and  City Councilwoman Kshama Sawant.  Each was making history, Murray as the city’s first gay mayor and Sawant as the city’s first elected socialist in a century.

murray4“Our moral test as a community and as a city government will be our willingness and our ability to address – and to overcome – that which fragments us,” said Murray in front of hundreds who had assembled.

Normally, the inauguration of new mayor and City Council members is an important event, but it’s hardly ever an international event.  Even Al Jazeera TV was in town covering the swearing-in.

Most of the eyes were on Sawant, who attended her first official City Council meeting Monday afternoon.  People are fascinated to see this rare situation where a declared socialist, who wants to end capitalism, is going to fare in city government.

“This city has made glittering fortunes for the super wealthy and for the major corporations that dominate Seattle’s landscape,” Sawant said in an atypical inauguration speech. “At the same time, the lives of working people, the unemployed and the poor grow more difficult by the day. The cost of housing skyrockets, and education and health care becomes inaccessible.

“In this system, the market is God,” Sawant said in her speech, “and everything is sacrificed on the altar of profit. Capitalism has failed the 99 percent.”

Others who were sworn in Monday included incumbent City Attorney Pete Holmes and City Council members Nick Licata, Mike O’Brien and Sally Bagshaw.

Local News

Mayor McGinn says farewell to City Hall

SEATTLE — On the final day of 2013, outgoing Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn issued a note to Seattle city workers saying he enjoyed his four years in office.

mcginn9McGinn issued the note electronically to everyone employed by the City of Seattle. He said he and his mayor’s office staff was thankful of their “opportunity for public service.”

Mayor-elect Ed Murray officially steps into office tonight at 12:01 a.m.

Here is mayor McGinn’s full letter to city staff:

Thank you
As my term in office officially ends tonight, on behalf of myself and all of the Mayor’s office staff I want to express our deep gratitude at this opportunity for public service.

When we took office four years ago, we were in the middle of a deep recession, and deep need in the community. While we worked to make the city a better place, you made us better by inviting us into all of your communities to understand the city’s diversity and challenges. We got a lot done but also know that much more work remains to be done to prepare our children and our communities for the future.

We wish Mayor-elect Murray success in tackling those challenges as he takes office. And again, we wish to express to all of you our thanks for this opportunity to work with you to make this city a better place.


Mike McGinn

SEATTLE — Mayor-elect Ed Murray announced Monday that he has named Seattle public relations agency employee and former TV writer/producer Rosalind Brazel as his press secretary.

murrayIn a news release, Murray said Brazel — a Washington State University graduate — is currently a project account coordinator at The Feary Group, a Seattle public relations and public affairs firm, and is also a coordinator at etsyRain, a group of artisans and craft-makers who operate independent shops in Western Washington. She was previously a writer and producer at KIRO-TV in Seattle and an anchor/reporter at KTAL-TV in Shreveport, La., Murray said.

The may0r-elect also named former state Sen. Nick Harper, currently an attorney at Adams & Duncan Inc., an Everett law firm, as director of the mayor’s Office of Intergovernmental Relations. Harper is a graduate of UW and Seattle University School of Law.



SEATTLE — Mayor-elect Ed Murray announced his plan Thursday for increasing the minimum wage in Seattle when he takes office next month.  He has named a task force, including everyone from labor to the chamber, to help him chart a path.

“Is this going to be a city that is diverse economically, racially, ethnically?” Murray asked.  “That’s the challenge before us.”

murray1On the campaign trail this fall, Murray supported a minimum wage of $15 an hour, but said it should be phased in over four years in order to not be too disruptive to businesses.

Murray’s “Income Inequality” task force is his effort, his gamble really, to see if he can create some common ground and avoid the kind of fight that was just waged in the city of SeaTac over the $15 minimum wage — an initiative that was approved by voters in the Nov. 5 general election.

“I do not want the business community and the labor community of this city to spend extraordinary amounts of money on an initiative,” Murray said.

The mayor-elect has given the group until April to come up with a recommendation.  But avoiding a SeaTac-like fight means getting Murray’s diverse group to agree on a plan.

On Thursday,  all eyes were on new socialist City Councilwoman-elect Kshama Sawant.  She made it clear that while she’ll be on this committee, but she’s not going to compromise on $15 an hour.

“My role in this is to bring the voice of the workers,” Sawant said.  “Think of me as the shop steward for the working people of Seattle on this committee.”

She warned, however, that pushing a SeaTac-like initiative is “still very much under consideration” if the group doesn’t support a sufficiently progressive position.

One big objection to increasing the minimum wage so significantly is what effect that will have on small businesses.

“There are obviously small mom and pop stores that have two, three, four, five employees, well under 10 employees, that are very concerned about how to keep their doors open,” said committee member Michael Wells, director of the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce.  “But they’re willing to engage in the conversation, and I think they all realize that now is the moment to have it.”

Murray recognizes that his group represents a wide variety of opinions and that they may not come to an agreement.  In any event, he plans to submit a minimum wage proposal to the City Council by April.

SEATTLE — In the same election that Seattle voters put Ed Murray in office, a career politician who vowed to bring a less-divisive style to City Hall, they also elected a socialist firebrand to the City Council, Kshama Sawant

“The council is actually moving into a period of its history that looks more like my 18 years in the Legislature,” Murray said.  “They are going to districts, and obviously in the Legislature you have people on all sides of the spectrum, from the far, far right to the left, to people in the middle.”

He doesn’t see Sawant as a problem.


Kshama Sawant

“It doesn’t have to be 9-0 votes all the time,” he said.  “The nature of our system of government there should be a tension between the executive and legislative branch.”

The mayor-elect admits that his first order of business is controversial, forging a deal to raise the minimum wage.  He campaigned on $15 an hour, but said it would likely have to be phased in over several years.

How will he bring the parties together, like Sawant and the Chamber of Commerce, to forge a deal?

“Well, you know, you gotta work hard at it,” Murray said.  “You got to do a lot of shuttle diplomacy.”

The mayor-elect says he “doesn’t know” if he can avoid a citizen initiative like in SeaTac, but hopes it doesn’t come to that.

“I worry about a ballot measure polarizing all of us, and potentially not being able to win at the ballot,” Murray said.

Murray says the biggest surprise since the election is the amount of “security” he now experiences.  “It’s just an adjustment,” he said.

SEATTLE — Seattle Mayor-elect Ed Murray is already shaking things up at City Hall.  From his transition office just across the street, he’s given pink slips to a number of Mayor Mike McGinn’s department directors and made clear he’s ready to do things differently.

“Most new mayors when they come in usually bring in new people,” Murray said.  “I don’t think that is unusual.”

murray1The most high-profile department head to go is the leader of the Seattle Department of Transportation.  Murray says he wants someone who can bring a better approach to planning for bikes, cars and pedestrians, something, he argues, got controversial under McGinn.

But clearly his biggest hire is going to be a new police chief, to lead a department that is under a federal directive to reform.  Murray will conduct a national search, but says that interim Chief Jim Pugel is free to apply.

“I’m open to the best person that we can get who can reform the department, restore the morale, and build trust among the citizens of this city,” Murray said, “so that we can get out from underneath the Department of Justice consent decree.”

Murray says he’s already talked to the DOJ about working better together.  In fact, he’s even talked to the president, who was in town earlier this week.

“When I met with President Obama, I brought up the DOJ issue and asked for his help so that we can have a sort of a restart between Seattle and the U.S. Justice Department,” Murray said.  “He asked what he could be helpful on in Seattle, and I said it was very important for us  to move forward with police reform and for us to be able to move forward positively with the Justice Department.”

Murray told Obama that he hopes a better relationship will help speed the process.

“There’s a tendency sometimes for these things to run on for years, in L.A. for a decade,” Murray said.  “We want to do the reforms, but we also want to get our police department directly back under the control of the civilians in the city government.”