(Seattle Channel recording of this morning’s event)
11:05 AM: Two months after Seattle voters elected him, Mayor Bruce Harrell is now in office, and right now you can see his first speech as it happens – following a ceremonial swearing-in – by clicking into the Seattle Channel stream above. We’ll be publishing topline notes below.
He opens by saying “2022 is not like past years”- it’s not a time to open with exuberance but to acknowledge it’s been a fearful time for people, including fear that “Seattle is going in the wrong direction.” He promises an “obsession” with competence and kindness. He says – in first mentioning the homelessness crisis – that the city will be intolerant “not of the people who are unhoused but of the conditions that caused them to become unhoused.” He says, “We’ll implement ideas that work.” He declares, “We are not afraid.” He discusses the diversity of his executive team, including “three deputy mayors who are women of color.”
Looking to the future – “Seattle will be thriving – no more of this ‘dying’ narrative,” Harrell insists. “Everyone will have an opportunity to help us.” His request for the cynical: “Give us a chance.” He wants the city to be “one Seattle.” He says it’s time to move toward “healing and reparation and restoration” and “a real dialogue.” He promises “health care for all … we’ll make sure every resident in our city not only has health care but is healthy.” This will involve partnership with providers and he says talks are under way. Also: He promises everyone will feel “safe and supportive,” from gun-violence prevention to police accountability. He says Seattle has the chance to set a national example. Then regarding homelessness, he says “One Seattle” doesn’t let people suffer on its streets and promises to publish a plan “within the first quarter,” with an accompanying executive order.He mentions another executive order to review processes to expedite “affordable housing” construction.
He also says the city will be hiring a new Parks director (if that means the current superintendent is leaving, that’s the first time it’s been mentioned). Also, a new mentorship program in which he says the city will partner with Seattle Public Schools. He says that also will address violence and protect young lives. “We must be all in for protecting our kids.”
He promises that these aren’t just empty promises – they’re policy commitments. “We’re not going to play small ball,” says the former athlete. He also notes that “One Seattle” doesn’t mean bragging that Seattle is “number one” but rather unity that includes humility. “We will replace fear with love,” he promises in closing.
11:28 AM: It’s on to media Q&A. First asks about his creation of a Chief Equity Officer position. That will include “new outreach strategies,” especially for “small BIPOC businesses,” and ensuring that good-paying jobs are accessible to all.
Will he keep Interim Police Chief Adrian Diaz? Harrell says that hasn’t been decided yet, but “discussions” are continuing.
Asked to elaborate on “health care for all,” the mayor says they’re starting with addressing those who don’t have health care – so they’ll start by formulating a plan for those people within a few months.
Asked about his political position, he refutes the suggestion that he’s not “progressive” – “I ran on a progressive agenda … This is what progressive policy looks like. … My plea to those who claim to be the progressives, give us a chance and let us work together.”
Asked about the shortage of COVID testing and parents’ anguish in deciding whether to send kids to school, he says the city is partnering with the state and county, but has no new specifics, promising an “inventory” of how things are working.
Will he extend the eviction moratorium? “We’ll announce that in due time” – within the next week – he says, noting that “small landlords” are at risk as well as tenants. The decisionmaking process will include looking at whether the moratorium “worked.”
When will people see a difference in addressing homelessness? He promises “real progress in a short time” as well as more clarity with existing data – so that it’s easier to understand where people live now, and what’s happening.
11:45 AM: The event wraps up. We’ll add the recorded video above when it’s available. (Note: Video added at 12:20 pm – if you can’t see the embedded version above, go to this Seattle Channel page.)
5 PM UPDATE: We asked the mayor’s office about the “parks director” reference. They replied that superintendent Jesús Aguirre is “retiring from the office later this month.”
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