Starting his sixth month on the job, Mayor Bruce Harrell talks with District 1 Community Network

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

Whatever you’re concerned about, Mayor Bruce Harrell wants you to know he is working on it – or has just hired, or is about to hire, someone who will be.

That was the theme during his first guest appearance answering questions from the District 1 Community Network during its monthly meeting online tonight.

MAYOR HARRELL: This was the mayor’s first appearance at any public West Seattle community-group meeting. He opened by saying he’s trying to be “transparent in what we’re trying to do,” taking action “with kindness, with data … we don’t mince words … we work seven days a week.” D1CN prepared questions in advance to start with. First, he was asked about city neighborhood-district councils, which were supported by the city until two mayors ago. (D1CN is a hybrid successor to what were the Southwest and Delridge Neighborhood District Councils covering west and east West Seattle respectively.) Harrell said he hired Greg Wong as Department of Neighborhoods director to determine “in neighborhoods, what works best?” He said he hopes to have, “maybe by end of summer,” “a strong recommendation on what the new kind of neighborhood network should look like.” He asked for neighborhoods’ input on that.

Regarding public safety/homelessness, he was asked “what part of Operation New Day would apply to District 1?” The mayor said his criteria apply to both situations – he tries to “hit (people) with the data,” ergo his newly unveiled homelessness-data dashboard. He says he’s aware of the challenges. After opening up the data, he says, next step is to talk with police and homelessness advocates. D1CN facilitator Cindi Barker pointed out that the dashboard undercounts West Seattle encampment; that info needs to get to Deputy Mayor Tiffany Washington.

What’s being done to get staffing back up at the Southwest Precinct? Harrell shot back with a question, “have you had mayors come to your groups before in the first six months?” He said he was asking that because “the narrative has changed regarding public safety … I inherited a demoralized police department with low numbers, a lack of systems to recruit police officers … I don’t condone a racialized, militarized approach to policing, I just want everyone to be safe.” He said people are demanding answers fast. In “two or three weeks, we’re going to release what I call a public-safety plan,” which will address recruiting strategies, goals, and more. He said he’s stuck because of laws on the books, asking the council for permission on so many things. So he’s asking for patience. He mentioned the term “hot-spot policing” while acknowledging that’s a controversial term for some, but he says it’s a fact that some people and areas are repeat problems. He says he feels good that by the end of his term he can get SPD back up to 1,300-1,400 officers.

Also talking about “the hand (he) was dealt.” he brought up today’s news that millions of dollars worth of parking tickets had to be refunded because of a ripple effect from “the defunding era.”

On to affordable housing and the lack of HALA MHA-funded housing being built in D-1. He said he’s “not happy at all” with how the MHA program is working, though it’s “generating a lot of money.” It’s being assessed right now – how much money it’s generating, where that money is going – with his recent hire of Maiko Winkler-Chin as Office of Housing director. In the big picture, he’s looking at how to get affordable housing built more quickly.

Then a question about parks/facilities and open space – how will he invest in what the city has? He noted today’s announcement that a new community center is out of reach for Green Lake. He noted that the Parks Superintendent job remains open. The Southwest Teen Life Center/Pool‘s aging, mentioned in the question, is “on (his) radar.” He said he’d talk to Councilmember Lisa Herbold about what should be prioritized.

What about transparency and accountability in general, given that it was such a cornerstone of his campaign? He noted that the Durkan administration funded “$30-$50 million” to community organizations working on public-safety alternatives and they’ve met with dozens of those groups to try to find out where the money’s gone and is going.

Regarding the West Seattle Bridge – how will he keep an eye on traffic issues after it reopens? Harrell noted the Department of Transportation director position is open too. He’s looking for a “decisive leader with a sense of urgency to find that balance between infrastructure, bike safety, slowing the speeds down, capital project cost containment … a person who really knows how to read the balance sheet and is good with numbers.” He also wanted to be sure his team got credit for “getting the logjam broken” on the concrete delay that stymied part of the bridge work for a while.

The mayor’s assistants said “one more question” at that point. So he was asked about land use – promises made about Highland Park planning, status of White Center annexation, efforts on South Park economic development. Harrell said he needed more history about the Highland Park planning promises. Regarding South Park, he needs more background on those promises. The White Center part of the question went unanswered.

Mayor Harrell promised to return. (He’s also scheduled to talk with another local group later this month – the West Seattle Transportation Coalition, on June 23rd.)

Also at the meeting:

REDISTRICTING: Katie Stultz represented the Redistricting Justice for All commission. She said her key point was advocating for people to get involved in the drawing of new city-council-district lines. Here’s their priorities:

This is the first time since the charter amendment that set up the 2015 launch of by-district elections that new districts are being drawn. The timeline is continuing to play out in the months ahead, with new maps to be adopted by year’s end. She showed draft maps her group is working on, while stressing none is an official recommendation of theirs so far. D-1 has to add territory so the question is where – add the ID and SODO, for example? “How far north should D-1 go?” asked Stultz. She recommended that when people voice opinions to the Redistricting Commission, they get very specific, even down to street names. Here’s the city website with info on how to get involved in the process.

POLICE UPDATE: Southwest Precinct commander Capt. Martin Rivera said the Alki emphasis will start this weekend … They’ll focus on hot spots in other neighborhoods too. Crime hasn’t changed dramatically in the past month; in gunfire cases, they’re tracking the casings, and finding multiple incidents involving the same guns. He said 2nd/Michigan, 15th/Barton are encampments “that are going to have some action taken” as well as Andover – and he says it’ll be more than you’ve seen before.

ANNOUNCEMENTS: Reminder of the scaled-down Morgan Junction Community Festival on Saturday, June 18th, with Bubbleman at 11 am and musician Gary Benson afterward … ArtsWest launches its next play “Miku” in two weeks … August 6th is the date for this year’s Duwamish River Festival, at the new People’s Park on the river … Highland Park Improvement Club will be kicking. off fundraising for its new building with a 2-7 pm festival Saturday, June 25th, at Riverview Playfield, the first anniversary of the fire that gutted HPIC’s building. Three live bands, a beer garden, and more will be featured … On June 30th a pop-up chamber-music concert will happen in High Point, 11 am, with a portable stage on a truck in the lot between Bridge Park and Elizabeth House … A Fauntleroy Fall Festival fundraiser is set for next Tuesday night at Endolyne Joe’s (9261 45th SW), so if you dine there that night, you’ll be giving the festival a boost.

NEXT MEETING: D1CN meets online, 7 pm first Wednesdays, so the next meeting will be July 6th.

20 Replies to "Starting his sixth month on the job, Mayor Bruce Harrell talks with District 1 Community Network"

  • James June 2, 2022 (7:14 am)

    What is Harrell going to do about SPD not investigating sex crimes? This is absurd.  This is why people want the department defunded.

    • Jort June 2, 2022 (11:40 am)

      Perhaps you missed out on how there are so many new, great vibes being reported by local media outlets. Great vibes = great mayor! Oh yeah!!! In response to your question, I’m sure Bruce Harrell will fire back a question to YOU: “Did the last mayor attend your neighborhood association meeting within six months of taking office? Didn’t think so! CHECKMATE!”

    • HappyCamper June 2, 2022 (11:59 am)

      Read the article in the Seattle Times, Yahoo, etc. about this. They can’t due to staffing shortages and caseloads. They used to have 12 detectives in that department and now have 4. The article references an internal memo talking about the issue.

      • esseecee June 2, 2022 (1:40 pm)

        They have more officers assigned to deal with unhoused folks and property crimes – which are much less complex issues to tackle – than they do sex crimes. It’s not just a staffing issue, it’s a priorities issue.

        • HappyCamper June 2, 2022 (8:26 pm)

          I won’t disagree there but there is an overarching staffing issue in general. And aside from any issue with police and policing it’s not a surprise to me. Strictly based on employer/employee relationships people often quit when they do not feel supported by their employer, whether it be Starbucks, Google or a mom and pop pizza place. Especially if they have a skill set that enables them to be mobile. Police work and these pubic issues are very complicated for sure. I’m just trying to make the point that most people do quit when they hate coming to work so I personally don’t find it surprising it’s hard to find officers. 100% not saying there’s not work to be done with policing, the homeless, etc but if you want people to work at your place of business they have to feel supported and valued enough to not leave. 

        • Chad June 2, 2022 (8:37 pm)

          Absolute numbers are not what’s important here, we need to know officers per incident and prosecution rate.  Sexual assault is way higher a priority than property crime, and as such, there should be a single officer to investigate a small number of incidents, but because there are like 6000 property crimes per hour, there are probably more total officers in that department, but just a fraction per incident.  In addition, there are many crimes that cross these 2 departments, with assaults at encampments and by encampment dwellers. You could easily argue that by clearing encampments and investigating property crime and putting those folks in jail, you are stopping many more future assaults.  Moral reasoning suggests that would be the right response, even if it’s damaging to victims.  If we had better data and insight into SPD, we could probably make  better decisions for society.  Even the ST reporter who broke the story admitted that she doesn’t really know anything about SPD staffing, because nobody does except the Chief.

    • CarDriver June 2, 2022 (4:21 pm)

      James. Clearly you have the answer to “fix” SPD. Please share the “fix” that will make everybody happy and safe.

  • Sala June 2, 2022 (7:57 am)

    We might get on that after we look at the data and talk to the expertzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

  • New Salt June 2, 2022 (9:50 am)

    Thanks WSB for the recap. Very informative and helpful. Glad to hear Harrell is targeting full SPD staffing by the end of his term.

  • Jort June 2, 2022 (10:43 am)

    From the article:

    What’s being done to get staffing back up at the Southwest Precinct? Harrell shot back with a question, “have you had mayors come to your groups before in the first six months?” He said he was asking that because “the narrative has changed regarding public safety … I inherited a demoralized police department with low numbers, a lack of systems to recruit police officers …

    Oh, OK. Vibes-based results measurement, defensiveness and excuses … but not answering the question. Cool, cool. Super cool strategy. I guess we should just all be so grateful that the vibes have changed. Cool, cool. Super cool. “Check out our new vibes we’re getting from traditional media outlets. Literally I’ve changed nothing but we sure do have some awesome new vibes around in the media, amirite?” I am confident Seattle people will fall for this, too. 

    • Canton June 3, 2022 (12:27 am)

      Can you articulate your response in rational terms?  Harrell may be under the radar as he is handling the situation, without the fanfare. From what I see of all the problem areas around the city, that aspect is improving. 

  • Sillygoose June 2, 2022 (1:32 pm)

    @ James, the SPD isn’t ignoring these sex crimes they don’t have the manpower to investigate.  I would suggest contacting Lisa Herbold or Sawant to ask why they cut the budget of the Seattle Police Department with nothing in place to ensure these crimes were handled.  @ Jort, your comments are ridiculous, the city was broken thanks to the city council for the past 4 years, we finally have a mayor who is going to clean this city up!  Start attending some crime council meetings to understand the real problems instilled during the past 4 years with this city council!!!

    • Jort June 2, 2022 (3:44 pm)

      So … the police don’t have the “manpower” to investigate sexual assault, but they do have the “manpower” to collect overtime directing traffic in and out of parking garages and construction sites? I don’t care if the property owner is paying the overtime, clearly the police have the time, and they’re spending it directing traffic, among many, many other obvious examples of them just plain not wanting to do the hard jobs (for which they are among the highest paid officers in the United States of America) and instead complain about their budget  – the largest in the city of Seattle and which was never defunded, in the first place. It is astonishing how much people are willing to defend this obviously broken department.

      • CarDriver June 2, 2022 (4:15 pm)

        So how EXACTLY would YOU “fix” SPD Jort . You have the answers so share them please. 

      • Scubafrog June 2, 2022 (4:53 pm)

        If bruce is going to spend his tenure blaming durkan, and passing the buck and whining, he shouldn’t have have run for Mayor.  He ran on answers.  Taking cheap shots at the press proves he’s as vacuous as his promises.  He’s a just a might bit trumpish, tbh, jeering at journalists — and who doesn’t prioritise sex crimes??  Sadly, the other candidate was wholly anti-police, and neither possess mayoral qualities.  Seattle needs a problem-solver.  I can’t remember the last time we had a Mayor who was truly skilled at getting good things done for Seattleites.  

      • HappyCamper June 3, 2022 (8:11 am)

        Time = money. SPD doesn’t have the money to pay people to spend the time. Why would an officer not work a little more directing traffic to make some extra cash? It is a requirement in WA state for a uniformed police officer to direct traffic in a lot of situations which is billable to whatever project private or public. All regular budgetary constraints and employer/employee relationship and retention dynamics apply to police departments just as they apply to any other workplace, regardless of how much of a hot button police work is. The answer is not defund. The answer is fund, support, train and retain good officers at appropriate staffing levels and facilitate positive cultural change within the department and weed out bad cops. Not saying that’s easy but the “answer” is to take “good” parts of both sides of this argument and blend them into a real solution.

      • Mel June 3, 2022 (7:57 pm)

        What does an officer working overtime (funded by a private company directing traffic) have to do with the patrol staffing shortage? That’s apple to oranges. 

  • k June 2, 2022 (5:14 pm)

    Since Bruce is vocal about being recognized and getting credit for himself and his team, a big congrats to Bruce and team for looking for an SDOT leader with characteristics the exact opposite of his own.

  • Mj June 2, 2022 (5:34 pm)

    Jort – overtime is for officer’s choosing to do it and for many officer’s traffic control, paid for by a third party, is a change of pace AND easy money.  Just the other day I saw a couple of WSP officer’s working traffic control on First Hill.  The SPD is losing officer’s faster than they are being replaced.  The City Council IS responsible for this!

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