City Council member Kshama Sawant
City Council member Kshama Sawant Kelly O

It is time for Mayor Ed Murray to resign.

While the legal outcomes for the allegations against Murray remain unclear, the most important question facing Seattle’s working people has already been answered. That question is one of leadership.

Over a period of several months, the mayor’s response to the unfolding crisis has caused widespread public outcry as he has fundamentally failed to deal with the accusations of sexual abuse in a responsible manner required and deserved by the people of this city, as well as sexual assault survivors everywhere.

In our community’s response during this difficult period we have seen enormous sympathy for survivors of sexual abuse, as well for those in our city struggling with homelessness and drug addiction. This public compassion demands a dramatic shift in the allocation of our city’s resources to make serious and concrete steps to alleviate these terrible and unnecessary social ills.

Yet in contrast with the compassion shown by community members, Mayor Murray himself has set a poor example. He has repeatedly attacked the character of his accusers, and shifted the focus to their troubled backgrounds to suggest they cannot be trusted. People stepping forward with allegations of sexual abuse should be able to expect they will be treated with compassion and respect. They should also have their allegations taken very seriously and thoroughly investigated in a fair fashion with due process for all sides. But the mayor has acted otherwise: in his initial op-ed, in his verbal remarks, and again in his recent response to the shocking revelations about the conclusions of Oregon Child Protective Services regarding Murray.

The message Murray has sent is a chilling one. And that signal is only amplified further because it comes from the mayor of Seattle, a city that working people across the country have come to look to for progressive leadership.

I commend the City of Seattle LGBTQ Commission’s courage, along with others in our community, in calling for Murray to step down. I also welcome Councilmember Gonzalez’s July 17 statement on this matter.

As I said in my initial response to the allegations, Murray’s actual guilt or innocence on the charges of sexual abuse cannot and should not be determined in a court of public opinion. That remains true, and neither I nor the City Council as a body are in a position to judge the veracity of the specific allegations.

Yet the City Council does have a responsibility to send a clear message, both in what we say and the policies we enact, in regards to sexual violence. Elected officials must do everything in our power to support survivors and adopt social policies that can help reduce sexual assault, molestation and rape, which tragically occur all too often in our city and society. This includes fully funding vitally needed social services, such as shelters for domestic violence survivors and programs for LGBTQ youth. But helping sexual assault survivors also includes addressing the root causes of abuse: poverty, social isolation, and the immense power disparities that plague this highly unequal and deeply oppressive capitalist society.

If Mayor Murray refuses to step aside on his own, the responsibility passes on to the City Council to remove him. This is a political decision, not a legal one. Impeaching the mayor is not a statement of his guilt or innocence, but rather a decision to put the burning needs of our city above the political interests and career of one person. Our city cannot have one set of rules for those with power and influence, and a different set for everyone else. I would urge all my colleagues to join the growing calls for the Mayor to step down.

With the approach of the city budget season I will work with human service providers and other community organizations to come forward with specific proposals to fully fund programs to support survivors of sexual abuse and assault. I will also be asking for input on what programs would make the biggest impact to help reduce the frequency of these tragedies in the first place. This will no doubt include allocating the resources needed to end youth homelessness—especially within the LGBTQ community—fully funding domestic violence shelters, as well as affordable housing policies to ensure no one feels pressure to endure an abusive relationship simply to maintain stable housing.

A business-as-usual budget that yet again favors big developers, big corporations, and a bloated police department, while falling short in funding human services, would be totally unacceptable. The people of Seattle should demand that whoever is Mayor this fall will work instead to ensure the budget itself is a moral document which reflects the real priorities and needs of the people of Seattle, especially its most vulnerable.

Kshama Sawant represents District 3 on the Seattle City Council.