The 55th mayor of Seattle—and the third mayor this year—is Tim Burgess.
The Seattle City Council voted 5 to 1 to appoint Burgess mayor today after former mayor Ed Murray resigned and Council President Bruce Harrell declined his chance at the job.
“This is certainly not the way anyone would have chosen to become mayor but it is where we’re at today,” Burgess said after the vote today. “I promise to work every day for the next 71 days to help heal and move the city forward.”
Like Harrell, Burgess has either stayed quiet or defended Murray in the months since allegations surfaced that Murray sexually abused teenagers in the 1970s and 80s. In July, after the Seattle Times reported that a child welfare investigator determined in 1984 that Murray sexually abused his foster son, Council Member Lorena González said Murray should consider resigning or the council should consider impeaching him. Council Member Kshama Sawant soon joined González in that call. But they didn't have support from their colleagues, and the council did nothing. After González's statement, Burgess said during a council meeting talks about impeachment were "premature."
"Decisions that the mayor makes about his future are at this point his to make," Burgess said at the time. After Murray resigned last week, Burgess said it was the right choice. (Harrell, who has been filling in as mayor for the last five days, also defended Murray.)
Kshama Sawant was the lone “no” vote, citing Burgess’s support of homeless encampment sweeps and a new police precinct in North Seattle. Sawant said she did not believe Burgess “would represent the people I am fighting for. It’s not a personal question.” Interim mayor Bruce Harrell and council member Lisa Herbold were absent. (Harrell was mayoring; Herbold is out of town.) Burgess did not vote.
Burgess was sworn in Monday at 5 pm, surrounded by family, cabinet members, and several elected officials including Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson and State Senator Jamie Pedersen, once an ally of Murray.
Burgess referred to allegations against Murray as “the crisis of the last several months” and a “painful experience” for survivors. “But that’s behind us now,” he said.
Burgess will present the 2018 budget to the city council next Monday. That budget was already mostly completed by Murray’s office. Burgess said he may make slight changes, but mostly deferred to council members. Some have called on the city to increase funding for survivors of sexual violence. When asked, Burgess did not say whether he would support that.
Burgess will serve as mayor through November 28, when election results are certified and either Cary Moon or Jenny Durkan becomes mayor.
Burgess already planned to retire this year. Tenant advocate Jon Grant and labor activist Teresa Mosqueda are running for his council seat. The council did not vote today on who will replace Burgess on the council or clarify when it will take that vote. They're may do so later this week or Monday, September 25. The impending budget process is why some on the council are pushing to fill the vacancy as soon as possible. Sawant says the council should take time to involve public input in the selection of an interim member. Former council member Nick Licata plans to apply for the interim seat on the council. Whoever is appointed to that seat will also serve through November 28, when either Grant or Mosqueda will take the seat.
Several speakers during today’s council meeting called on the council to use a “transparent” process to appoint a new council member. Danni Askini, the executive director of the Gender Justice League who called on Murray to resign in April, said “the public, especially survivors such as myself, deserve to hear more” about what interim council member will do to address sexual violence before that interim member is appointed. Askini also called on the city to create a commission on gender based violence.
Burgess is a former reporter, cop, and ad exec who's been on the council since 2007. His advertising firm once represented the rightwing Concerned Women for America and Burgess has had a reputation as the council's most conservative member for most of his decade in City Hall.
In 2013, Burgess ran for mayor but dropped out before the filing deadline. (Which, judging by answer to a question about the gender pay gap, was good news for everyone.) That year, Murray won. On the council, Burgess has been an ally of business and Murray.
In 2010, Burgess sponsored a bill to target panhandlers by creating a new civil penalty for solicitation. (The bill passed the council and former mayor Mike McGinn vetoed it.) Last year, he opposed legislation backed by Columbia Legal Services and the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington to reduce homeless encampment sweeps. (That bill eventually died with the help of Murray's administration.) Burgess has supported a controversial new youth jail and courthouse in the Central District and opposed endorsing a ballot measure to give hotel workers more protections from sexual harassment and assault. He led the push to eliminate the employee hours tax, a tax on business that some advocates now want to bring back in an effort to make Seattle's tax system less regressive. He has also sponsored a tax on gun and bullet sales and supported expanding preschool and the Nurse Family Partnership, which offers care to low-income first time mothers.
This story is developing and will be updated.