In the final State of the City address of his first term, Mayor Ed Murray today painted himself and the City of Seattle as a foil to President Donald Trump.
"The posture and politics of the new president should not cause us to despair that progress is not possible," Murray said at Idris Mosque in North Seattle, where he delivered the speech (read it here). "Cities in general—and this city in particular—can be the solution."
Murray said his administration plans to request from Trump's administration more specific details on their plans for sanctuary cities and recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. If they don't get answers on those issues in a "timely manner," they'll sue. (After the speech, a spokesperson could not say exactly what will be considered a "timely manner.")
In the speech, Murray also proposed two significant new city taxes: a $55 million-a-year property tax levy to help fund services for the thousands of people who sleep outside and in homeless shelters in Seattle and a $16 million-a-year tax on soda distributors to fund educational and health programs for students of color.
Murray called that funding "but a down payment toward our goal of closing racial disparities in education outcomes, which will require future investments."
Murray wants the homelessness levy to appear on the August ballot. An advisory group including city council members, venture capitalist Nick Hanauer, and the Downtown Emergency Services Center's Dan Malone will come up with the specifics of the levy. In a statement to The Stranger, Hanauer called the city's homelessness crisis "dangerous both for the homeless and for the rest of the citizens in our city."
"Nothing less than bold action will ameliorate or city's homelessness problem and the time is now to do that," Hanauer said.
Others, meanwhile, are working on an effort to get some form of a local income tax to fund social services, either through city council action or through a measure on this fall's ballot. The Transit Riders Union is leading a coalition to "Trump-proof Seattle" with a local tax on unearned income. (State law and case law limits Washington cities' ability to tax income; supporters think taxing investments could be their way around that.) Murray did not mention the possibility of taxing high earners today.
On housing affordability, Murray drew parallels between fighting against the Trump administration's policies and upzoning parts of the city to allow for more density and new housing. "We cannot be a city where people protest the exclusionary agenda coming from Washington D.C., while at the same time keeping a zoning code in place that does not allow us to build the affordable housing we need," Murray said.
In a city fighting parochialism and high housing costs, it's a good message. (Thanks, Josh Feit.) It's also a message Murray could have used back in the summer of 2015, when he abandoned a proposal to allow more housing in Seattle's sacrosanct single family zones.
Watch the full speech here:
This morning, Mayor Ed Murray will deliver his fourth State of the City address. Instead of the usual address before the Seattle City Council inside council chambers, Murray will give the speech at Idris Mosque in North Seattle. (Live stream embedded after the jump.)
As KUOW reports, the mosque was targeted after 9/11 by a man armed with a gun and gasoline.
In a statement when the speech was announced, Murray's office said it was a sign he was "standing with Seattle’s Muslim community in their house of worship as we fight state sanctioned discrimination by the Trump Administration."
Ostensibly, this is a city policy speech, not an event for Murray's 2017 reelection campaign. But everything in an election year is a campaign event.
Seattle’s identity as a hub of resistance against the Trump administration holds clear political value for the mayor. It's a potent hero-vs-villain narrative, casting Murray as the defender of Seattle’s values. So, expect those themes about inclusivity and fighting Trump to be central to today's speech. (Murray's reelection campaign is already tapping into this narrative. At a January 25 press conference about Trump's threats against "sanctuary cities," a reporter asked Murray how much money he was willing to risk in defiance of the Trump administration. “I am willing to lose every single penny,” he responded. Three minutes after he said it, the mayor’s recently revived campaign Twitter feed, @EdMurray4Mayor, sent out a tweet: “I'm willing to lose every penny of federal funding to protect immigrants' rights. #NoBanNoWall #sanctuarycities." A recent press release about labor union endorsements of Murray cited the Trump administration's threats against "federal labor, immigration, and other important protections for working people.")