After a historic year battling the COVID-19 pandemic, addressing the ensuing economic fallout, and responding to months of social uprisings, you'd think Mayor Jenny Durkan would have had a lot to say in her final State of the City address last night. But the Mayor kept her 800-word speech to a brisk six minutes, and focused mostly on vaccinations and reopening downtown.
Durkan reflected on last year as a year of change, a year of "masks, testing, isolation, [and] losing loved ones." She touched on lost jobs and piling rent debt. However, she offered no detailed plan to address these problems, aside from saying that she would "discuss and implement plans to continue progress on each of these issues." As Durkan's final year in office kicks off, maybe she's done planning for the future.
Throughout her speech, Durkan focused on the fate of the downtown core. She said she wanted to take "concrete steps to... recover and reopen downtown" while improving the "livability and safety of downtown." Later on she reasserted her desire to bring "workers back downtown," because "the health of downtown is so critical to the entire city and region." Near the end, she again stressed that she would bring workers back downtown. Did the Downtown Seattle Association ghostwrite this section?
Aside from wanting to reopen downtown while COVID-19 case numbers in King County are still very high, Durkan briefly mentioned other plans. She said the city would "open hundreds of shelter spaces and affordable homes," potentially referring to the city's plan to secure 300 hotel rooms and 125 new enhanced shelter beds, a plan that is in purgatory according to Publicola.
Durkan also said she would work "to address public safety" and "expand alternatives to policing." She didn't elaborate.
Mostly, Durkan discussed vaccinations.
"I want us to be the first city in the country to vaccinate 70 percent of our adults," Durkan said, citing the sweet spot for herd immunity. Previously, the city said it would take until October or 2022 by the latest to reach that number.
Durkan highlighted the success of the Seattle Fire Department's mobile vaccination units, which have administered "4,400 vaccinations to workers at adult family homes, health care workers and grocery store workers, and elders in our hardest-hit communities." Soon, as the federal government increases vaccine supply, Durkan hopes to stand up mass vaccination sites in Rainier Beach, West Seattle, Downtown, and multiple places in North Seattle.
"When you’re eligible," Durkan said, "get your appointment and get vaccinated. Help family, friends or neighbors make or get to appointments." She also asked people to donate to the new Vaccine Equity Initiative, a public-private partnership to address vaccine allocation inequity statewide.
"I know everyone is just so tired," Durkan said in closing. "But we are so close."
My favorite part was when, in closing, Durkan attempted to inspire hope by hinting at a post-COVID Seattle. "We will be able to gather again," Durkan said. Yes, true. I can't wait to gather again. But then Durkan followed that up with, "We will open our new, world-class Climate Pledge Arena to watch our championship Storm and release the Kraken." I haven't really had Amazon's new stadium in mind whenever I've allowed myself to fantasize about the after-times, but I guess now I can make it through the rest of the pandemic knowing hockey is on the other side. Thanks, Durkan.