In the Mayors One Seattle, we have a both/and attitude
In the Mayor's One Seattle, we have a both/and attitude Screenshot from Seattle Channel

On Tuesday, Mayor Bruce Harrell gave his first State of the City address. Just six weeks into the gig, his biggest accomplishments so far include ending the eviction moratorium and, as he noted in his address, sweeping some of the biggest encampments in the city. Aside from touting those victories, the address served as a good baseline for what to expect from his administration.

Harrell’s overall message expanded on his One Seattle vision: We need more “both/and” thinking rather than “either/or” thinking. The Mayor is all about pleasing everyone. In fact, he name-dropped every city council member in his address, including socialist Councilmember Kshama Sawant. In-between the talk of unity, he laid out a few concrete promises:

Our Boys in Blue

Harrell made himself abundantly clear during his campaign: He is not an abolitionist. So it came as no surprise that he called for the city to hire more cops as part of his “holistic approach to public safety," promising a special Seattle-only class at the police academy in June of this year. The next 36 officers will come out of that effort. In addition to that, because the council appropriated money for 125 new cops, Harrell said he’s rolling out a new campaign to recruit police. In the spirit of “why not both,” he also said he wanted the “right number of officers and the right kind of officers.”

He also promised to be the administration to end the federal consent decree, a decade-long oversight agreement between Seattle and the U.S. Department of Justice that was adopted after SPD used excessive force and biased policing. In order to end that agreement, the city needs to remain in compliance with its terms for two years. Last year, U.S. District Court Judge James Robart said that the city was still out of compliance with the consent decree in the areas of discipline and accountability.

Parks Are For Everyone! Not so fast, poor people…

Harrell promised to make it easier for NextDoor types to complain to the city about encampments. With a new, centralized system, Harrell said the city will be able to act more quickly on the approximately 1,500 reports it's received since January.

But of course, Harrell said he wanted to please everyone: “We can help people living unsheltered AND we can restore parks and make sidewalks accessible for all,” he said. So he suggested buying up existing buildings for the unhoused, but he didn't mention a funding source. He also promised a new inter-departmental team, the Unified Care Team. Based on the limited information he provided, the agency sorta sounded like a cross between a task force and a dashboard that would “collect and provide streamlined data to the public” and “coordinate across departments with one voice and assure our plan and progress are clear for all.”

Business and Labor

Harrell sounded amped to work with business improvement associations to address the concerns of small businesses. His first step was submitting a bill to council to fund additional resources for tourism with a small increase in the lodging fee. Back when I was a student journalist, Harrell told me he wanted to revitalize small businesses with tourism – he told me he drove many hours to go to a restaurant some blog said had the best pizza in the state, but when he arrived the restaurant was too busy to seat him. He wanted that kind of hype for small businesses in Seattle. I just like that story, sorry.

But it’s not just the owners he was worried about. Harrell also reasserted his longtime promise of a Job Center for workers. He didn’t go into great detail, nor has he ever, probably because he said he’s leaving it to the council to brainstorm what his Job Center could look like. She’s no longer on the council anymore, but during her mayoral campaign former Council President Lorena González suggested it might look like

In other employee vs. boss matters, Harrell framed the concrete workers’ strike as a threat to the timeliness of the West Seattle Bridge’s reopening. He asked business and labor to return to the bargaining table and to reach a fair agreement to end a conflict he said “helps no one and hurts everyone.”

Balanced Budget

Harrell affirmed that he will make good on one of his chief duties as mayor and present a balanced budget. It’s harder than it sounds. Mayor Jenny Durkan fumbled the bag this year, and then Budget Chair Teresa Mosqueda brought the overly optimistic budget back down to earth.

On Monday, the city saw the first revenue numbers from the JumpStart payroll tax. The tax exceeded expectations, and the city collected about $31 million above the most recent revenue forecast issued in November 2021.

Harrell said “that additional revenue must go toward alleviating the budget issues we expect in 2023,” and he committed to working with Mosqueda. However, Mosqueda does not take kindly to JumpStart funds moving around from their intended purposes. I wrote to the council’s Director of Communication and I’ll update if I get a response.

All in all, as with the hit Disney Channel TV show Hannah Montana, Harrell was determined to get the Best of Both Worlds and be a True Friend to the council. Only time will tell if he will deliver.