- MAYOR MURRAY Saying all the right things. But politicians have done that before.
Cynthia Linet, a member of the activist singing troupe Raging Grannies, sat next to me this afternoon in the city council chambers during what Mayor Ed Murray billed as a landmark speech on public safety in Seattle. Murray spoke for a half hour, outlining what he called a "comprehensive public safety strategy" for the city.
When he was done, Linet said: "It was very moving. He said all the right things. Now it’s up to the implementation."
Yeah, pretty much. It was quite good—framing gun violence as a public health issue, calling out the media's lack of attention to violence in the African-American community, and announcing new police reforms—although Murray's deadpan delivery (assisted by teleprompters) was, per usual, underwhelming. You can read the whole thing here. But the most important parts are as follows:
The Seattle Police Department's Office of Professional Accountability should be independent from the police department itself (currently it is not) and there should be a separate civilian oversight body for OPA, Murray said. He'll be submitting a proposal to the city council to make those changes soon, he said. (Note: those changes to the police accountability structure will have to be negotiated with the police unions.)
Murray said the SPD should "reflect Seattle's diversity." The department will soon hire, for the first time, a liaison to the East African community, Murray said. Given that East Africans have twice been the victims of homicides in the past month, this is an important step.
And he pledged to make it clear to police officers: "'There’s nothing I can do' is no longer an appropriate response to residents who raise concerns."
On Central and South Seattle:
Murray said about half of all Seattle crime takes place in roughly five percent of the city's blocks, citing criminologist David Weisburd.
The mayor is launching a Summer of Safety program to target those areas with 1000 jobs for youth, up from 450 in previous years, coming from the private and public sector. There's no additional funding required for this expansion, Murray said an interview afterwards. When I asked how the teens will be selected for this program, Murray referred me to a staff member who still hasn't e-mailed me the specifics.
The Summer of Safety also includes, Murray said, supporting the Seattle Youth Violence Prevention Initiative, having community centers staying open for more hours of the day, and expanding "social hours for teens" at local libraries.
Then there are "Find-It-Fix-It Community Walks," which seem more to me about generating a public dialogue and making all communities feel valued by their representatives than actually getting shit done at the scale necessary for the city. In these walks, locals and city officials will walk around troubled "hotspots" and find solutions, "including graffiti removal, street lighting and garbage clean-ups." The first one is July 2 at 23rd and S. Jackson Street with Murray, Council Member Bruce Harrell, and City Attorney Pete Holmes.
Not a lot of tangibles here, but there was some excellent framing by the mayor of gun violence as a public health issue, which it is. Murray promised to advocate for universal background checks (recall that he's also endorsed I-594, a statewide gun control initiative). He pointed out that in states where there are background checks for all private handgun sales, far fewer women die from being shot by their partners, and there are fewer assaults with guns. In Washington, Murray said, more people die from guns than automobiles, which have long been the leading cause of injury and death in the country. He promised to hold a summit with local and federal officials this fall about the issue.
"We can never truly address crime without addressing the underlying problem of inequality," Murray said. On that score, he said, the fact that 54 percent of Seattle's black children live in poverty, while only 6 percent of white kids do, is a "moral failure...which we must confront."
He gave props to Council Members Kshama Sawant, Nick Licata, and Bruce Harrell for their work to increase the minimum wage, to Jean Godden for her work on gender pay inequity, and to Tim Burgess for his universal pre-k proposals.
Murray concluded with a tribute to Dwone Anderson-Young, the 23-year-old web developer gunned down in a Central District double homicide on June 1, four days before the shooting at SPU. The mayor read from Anderson-Young's obituary and quoted from his last Facebook post: "The future is always with you."
So, this speech by Ed Murray was not many things: it wasn't barnstorming or spine-tingling, and it didn't go after the establishment, a la Sawant. It rightly chastised the media for not covering the vigil for murder victims Anderson-Young and Ahmed Said on the same night of the SPU shooting. But it only made a passing mention of "institutionalized racism" and described such discrimination as an "inherited" aspect of our history, rather than an active thing which must be resisted. It did not contain the phrase "prison industrial complex." But the proposed police reforms, the Summer Safety program, and Murray's public health analysis are all promising signs.
Falana Young-Wyatt, Anderson-Young's mother, watched the speech. She tells me, by phone, "It all sounds good. I just want to see a year from now—all these things that he said. Did he do it? Don't promise something if you're not going to keep your promise."
In the meantime, she says, her sister will passing out "Justice for Dwone" buttons at this Sunday's pride parade to remind people that Ali Muhammed Brown, who police named as a suspect in the killings, is still at large. "I’m afraid people will forget," she said. "Put his ass on Washington’s most wanted or whatever. I want his ass caught."