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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, February 28 2014 - Volume 42 Issue 09
Ed Murray lays out ambitious agenda in State of the City speech
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Ed Murray lays out ambitious agenda in State of the City speech

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Mayor Ed Murray laid out an ambitious political agenda in his first State of the City speech February 18, in front of a standing room only crowd in City Hall's Council Chambers.

Returning to themes he first touched on in his inaugural address on January 6, Murray talked about 'our city's great progressive legacy, and its emphasis not just on debating problems but on tackling and solving them.'

Government is not the problem, he added, but 'a collaborative partner in solving the problems we face.'

Those problems, the Mayor said, boil down to two 'pressing, central issues of our time: in social and economic justice, and creating an affordable Seattle, and in climate change.'

'Our challenge is also to ensure that our City is a functional City,' Murray continued, 'a City that is up to the task of meeting its basic obligations to: create safe and livable communities, nurture a vibrant economy, and provide for efficient, effective government.'

Murray said that increases in the cost of living in Seattle had reached crisis proportions, and said he would convene a stakeholder group to recommend plans for more affordable housing that he would present to the City Council in the fall.

He also reiterated his support for a $15 an hour minimum wage, an issue he first raised during his campaign. Since 2000, Murray explained, the top 20% of income earners in Seattle have brought home more money than the bottom 80%.

'We can increase the income and purchasing power of low-wage workers while protecting small businesses, retaining jobs and fostering economic development throughout the region,' Murray said.

Murray also announced a citywide Neighborhood Summit on April 5 for residents to talk about growth and development, and how those could occur while still maintaining the special character of Seattle's neighborhoods.

Murray noted that the city's big infrastructure projects - the new seawall, viaduct replacement tunnel, and the new Highway 520 bridge - are made more critical by climate change and its impact on the city including higher tides and more severe storms.

Murray also advocated for a permanent parks levy, citing the $270 million maintenance backlog facing the parks system. And he said that he was already thinking about a new 'Bridging the Gap' levy in 2015 to address the poor condition of the city's residential streets.

Trying to draw a contrast between himself and his predecessor Mike McGinn, whose relations with the City Council were notoriously frosty, Murray praised each Council member in turn for their leadership in some aspect of City government.

After the speech, Council members gave Murray good, if restrained, reviews.

'Murray has seen a mayor and a council at odds and he's seen a mayor and council getting things done. I think he realizes the importance of working cooperatively and collaboratively,' Tom Rasmussen told reporters.

'It wasn't what I would call an inspirational speech,' Nick Licata said. 'He was really giving a report on the challenges the city faces and how he intends to meet them.'

Council member Kshama Sawant, who made a $15 minimum wage a cornerstone of her campaign, said she was pleased to hear Murray reaffirm support for the idea, but urged him to renounce possible compromises.

'It's time for elected officials to say that there will be no carve-outs, no loopholes, no exceptions to the $15 minimum wage,' she said after the speech.

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