DON’T let inauguration festivities at City Hall fool you: elected officials have plenty of hard work to do.
Seattle is a city on the rise. People are moving in. The cultural scene is thriving. Unemployment is relatively low.
Some attention is focused on a $15 minimum wage, but Mayor Ed Murray and the nine Seattle City Council members should not rush into any decisions that could undercut the economy’s resurgence. Murray wisely has convened a panel to examine the effects of increased labor costs on big and small businesses.
In the meantime, city leaders must prioritize and fix other urgent issues before them:
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• Reform the Seattle Police Department as mandated by the U.S. Department of Justice. The council recently approved extra money for Murray to find top-tier candidates to fill the police chief job. A national search should yield a leader who can restore the public’s trust, inspire substantive changes within the force and instill confidence in federal monitors who are making sure the department ends biased policing and unnecessary use of force.
• Make downtown Seattle safer for residents, workers and tourists. The Center City Initiative, which uses social-service intervention to respond to low-level drug and prostitution crimes, has alleviated some people’s concerns. The city ought to expand this effort.
• Design a first-rate universal preschool program for 3- and 4-year-olds. Early learning is the key to children succeeding in their later years. This initiative would help close persistent opportunity and academic gaps within Seattle.
• Maintain public transit and complete major road projects to keep people and goods moving. Murray must draw from his experience as former head of the state Senate’s Transportation Committee to help Seattle adopt a regional approach to preserving infrastructure.
The new mayor and incoming socialist Councilmember Kshama Sawant contend they were elected with a clear mandate to tackle income inequality. The conversation has started.
But Seattle is a city with complex issues. To keep it running and sustainable, city leaders must buckle down, cooperate and do what’s best for Seattle as a whole.
Editorial board members are editorial page editor Kate Riley, Frank A. Blethen, Ryan Blethen, Sharon Pian Chan, Lance Dickie, Jonathan Martin, Thanh Tan, William K. Blethen (emeritus) and Robert C. Blethen (emeritus).