Nine candidates are vying to be Seattle mayor. Times City Hall reporter Lynn Thompson sat down recently with state Sen. Ed Murray to let him introduce himself and tell voters what’s important to him. The answers have been edited for length.
Q: You’ve represented Seattle’s 43rd District in the Legislature for 18 years. How does that experience prepare you to be Seattle mayor?
A: In the Legislature, we have to work in a fairly contentious atmosphere. We have to find ways to compromise and build alliances to get results. We forget that transportation investments in the state had been stalled for almost two decades when I helped pass the nickel gas tax in 2003 and the 9½-cent gas tax in 2005. I was one of the leaders to break that logjam.
I look at a city government where everyone is liberal to one extent or another.
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Everyone believes we should end homelessness, but I see elected officials unable to agree on how to do that. If I can work in a contentious atmosphere with a 49-49 tie where I can get Republicans to vote for taxes, I think I can get people who all care about an issue to come together and find solutions.
Q: How would you ensure the Seattle Police Department has strong leadership and undertakes the work of reform?
A: The only way you reform the Police Department is by changing the leader of the Police Department, and that is clearly the mayor. The fact that Seattle — a progressive city on the West Coast — is under a federal consent decree is unacceptable.
We need someone from the outside, but we also need someone with experience in government.
As we begin the search for a new police chief, my experience will help attract some of the best and brightest candidates in the nation.
We need a chief who has experience in reform, in changing police culture. And this person has to restore the faith of the people of Seattle in the Police Department.
Q: How do we balance growth with quality of life and protecting single-family neighborhoods?
A: There are neighborhoods of this city where we can create urban density. South Lake Union is one of them. By doing that, you take pressure off single-family neighborhoods.
The South Lake Union process went on for five years, and it fell apart at the end. The (City) Council was right to ask for higher impact fees for affordable housing.
But I think the mayor was right that if you’re going to ask for higher fees, you should get higher buildings.
If I had been mayor, I would have looked for a compromise, because that’s an area that can take some height.
As it is, we’re not going to get much affordable housing.
Q: Seattle has a $1.8 billion backlog in deferred maintenance for transportation infrastructure such as arterial streets and bridges. That’s despite a $365 million levy passed in 2006 that was meant to catch us up. How would you address that?
A: We need to identify the projects. We need to complete the projects. And we can’t use Bridging the Gap to supplant general-fund transportation dollars.
This is a city and a region that’s willing to vote for transportation. And, of course, construction budgets are one of the ways a city creates jobs.
I’ve spent most of my legislative career working on transportation, so it is one of my areas of expertise.
Q: What is your strategy for getting through a crowded primary?
A: We believe we have a story that can reach citywide, a story about experience, about transportation, about civil rights and marriage equality.
One mistake people make around the gay-marriage issue, is [not realizing] it means as much to a lot of straight people.
The emotional response I would get on the streets and in restaurants, I can’t tell you the number of people who have come up to me and said, ‘I never felt better about voting.’ People in Seattle care about gay rights and marriage equality.
Q: At some of the early candidate forums, you garbled the names of some Seattle initiatives, Children and Families levy instead of Families and Education, Bridge the Gap instead of Bridging the Gap. Are you focused on Seattle issues?
A: I’m acronym challenged.
Do I know every single issue as well as someone on the City Council? No. But it’s a question of leadership. There’s not an issue I touch in Olympia that doesn’t touch Seattle. I know and understand local government. I know and understand the city.
Lynn Thompson: firstname.lastname@example.org or 206-464-8305. On Twitter lthompsontimes