An upbeat Mayor Mike McGinn told a packed City Hall audience Tuesday that translating Seattle’s progressive values into city policy will ensure continued economic growth and environmental sustainability.
In his annual State of the City address before the City Council, McGinn cited accomplishments in job growth, balanced budgets, expanded planning for light rail, safer bicycle routes and city support for education.
“Mayor Rahm Emanuel, when he announced bike routes in downtown Chicago, called out Seattle, saying he wanted our bikers and our tech jobs,” McGinn said to laughter. “We’re going to work to keep them here.”
The mayor is up for re-election this year and so far has attracted seven opponents, including three who were in the audience for Tuesday’s address, Councilmembers Bruce Harrell and Tim Burgess and former Councilmember Peter Steinbrueck.
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Steinbrueck said he was happy that the mayor mentioned implementing some neighborhood-improvement plans, but said that in practice McGinn has focused much of his energy on South Lake Union and downtown to the exclusion of other areas of the city.
“He’s had three years to do that and he’s fallen short,” Steinbrueck said. “What I’m hearing is an outcry of dissatisfaction from neighborhoods with this mayor’s priorities.”
Harrell criticized the mayor’s approval of a federal grant for surveillance drones, a plan the mayor later scrapped.
“He’s listening after the fact. He should know by now that people don’t like surveillance,” Harrell said.
McGinn spent about eight minutes of his 50-minute speech on public safety. He recalled that 2012 began with 22 slayings in five months — as many as the city saw in all of 2011.
“We went to work,” McGinn said. “We added violence emphasis patrols to crime hot spots. We partnered with the federal government to enhance penalties for gun violations. We ran gun stings to capture sellers of stolen guns. And most of all, we reached out to the community for help.”
There were four homicides in the remaining seven months of the year, which the mayor called “a dramatic reduction.”
McGinn barely mentioned the settlement agreement reached with the U.S. Department of Justice in July over its findings of excessive use of force and evidence of biased policing. But he called his creation of a Community Police Commission, as part of the agreement, “historic.”
“Never before had police critics and police leaders sat down in this kind of formal way to discuss, debate and problem-solve some of the most difficult issues facing our police and our community,” McGinn said.
The mayor also said that the Police Department now has a full-time Race and Social Justice Initiative coordinator and that by the end of 2013 all sworn and civilian officers will have taken the city’s race and social-justice training.
That’s a marked difference for a police force that was largely hostile to the initiative when it was introduced by then-Mayor Greg Nickels in 2008 and fought for separate training on police profiling, which the force said was more relevant to its jobs.
“We have more work to do, much more work to do,” McGinn said. “But I believe that this community, working together with our police force, can squarely confront our challenges so that we have the safest city, and most trusted police force in the nation.”
Lynn Thompson: firstname.lastname@example.org or 206-464-8305.