Seattle Mayor Ed Murray described a city booming with business while also struggling with homelessness in his third State of the City address.
Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, in his third annual State of the City address Tuesday afternoon, hearkened back to the 1962 World’s Fair and the Great Depression as he described a city booming with business while also struggling with homelessness.
“Today, the state of the city reflects the 21st-century dreams of the 1962 World’s Fair: a vibrant city driven by technology and science creating jobs and innovation in everything from transportation to health care,” said Murray, who took office in 2014.
“The state of the city also reflects our worst fears from the Great Depression as issues of homelessness and inequity continue despite decades of effort on the part of this city to resolve them,” the mayor added, speaking in the City Council chambers.
Murray began on a positive note, saying Seattle has created more than 63,000 jobs in five years. The city’s unemployment rate is low, and its minimum wage has reached $13 an hour on the way to $15 an hour, he pointed out.
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Seattle opened its first subsidized-preschool classrooms in 2015 and moved to expand bus service, and Murray and the council set a goal of building or preserving 50,000 homes over the next decade, 20,000 of them with capped rents, he said.
The mayor said a new partnership with the Seattle Housing Authority will automatically enroll more than 10,000 tenants for utilities discounts this year, and he urged voters to approve a supersized new property-tax levy for affordable housing.
“Seattle is among the three fastest-growing cities in the nation,” Murray said. “This growth has provided us with a booming economy, but we also see a growing number of cars clogging our streets and skyrocketing demand for a limited supply of housing.”
The next year will be “a big year for transit in Seattle,” Murray said: The new First Hill streetcar line opened last month and new light-rail stations are opening on Capitol Hill and at Husky Stadium next month. In November, voters will size up a third Sound Transit ballot measure that could include light-rail stations in Ballard and West Seattle.
The mayor sounded less triumphant as he addressed persistent challenges related to homelessness, public safety and outcomes for young people of color in Seattle.
Murray proclaimed a homelessness state of emergency in November. But rather than heeding his call to action, many people are taking part in a divisive conversation about how to solve the crisis and whom to blame, the mayor said, urging compromise.
Crime decreased 7 percent in 2015, and the Seattle Police Department has received praise from the White House for ongoing use-of-force reforms, Murray said.
But property crime remains a serious problem in many neighborhoods, he admitted, setting a new goal for police-officer hiring. Murray had previously promised to add 100 net officers by 2018. His new goal is 200 by 2020, assuming he wins a second term.
Murray singled out young black men as a population Seattle must do more for, saying the city will connect 4,000 young people with paid internships and jobs this year and boost the work of Career Bridge, a job-training program for young men of color.
The mayor had Cary Carver, a 24-year-old father of one and a graduate of Career Bridge, stand to receive applause. Carver recently joined an ironworkers union and is now making $26 an hour, plus benefits, he said after the speech.