Jenny Durkan has the experience, perspective and ideas to lead Seattle through a moment of upheaval.
THE City of Seattle has grown by 100,000 people since 2010, to more than 700,000 — a spasmodic boom that reshaped the city’s economy and politics while degrading its livability.
The Times recommends:
Strengths: Steady leadership, a decades-long resume of civic engagement, pragmatic solutions for big Seattle problems.
Durkan has management chops forged from experience, a broad view of Seattle’s role in the region and state, and a focus on affordability that works for both old and new Seattle."
City residents are rightly anxious. Pressures on affordability have eroded Seattle’s famous tolerance for taxes. Increasing homelessness is tearing at Seattle’s progressive soul. Washington, D.C., has rarely seemed so menacing to city interests.
Yet, the city’s virtues and potential are as ever-present as the three stunning national parks visible from the Space Needle’s roof.
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In the midst of upheaval, Seattle needs steady leadership from its next mayor. In an unusually deep field of candidates on the Aug. 1 ballot, Jenny Durkan is clearly the best choice. The top two candidates who emerge in this nonpartisan race will face each other on the November ballot.
Durkan has management chops forged from experience, a broad view of Seattle’s role in the region and state, and a focus on affordability that works for both old and new Seattle.
Durkan’s roots in Seattle are decades deep, and she can appreciate better than most the challenge and opportunity of the present. Seattle has had four years of pedal-to-the-floor policy experiments under departing Mayor Ed Murray and a City Council that increasingly veers to the left. The city budget ballooned by $1.4 billion, to $5.4 billion — an increase in city spending of more than $2,000 for every Seattle resident.
Durkan has a back-to-basics message — emphasizing a commitment to deliver on potholes, homeless services and constitutionally sound policing while de-emphasizing the need for yet another tax increase.
She has the best approach to working with, rather than against, Seattle’s diverse and innovative business community. She has earned respect from environmentalists, and was a genuine civil-rights leader as the nation’s first openly lesbian U.S. Attorney. She embraces the challenges of skyrocketing housing prices and widening economic inequality. She is best positioned to satisfy and end federal oversight of Seattle Police because she started the process.
We trust Durkan with these challenges because of her history. She had a distinguished career in law and civic life even before being tapped by President Barack Obama as the top federal prosecutor in Western Washington. A high-end criminal and civil lawyer from a prominent Seattle family, Durkan has pushed progressive reforms of police and the courts for decades. She has advised mayors, governors and Attorney General Eric Holder. Durkan defines gravitas.
She also adds a welcome voice of reason at a moment when Seattle politics tilts toward ideologues. She supports a more progressive state tax structure, but views Seattle’s plan to litigate a city income tax as a costly waste of time. She broadly supports the housing affordability agenda pushed by Murray, who has endorsed her, but Durkan is more protective of single-family neighborhoods where about half the city lives. She is progressive, but pragmatic.
To address Seattle’s ever-rising homelessness population, Durkan smartly supports more social service outreach teams, especially for car campers. While some of Durkan’s opponents advocate for more unsanctioned camps, she does not, calling them immoral.
And she rightly displays a regional view of homelessness, which is too often defined with go-it-alone Seattle solutions. Her best idea is to consider consolidation of King County’s mental-health and drug-treatment programs with city-funded shelters, breaking down bureaucratic silos and reducing administration.
Durkan is unequivocally the best candidate to be Seattle’s defender in Washington, D.C. In lieu of empty anti-Trump rhetoric, Durkan could use her federal experience and tenacious litigation skills to protect city interests.
When Murray stepped out of the race, a field of credible candidates emerged, including former Mayor Mike McGinn, state democratic legislators Jessyn Farrell and Bob Hasegawa, activist attorney Nikkita Oliver and urban planner Cary Moon. Harley Lever, a sensible neighborhood-focused candidate, deserves more attention in the race.
But Durkan is the only candidate offering the whole package — experience, pragmatic solutions and decades-long civic commitment to Seattle.