Mayor Mike McGinn in his State of the City address touted new efforts to crack down on crime-ridden nightclubs, repeated his call for the legalization of marijuana and announced the launch of "violence prevention patrols," Seattle Police Department units that will focus on street disorder and gun violence.
The six minutes Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn spent discussing crime and drugs at his State of the City address Tuesday afternoon stood out for their unusually sharp and passionate rhetoric.
Noting that seven homicides already have occurred in the city this year, McGinn pledged to “stand firm with the people of Seattle against violent behavior, armed robberies and other forms of criminal behavior.”
The mayor touted new efforts to crack down on crime-ridden nightclubs, repeated his call for the legalization of marijuana and announced the launch of “violence-prevention patrols,” Seattle Police Department units that will focus on street disorder and gun violence.
“Everyone who lives here, who works here, who shops here and who comes here to enjoy Seattle needs to feel safe,” said McGinn, quoting SPD Deputy Chief Nick Metz’s assessment of the recent rash of murders as an “emergency.”
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The comments came during a nearly hourlong address delivered in packed City Council chambers. Reading from prepared remarks, McGinn focused most of his third annual speech on economic development, education, and initiatives in downtown parking, Internet access and youth jobs.
He spent only a few moments discussing a recently unveiled $490 million public-private financing proposal to build an arena in the stadium district to accommodate NBA and NHL teams. But he talked at length about aspects of Seattle that make it a good spot for investment.
Within the broad overview there were few specific policy proposals. The biggest may have been the announcement of a Green Ribbon Commission to review the city’s environmental efforts.
By far, McGinn grew most animated when discussing crime.
The seven homicides so far this year easily exceed the two in January and February last year and the three in the first two months of 2010, according to SPD records.
McGinn didn’t speculate on the reason for the spike, but he focused on the importance of taking action against nightclubs where crime often occurs. At least two of the seven this year stemmed from nightclub altercations.
The mayor mentioned his office’s recent efforts to help persuade a judge to close Club Republiq and help persuade the Liquor Control Board to decide to revoke Studio 7’s liquor license.
McGinn linked crime to unmet social needs and the drug trade. He earned the loudest applause of the afternoon when he argued for the legalization of marijuana.
“It’s time for the state to legalize marijuana, and stop the violence, stop the incarceration, stop the erosion of civil liberties and urge the federal government to stop the failed war on drugs,” he said.
City Councilmember Bruce Harrell, chairman of the public-safety committee, praised many of the mayor’s ideas but said “a lot more” must be done to respond to crime.
“Every homicide is different, so it’s difficult to conclude why we’ve had so many earlier in this year, but that’s all the more reason for us to be concerned,” he said.
Brian M. Rosenthal: 206-464-3195 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @brianmrosenthal.