Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell celebrated his inauguration Tuesday, promising to forge “one Seattle” through a series of “progressive” policy goals, focusing on public safety and housing.
Harrell, who was officially sworn in at his home in December, held a small, private ceremony at City Hall due to rising COVID-19 cases.
Harrell noted his lack of festivities and continuation of “uncertainty and fear” caused by COVID and other issues as he takes office.
“But 2022 is not like past years — we continue to grapple with a stubborn pandemic that limits our ability to gather and celebrate,” Harrell said Tuesday.
“From March 11, 2020, when the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic, we have lived in fear: fear to be around others; fear to shake someone’s hand; fear that our streets are unsafe; fear that Seattle has been heading in the wrong direction and can’t fix its problems; fear that our days in front of us hold less promise than those behind us.”
Harrell, who officially became mayor Saturday after being elected in November, said his team will lead the city out of the uncertain times and toward being “one Seattle.”
Harrell emphasized the importance of public safety in his speech, noting “in one Seattle we all feel safe and supported.”
“That’s why I will be working with safety leaders and justice leaders and law enforcement professionals committed to culture change and gun violence prevention, leaders who can reshape and redefine policing,” Harrell said.
He also emphasized the importance of hiring the “right kinds” of police officers and working with neighborhoods to quell “undesirable” street behavior.
Asked later about the ongoing search for a police chief, Harrell rebuffed the idea of immediately heading into a national search, saying instead he will give interim Police Chief Adrian Diaz a chance to perform before making a decision.
“I believe I have to give everyone an opportunity to show some brilliance, show some talent,” Harrell said.
Though he said he would not give himself a specific deadline on hiring a permanent chief, Harrell said they would “make some decisions” in the first quarter.
Harrell’s other top priority touted Tuesday was homelessness.
“We will be intolerant, not of the people who are unhoused, but of the conditions that caused them to be unhoused,” Harrell said, later noting that he had discussed resources to address affordable housing and homelessness with Gov. Jay Inslee and King County Executive Dow Constantine.
While Harrell has not shared a specific policy plan for homelessness, he said when asked after the speech that he would address the issue quickly.
“I will guarantee you that you will see people housed here very shortly,” Harrell said.
He also noted that Deputy Mayor of Housing and Homelessness Tiffany Washington would be “measured” on the trajectory of homelessness.
“She shares the same passion and commitment, so we’ve talked about real progress in a short time and we’re meeting feverishly on that,” Harrell said.
The new mayor promised to address next week the city’s eviction moratorium, which is set to expire on Jan. 15. He noted that he has concerns for both tenants behind on rent and landlords who have not been collecting rent consistently during the pandemic.
“The benefit that we have is to look back and see how well it worked, how the moratorium worked,” Harrell said.
“So you’re going to see an announcement here in the next week as we look at the data and see how we can improve it to make sure we protect vulnerable residents and even vulnerable landlords.”
Harrell also mentioned ensuring health care for all, including housing and mental health, and addressing other inequities as a core tenet of creating one Seattle.
“We will come through this pandemic and take its lessons to help us improve health care, to improve our education outcomes and to address disparities on a whole new level,” Harrell said.
Asked about how he would work toward progressive politics, Harrell said that the factors of his one Seattle plan addressing health care and opportunity were “progressive policy at its fullest.”
“We will be a city renewed with optimism, a city that treats all people with dignity, and appreciates the richness and diversity of our voices, the perspectives of all communities,” Harrell said.