Mayor Ed Murray gave his State of the City address Tuesday morning.
Delivering his annual State of the City address from a North Seattle mosque, Mayor Ed Murray announced Tuesday he will seek a $55 million per-year property-tax levy to combat homelessness and a soda tax to fund education programs.
Murray also said Seattle is demanding information from the federal government on President Donald Trump’s controversial “sanctuary cities” executive order, which is meant to ramp up immigration enforcement.
The mayor said he wants to be able to provide the city’s immigrants and refugees with a clear understanding of the order’s implications and will sue if the information isn’t promptly provided in response to Freedom of Information Act requests.
Murray picked the Idris Mosque as the venue for his speech to show support for Muslims, whom he says are being unjustly targeted by the Trump administration.
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Throughout the address, the mayor contrasted his initiatives in Seattle with the president’s policies, at one point comparing opposition to his proposed upzones of growing city neighborhoods with Republican-controlled Washington, D.C.’s “exclusionary agenda.”
Trump is “governing as an authoritarian” with a “vision of unrelenting bleakness and fear,” Murray said.
“Where the president spreads darkness, Seattle will shine a light, and offer a different vision,” he said.
The mayor acknowledged that while many are benefiting from a booming local economy, thousands are sleeping on the streets in a dystopian “Other Seattle.”
He said he wants to double the city’s spending on homelessness with a five-year, $275 million property-tax levy.
Murray has asked billionaire tech entrepreneur Nick Hanauer and Daniel Malone, executive director of the Downtown Emergency Service Center, to lead an advisory group tasked with hammering out the details, he said.
The mayor said he hopes the City Council will put the measure on the August ballot.
“This would allow us to invest in mental-health treatment, in addiction treatment and in getting more people into housing and off the streets,” he said, adding, “I believe the residents of Seattle are ready to support such a measure.”
Murray is challenging the city’s business community to come up with an additional $25 million over five years, he said.
On Wednesday, the mayor will activate the Emergency Operations Center to help people without homes. The center is traditionally activated only during severe storms, major city events and natural disasters.
The move comes more than a year after Murray first proclaimed Seattle to be in a homelessness state of emergency.
Murray’s soda tax would raise about $16 million per year. Distributors of sugary drinks would pay two cents per ounce.
Several other cities have enacted similar taxes, Murray said, mentioning San Francisco and Philadelphia.
Seattle’s tax would cover not only sodas such as Coke and Pepsi but also energy and sports drinks such as Monster, Red Bull and Gatorade, some fruit drinks such as Sunny D, and sweetened tea and coffee drinks like those sold by Arizona and Starbucks.
Revenue from the tax would support various programs aimed at reducing disparities in education outcomes between the city’s white students and students of color.
The tax would require approval by the City Council.
Murray said a new program, Our Best: Seattle’s Commitment to Young Black Men, has a goal of doubling the number of black men serving as mentors in the city.
The mayor and City Attorney Pete Holmes are taking aim at Trump’s order titled “Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States.”
The order prioritizes new categories of people for deportation, calls for hiring 10,000 more immigration officers and says the Trump administration will pursue agreements allowing officers from local jurisdictions to help with immigration enforcement.
It also aims to crack down on so-called sanctuary cities by cutting them off from federal grants.
Such cities limit their own involvement in immigration enforcement to varying degrees. They aren’t true sanctuaries for undocumented immigrants because they can’t stop the federal government from arresting and deporting people.
Murray considers Seattle a sanctuary city because it bars its employees from inquiring into a person’s immigration status unless otherwise required by law or court order.
Police officers are exempted from that policy when they have reasonable suspicion to believe that a person has been previously deported and has committed a felony.
Murray and Holmes are requesting records and plans related to the intent and implementation of Trump’s order, including how it may affect people living and working in the country under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
They say the Trump administration must respond within 20 days.
Murray is running for re-election this year and has yet to draw any big-name challengers.