Mayor Jenny Durkan highlighted her work on policing and vaccinations in a brief conversation with The Washington Post on Thursday.
The 30-minute event, part of The Post’s “Leadership During Crisis” series, comes in the final months of her first and last term as mayor and after she oversaw the city’s pandemic response and protests over police violence.
The interview was hosted by The Post’s opinions editor at large Michael Duffy and largely consisted of rapid-fire questions.
Durkan said the success of vaccination outreach in the city validated her decision not to run for reelection. Seattle was the first major metropolitan to reach the goal of vaccinating 70% of residents 12 and older.
“I could either do the job I was elected to do, or I could run for the job,” she said. “I couldn’t do both.”
While Seattle still lags in vaccinating communities of color, she said the city falls above national rates and that half the vaccinations administered by the city went directly to people of color.
The coronavirus delta variant, she acknowledged, is particularly worrisome for people who are unvaccinated. She reiterated Washington state is still following the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance which say indoor masking is not required.
Durkan said she is still listening to local and national advisers who helped direct the city’s response and is keeping a close eye on when booster vaccinations might be necessary.
When asked whether she would have done anything differently after the death of George Floyd, Durkan largely dodged the question and said Seattle continues to see economic disparities between the new tech sector and traditional jobs.
Durkan said reimagining policing was one of the areas she wanted to focus on when she announced she was not seeking reelection.
Durkan faced scrutiny for the Seattle police response to protests last summer, including tear gas and pepper spray used against crowds. She also took heat for allowing activists and others to take over several blocks on Capitol Hill after police abandoned the nearby East Precinct.
There have been challenges, she said Thursday, including a “record number” of police officers leaving the department in the last 18 months. And homicides have increased locally and nationally.
Durkan said that she was a “lone voice” in resisting the calls to “defund the police” at first and highlighted $100 million budgeted toward housing, education and other programs for communities of color this year and the expansion of the city’s “Health One” response team for people in crisis.
What’s next for Durkan? The only thing she added aside from fantasizing about being a tugboat captain was visiting a quiet town in Montana or a beach.
“I think mayors saved America. I think cities have become not just the new safety net, but they’re the new laboratory for America,” she said.