Durkan sworn in as Seattle’s 54th 55th 56th mayor

Jenny Durkan, Seattle’s first woman to serve as mayor since 1926 — and the Pacific Northwest metropolis’s first out lesbian mayor, ever — was sworn in at the start of a five-stop tour from the south of the city to its north Tuesday afternoon. Fittingly, the whole thing was planned to come to end Tuesday night with a beer — Lake City Way’s Elliott Bay Public House marked the final stop.

Any Seattle voter who chose Durkan because she seemed like she might be a tough ally in the seeming culture war underway in the country probably liked what they heard Tuesday.

“We will not be bullied and will not be told what to do,” Durkan said. “We’re not spoiling for a fight but we will not back down from what we know is right.”

At the first stop of the day at the Ethiopian Community Center in Rainier Beach, Durkan was sworn in by Federal Judge Richard Jones who likened her election to Barack Obama’s in 2008. “Get ready Seattle because you are about to see excellence in operation,” the judge said before getting down to the more serious business of administering the oath of office.

“I am here in Rainier Beach because I wanted to break tradition,” Durkan said. “To be a mayor not of City Hall but of the people.”

For her inauguration, Durkan chose a series of ceremonies in Seattle neighborhoods vs. a more formal swearing-in at City Hall.  “Throughout the campaign, I emphasized we must tackle our challenges and seize opportunities as One City,”Durkan said in the announcement of the victory tour. “Starting on my first day in office, I want everyone to be a part of creating meaningful change for our City. It will take all of us working together to build a progressive, innovative and inclusive city for the next generation.”

Durkan’s overtures to areas beyond City Hall on the day included signing two executive orders including the launch of a Race and Social Justice Initiative in the International District and a rent voucher program in West Seattle:

To provide immediate relief in the first weeks in December, all families on Seattle Housing Authority (SHA) waiting list without preferential status will be contacted to expedite enrollment in utility discount programs and other public benefits. A pilot Seattle Rental Housing Assistance Program will be developed by January – this program will aim to provide a combination of vouchers and/or subsidies for renters on the SHA to provide relief for families with income between 30% and 50% of the area median income (AMI). In addition, the Office of Housing (OH) and SHA will work to expedite placement into housing and an interdepartmental effort will work to streamline City benefits.

Wednesday, the new mayor will be at Seattle Central’s sister South Seattle College to announce creation of the Seattle Promise College Tuition Program, a plan to provide two years of college schooling to all Seattle students.

Durkan will also have her work cut out for her keeping the city’s attempts at making Mandatory Housing Affordability a success in the face of a growing wave of legal challenges. Her city will have $34 million to spend on homelessness services and $1.3 million to spend on plans for a safe consumption site. CHS looked at the rest of the more than $6 billion 2018 operating budget here — a “progressive revenue” task force could put a Seattle head tax plan on Durkan’s table.

Her 61-member transition team has also been convening on topics including: Environment and Transportation Neighborhoods, Equity, and Livable Communities Affordability, Displacement, Housing, and Homelessness Civil Rights and Criminal Justice Reform Education, Economic Opportunity, Jobs, and Innovation Good Government.

Police reform will likely be another area to watch as Durkan moves onto the other side of the Justice Department’s consent decree over SPD’s use of force and biased policing.    The polished prosecutor was guarded but repeated her strong support for the police reform process at SPD in the wake of the Charleena Lyles killing when CHS spoke with her this summer. Groups like the Seattle Peoples Party — whose candidate Nikkita Oliver helped shaped the summer’s race for mayor despite falling short of the general election — will likely also continue to have a say.

Meanwhile, Durkan must also defend the city from ongoing saber rattling in Washington D.C. — and sometimes go on attack against the Trump administration’s ongoing efforts to threaten Sanctuary Cities and, basically, undermine progressive local governments.

CHS delved into more of Durkan’s positions on issues and challenges here during the campaign.

The mayor of Capitol Hill: Why you should vote for Jenny Durkan*

Durkan, 59, is the daughter of longtime state Democratic leader Martin Durkan. In 2009, President Barack Obama nominated Durkan to be the U.S Attorney for the Western District of Washington. She and her partner, Dana Garvey, have two sons.

Durkan’s Election Night tally and subsequent stretched lead over challenger Cary Moon represented a veritable Seattle landslide. As of her swearing-in, Durkan took 56% of Seattle’s vote vs. Moon’s 44%.

“It has really renewed my optimism for this city,” Durkan said on Election Night as she thought back on the campaign’s grind. The former U.S. Attorney was a money raising machine in the race breaking the record for most money raised by a Seattle campaigner — though one previous candidate’s dollar amount, when adjusted for inflation, would be comparatively higher. Critics pointed at big financial support from the likes of Comcast and Amazon. Durkan also took heat for her support of ousted mayor Ed Murray before he eventually resigned due to the sexual abuse allegations against him. “I think I made the right choice,” Durkan said at a forum this fall. “I have represented women who have experienced sexual abuse over the years… and people who have been wrongly accused.”

The Murray saga also gives Durkan the unique distinction of being Seattle’s 4th mayor of 2017.

Tuesday, Durkan invoked the words of Seattle’s last woman mayor, Bertha Knight Landes. “She said her job was to make Seattle a larger home,” Durkan said. “She thought of it as a home.”

Durkan said she, too, wants to make Seattle “a place where everyone has a home.”

“To all of those who had to fight and were pushed out of this city, we will make a place for you,” she said. She then scored the best laugh line of the day. “If there were easy solutions, Seattle probably wouldn’t have elected a woman for mayor,” Durkan said.

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7 thoughts on “Durkan sworn in as Seattle’s 54th 55th 56th mayor

  1. Do we have municipal broadband yet? Considering the upcoming destruction of net neutrality, it’s even more important now. Oh wait, Durkan (a recipient of Comcast donations) is against it. But she has a smart blue jacket and a smile, so great.

  2. Mayor Murray’s commission came up with this conclusion:
    “The report estimates a fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) build-out to cost $480-$665 million– less than previous years’ cost estimates for municipal broadband. The mayor and city are actively exploring various funding options which could make a publicly owned high-speed Internet utility a possibility, knowing that a subscriber-only funding model would be challenging as enrollment rates would need to exceed 40 percent of the broadband market at a subscriber cost of $75 per month to be financially viable over the long term– no other municipal broadband utility in the country has reached enrollment rates at that level.”

    I never heard of any funding suggestions being developed. If the solution is increased property taxes to fund municipal bonds to raise $500 million, count me out. Especially if it’s predicated on 40% market penetration paying $75/month. Pretty unrealistic.

    • I already pay $75/month. Without net neutrality, the major ISPs will likely raise prices, add additional costs for access of specific sites (add $5 for Netflix, $5 for Amazon, etc) and throttle traffic, slow down access to sites critical of them (or general sites the political speech of which they and their backed candidates in office disagree with), or fully block certain sites. To the point that people would choose municipal broadband for access to a more free, open internet.

      Of course competing with those mega corporations is challenging. That’s how they want it. And actually, it could push those companies to stop their anti-consumer practices in order to woo customers. And also potentially invest more in infrastructure.

      It is challenging for a city to do this on their own and make as major an impact compared to if it were a statewide utility. But it doesn’t change that it may be our only hope.

      I’m not an economist. Of course it would be challenging. I don’t personally think it should be an increase in property taxes, however there is an infrastructure issue here. WA and Seattle need to invest in education and open-access internet. These are all tools for the future to keep us competitive economically on a global scale.

      Leadership is needed from the mayor’s office on determining what is possible for the good of the public. The fact that our tax structure is so regressive and any additional taxes on businesses resisted full throttle is s sign that things are moving in the wrong direction and we are not insulated against FCC changes that in the long run will hurt the local economy.

      Of all cities, Seattle is in the best position to make municipal broadband happen. Going up against Comcast and Century Link and the others is very challenging, but if you cede the battle before even lifting a finger to help us win and maintain open access to the internet, then I would say you can enjoy paying your corporate ISP more and more each year for less and less. And I don’t want that to happen.

    • I concur with Max, given our current options, $75/month for reliable, fast internet is a good deal and I suspect a lot of people would jump on it, probably more than 40%. Lower that to $50 to $60/month and you’d probably increase that to 60%.

      I currently pay $55/month for 7 Mbps from CenturyLink (the highest available), with promises of Gigabit fiber for over 10 years, but nothing to show. My other option is Comcast, which is “faster”, but much more expensive and way less reliable. I imagine a lot of people are in that same boat.

      I don’t know how much longer Seattle residents can tolerate skyrocketing rates, for terrible service, to monopolistic companies that make hand over fist in profit, rather than investing back in their networks.

      We need to move into the 21st Century and municipal broadband is the only way that’s going to happen.

    • I’m glad both of you can afford $75/mo for your internet, but keep in mind that many people cannot. You’re seeing things through YOUR own comfortable lens. As the study mentioned, *no* publicly owned utility in the country has 40% penetration at $75/mo. And this is the level it requires ongoing, to be self-sustaining. It doesn’t even address the HALF A BILLION $ for the build-out. Where will that come from? Anyone? It’s easy to chalk it all up to Comcast having the politicians in their pocket, but the real answer isn’t that simple.

      Aother point to remember: don’t expect CenturyLink or Comcast to sit still and not respond with price cuts if/when they feel the challenge. And trust me, they WILL. When I got tired of paying Comcast almost $60 for mine, I gave them the chance to save me as a customer- which they didn’t take seriously till it was too late. I gave CenturyLink the chance to steal me, and they jumped at it with a 2-yr contract for $35. After that was up, I’m now paying $30/mo for 40 Mbps Service on a 1 yr contract. And when that’s up, they know I still have my Comcast cable modem and I will bolt if they don’t respond. Meanwhile, Comcast finally did come around, but it was too late. My point in telling this story isn’t to brag, it’s to point out that both of these providers can and WILL respond with competitive pricing when they HAVE to. As soon as they would see the city of Seattle undertake a huge, capital-intensive buildout, they’d come out with more competitive pricing that would trash the city’s business case. The city going it alone would be a VERY risky undertaking, and Seattle could burn through millions and millions of tax dollars doing it (and we all know they’re *really* good at that).

      What we need is a joint venture or consortium of some sort, maybe including Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook, even Google (though they’ve seemed to pass over Seattle thus far), to spread some of the risk for this expensive undertaking. I seriously doubt with the way Seattle over-analyzes everything and “consensus builds” they’d ever get it off the ground trying to do it alone, and Comcast and CenturyLink won’t take it lying down.

    • A lot of points to respond to, bear with me:

      I agree with your statement on Comcast, CenturyLink, et al. They aren’t stupid. Their prices represent their government granted monopolies. You only need to look to Google Fibre roll-out cities to see telecoms slash prices in the months leading up to Google’s launch. Obviously if Seattle were to do municipal broadband, Comcast and CenturyLink would get the ol’ heave ho.

      As far as the $500 million cost, Chattanooga built theirs out for something like $300 million in 2010. Considering they are like a quarter the size of ours, $500 million seems very reasonable.

      Maybe Seattle should just eminent domain the existing private networks, after all, we’ve more than paid for these private entities to exist on public property. But I highly doubt that would ever happen, for various reasons, and may not even be legally possible. But IF they could do this, instead of Seattle offering internet themselves, they could attempt the model where Seattle owns the pipes and multiple ISPs compete for people’s business. This is similar to how some European countries do it and they have very cheap, very fast internet that makes us look like fools.

      Regarding people not being able to afford $75/month, if the internet were to become a public utility, I’m sure they would offer low income rates, like they do for electricity, water, sewer, etc. That is extremely low hanging fruit in the scheme of things.

      And that’s great you are able to hop between CenturyLink and Comcast so easily. Like I stated above, where I live, the highest CenturyLink speeds are 7 Mbps, for $55/month, despite years of promises of faster and cheaper speeds. I’ve threatened to go to Comcast and even called to fake cancel my service. They just laughed and said sorry to see you go. They know that Comcast is even worse and even more expensive where I live. And while it’s been years since I’ve had Comcast, my friends that do have Comcast tell me that they’ve stopped giving them the “I’m leaving you” discount. Basically, both companies know the other is just as bad…that South Park episodes was not stretching the truth that much.

      But I think we can both agree that this duopoly needs to go. It’s embarrassing how we are supposed to be one of the most high tech cities, yet the residential internet is still third world.

    • “Maybe Seattle should just eminent domain the existing private networks, after all, we’ve more than paid for these private entities to exist on public property. But I highly doubt that would ever happen, for various reasons, and may not even be legally possible.”

      You can’t really do that. They pay the city for the access on city-owned poles and conduit rights-of-way, and Seattle’s proposed network would do the same thing. You can’t take their actual circuits. The City could place circuits alongside the other providers in the same conduits , but I’m sure that was taken into acct.

      As an aside, we don’t really have a duopoly, we have an oligopoly. There are areas where CenturyLink competes with only Comcast or Wave, but Seattle also set up areas of overlay competition where Comcast and Wave can compete against each other, but only if they agree to serve the ENTIRE defined section, so they can’t cherry-pick based on affluent streets only. They don’t exactly fall all over themselves to poach their competitor’s assigned areas if there are lots of lower-income streets in there too, but it’s better than no competition at all. And of course all the large apartment buildings have Condo Internet and other such ISPs who are under no obligation to serve where they don’t want to.

      It sucks, but without some collaboration with businesses, I doubt we’ll see any deluge of competion any time soon unless we get collaboration with local businesses. Even where Google has gone in with Google Fiber they’ve been very selective to only go where the incumbents are more vulnerable than they are here.

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