Last year around this time, newly sworn-in Mayor Jenny Durkan stopped through Capitol Hill and was met by a disruptive protest as she kicked-off her administration. It was the start of a sometimes rocky year for Mayor Durkan — and Seattle including an ugly fight over the Amazon head tax and the slogged out final miles of the police union contract. Monday, with her new $5.9 billion city budget in hand, Mayor Durkan returns to the neighborhood to start her second year with a “Capitol Hill Community Celebration,” part of a week “crisscrossing Seattle,” “listening to community members,” and attending “nearly a dozen community events and roundtables in all seven Council districts, from Northgate to West Seattle to New Holly to Ballard.”
Monday’s Capitol Hill event is mostly a social calling. Taking place at 12th Ave’s Rachel’s Ginger Beer starting at 4:30 PM, the Capitol Hill gathering will be short and sweet. The mayor’s people only gave her 90 minutes to enjoy a Moscow Mule and make it through Seattle traffic to a second celebration scheduled in Ballard. If only it were the late 2030s, she could take the train.
Monday’s community parties follow Durkan’s big business at City Hall earlier in the day. At 1:15 PM, the mayor will sign the 2019-2020 city budget. Pounded into its final shape by the Seattle City Council last week. The $5.9 billion plan includes general City Hall belt tightening like cutting fuel and consultant costs as the city prepares for a forecasted economic slowdown. Most departments will face cuts to consultant spends and to their fuel budgets as 10% of the city’s vehicle fleet is axed along with some major commitments to the Seattle Police Department, Seattle Fire, and SDOT. For Capitol Hill, there is money earmarked for homelessness outreach in the neighborhood and a holdover $1 million to help boost an affordable housing and youth center project on Broadway.
With Monday focused on the budget and the community celebrations, Tuesday, Durkan is scheduled to announce details of the city’s continued efforts on criminal justice reform, part of her and SPD Chief Carmen Best’s pledge to continue to pursue reform at SPD even after pounding out a new contract agreement with the Seattle Police Officers Guild.
Friday in the mayor’s week of activity marking the start of her second year in office is scheduled to be focused on “new actions” to support Seattle small businesses. That session will be a virtual second round of Capitol Hill activity for the mayor. CHS reported earlier this year about the heavy Capitol Hill presence on the mayor’s newly formed Small Business Advisory Council.
While some are bandying about the “M word” about Durkan as she seemingly is picking up steam headed into her second year, don’t necessarily expect a Capitol Hill victory tour for the mayor among her neighborhood business base. Capitol Hill’s business community is a little more fractured than this time last year as the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce had to pull back on a plan for a major expansion of its City Hall-backed business improvement area. Seattle’s summer head tax head fake also left a bad aftertaste as has, for many, her slow down and think about it approach to transit.
But the mayor also has strengths and victories to build on. She got her $619 million education levy passed. She continues to be a voice against the Trump administration. And the city seems to be rallying around the coming “period of maximum constraint” and the massive changes about to finally be unveiled on the city’s waterfront. The mayor will also likely enjoy her relatively secure position and ability to play some political hardball as seven of the city’s nine City Council positions representing the neighborhood districts are up for grabs in 2019.
Starting the second year of her term, Durkan is still a long way from having to worry about reelection. That’s probably a good thing. When we asked CHS readers earlier this year in spring what they thought of Durkan’s early performance, just under 40% chose the middle ground neither approving or disapproving of her job running the city. After a year of head tax battles, homelessness and affordability efforts, and police reform debate, we’re going to guess opinions have firmed — but you tell us.
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