At Northgate’s Idris Mosque Tuesday morning, Mayor Ed Murray gave his 2017 State of the City address, announcing plans to increase investments to further address homelessness and education disparities, and to continue to support immigrants and refugees in Seattle. Included in the speech were plans to activate a city emergency system usually reserved for bad weather and protests to provide more resources for helping the area’s homeless, a proposal for a $55 million property levy to fund homelessness services, and the floating of a possible Seattle soda tax to help fund schools. Video and the full text of Murray’s speech is below.
For Seattle, the biggest news of the speech will likely be the homeless levy proposal. The plan will go to city voters this August to ask them to approve an increase in the commercial and residential property tax of around $13 per month for the median household, according to the mayor’s office. Murray said that a coalition including entrepreneur Nick Hanauer, Downtown Emergency Services Center executive director Daniel Malone, and City Council members Debora Juarez and Sally Bagshaw will lead an advisory group to create the funding package for the proposal.
The mayor also announced a new offensive to push back on Trump administration immigration policies. Murray said the city will send Freedom of Information Act requests to multiple federal departments, including the Department of Homeland Security, in response to President Donald Trump’s actions affecting immigrants and refugees. Murray is seeking to determine potential enforcement actions the federal government may take against Seattle and other sanctuary cities and details about changes to travel and immigration policy.
“We believe that the rule of law is on our side,” Murray said, adding that Seattle will take legal action if the federal departments do not provide timely responses.
Murray’s State of the City announcements:
- Police accountability
- Building affordable housing across Seattle
- New Investments in Eliminating Educational Disparities
- New Sugary Beverage Tax to Fund Eliminating Educational Disparities
- Our Best: Seattle’s Commitment to Young Black Men
- Homelessness Response Consolidated Action Plan
Murray said he also plans to meet with other regional mayors to about remaining safe sanctuary cities.
“Remaining open to all is a fundamental value of the city,” Murray said. “Seattle is a great city because of immigrants and refugees.”
Seattle is also a growing city. Murray said while that growth has occurred where planned, as Seattleites knows, it hasn’t been affordable and the gap between those who are thriving and those who are being displaced is growing.
The updated comprehensive plan aims to maximum the accessibility and vibrancy of Seattle’s neighborhoods. With the Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda and the doubling of the Seattle Housing Levy, Murray said the city is moving toward tripling the production of affordable housing units in a decade. Since January 2015, 5,800 affordable housing units have been built or are in the works, but more are needed.
The city is also still under a state of emergency with its 3,000 homeless people. Murray wants to double the city’s budget for combating homelessness.
Wednesday, Murray plans to activate the city’s Emergency Operations Center, which is typically only activated during severe storms, major events, and natural disasters, to assist homeless people.
Murray declared the homelessness crisis 15 months ago hoping for federal assistance and the city budgeted $108 million for homeless services for the past two years. The Pathways Home plan to get people into housing through individualized services is also underway. Murray had hoped for a partnership with the federal government, but that hasn’t happened. Instead, the administration will push forward the homelessness levy proposal this summer as Murray also faces his first race for re-election since he joined City Hall after a string of victories in Olympia.
At the address, Murray also announced an action plan derived from last April’s citywide education summit. The plan includes annual investments in early education, before and after school programs, family engagement, summer learning, mentoring, and college and career readiness as well as a one-time expansion of a program that pays for student’s first year of community college.
Along with pledges from various partners, Murray plans to present the City Council with a proposal for a 2 cent per ounce tax on sugar-sweetened drinks, estimated to raise nearly $16 million annually toward the education plans.
Murray also announced a new focus to improve the lives of young black men ages 14-24 called Our Best: Seattle’s Commitment to Young Black Men. The program, which aims to double the number of black men mentors, seeks to increase graduation rates, meaningful employment, and good health and reduce the number of black men entering the criminal justice system.
Since Murray first took office, police reform has been an issue. Data shows improvements, the mayor said, and legislation is working its way through City Hall to provide the public with a role in holding the Seattle Police Department accountable with subpoena power and legal authority to review police policies and practices through a transformation of the Community Police Commission.
Seattle’s challenges are not unique, but its solutions are a model for other cities and communities in the country. Even under the current administration, there are ways to move forward, Murray said.
“We cannot wait. Seattle must keep moving forward,” he said.
This was Murray’s first State of the City address delivered outside of City Hall.
“The state of our nation impacts the state of our city,” Murray said. “As the federal government’s actions serve to stigmatize the Muslim community we are taking the unprecedented step today of meeting in Idris Mosque, the oldest traditionally built mosque west of the Mississippi (River).”
“Our mission is simple,” Hisham Farajallah, Idris Mosque Board of Trustees, said. “Our mission is to dispel myths about Islam and to strengthen society by demonstrating our commitment to peace, prosperity and positive relationships,” Farajallah said.
You can read the full prepared address at murray.seattle.gov.