Durkan delivers State of the City address

This morning, Mayor Jenny Durkan delivered her second “State of the City” address, in which she listed off the city’s accomplishments in 2018, highlighted several major initiatives in the works for this year, and announced five new programs.

Among the 2018 achievements that Durkan touted:

  • Investing over $710 million since she took office in affordable housing, including 360 permanent new affordable homes;
  • Serving over 25,000 households experiencing homelessness, including exiting 7,400 from homelessness and into permanent housing andd expanding the city’s shelter spaces by 25%;
  • The first steps toward a regional governance structure for the response to the homelessness crisis;
  •  Passing the Families, Education, Preschool and Promise Levy;
  • Ramping up the Seattle Promise program to 520 students;
  •  A new gun safety ordinance, which survived its first legal challenge;
  • Vacating convictions and arrests for misdemeanor marijuana possession;
  • Vacating old warrants for low-level, non-violent offenses;
  •  Negotiating a new contract with SPOG, the police-officers’ union;
  •  The appointment of Carmen Best as Chief of Police;
  •  Enacting a new Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights;
  • Creating the Office of the Ombud and other efforts to combat harassment and discrimination in the workplace;
  • Pushing back on the federal government’s attempts to condition federal funding on cooperation with its crackdown on immigrants;
  • Approving the redevelopment of the Key Arena, and the awarding of an NHL franchise to Seattle;
  • Increasing the city’s funding for transit services by 30%;
  • Making the bike share pilot program permanent;
  • Launching the ORCA Opportunity program to give free ORCA passes to public school students.

The 2019 planned efforts that the Mayor highlighted included:

  • “rethink and double down” on the city’s efforts to create more affordable housing;
  • passing the city-wide MHA legislation;
  • moving forward with the redevelopment of Ft. Lawton;
  • streamlining and re-examining the city’s real estate portfolio to look for opportunities to build mroe affordable housing;
  • working with private organizations to create affordable housing for middle-income households;
  • working with community-based organizations to fight displacement;
  • preparing for the 2020 Census to ensure that all Seattle residents are counted;
  • taking down the viaduct;
  • expediting the light rail expansion to Ballard and West Seattle;
  • expanding the first-last mile shuttle from beyond West Seattle to South Seattle;
  •  sorting out with the City Council the financial challenges with the Center City Connector Streetcar project;
  • safety improvements for bicyclists and pedestrians, most notably in the Rainier Avenue corridor;
  • finalizing the Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plans;
  • adding more bus-only lanes, upgrading bus stops, and improving traffic signals to expedite buses.

Over the course of the speech, Durkan announced five new efforts:

  • This week the Mayor will issue an executive order “to refocus our work on strategies to prevent displacement and gentrification.” More details to come, later this week.
  • On Thursday, the Mayor will announce (in partnership with Seattle Colleges) a new Seattle Promise Equity scholarship program for 13th and 14th year Seattle Promise scholars that will pay up to $1000 for books, childcare, and food.
  • In the spring, there will be a new program to create pre-apprenticeship and summer internship opportunities for Seattle Promise students with local companies and trade groups.
  •  In the summer, the city will partner with the Seattle Housing Authority and Metro to expand the ORCA Opportunity program, offering an unlimited, year-round ORCA Pass to over 1,500 low-income Seattle residents.
  • This week, the Mayor will transmit legislation to the City Council that would require all new buildings in Seattle that provide off-street parking to provide charging infrastructure for electric vehicles (i.e have “EV-ready” wiring, though not necessarily have charging stations installed). “The new measures will require that every individual residence with private parking includes an EV-ready space. For multifamily development with shared parking facilities, at least 20 percent of the spaces will be EV-ready. Parking facilities for non-residential uses will include a minimum of 10 percent of EV-ready spaces. The electric vehicle requirements are flexible in instances where meeting the required amount of EV paces would require upgrades to the utility infrastructure.”

A few other notes:

  • Mayor Durkan made clear that her preferred name for Seattle’s new MHL franchise is the “Kraken.”  “There is no such thing as fierce fish,” she said. Clearly she has never heard of piranha or barracuda. I suppose we can also give her the benefit of the doubt in neglecting “killer whale” orcas, since technically they are marine mammals, not fish.
  • Durkan praised city departments and the residents of Seattle for their response to the SR99 closure and the winter storms. She said that this demonstrated that “the state of the city is strong and resilient.” She urged Seattleites to continue doing “the things that make us better,” and not to make that just a “moment.”
  •  Durkan highlighted Bailey Boushay House, which opened in 1992 and provided an “oasis of caring” for AIDS patients during the height of the epidemic. Last fall, with financial support from the city, it opened a 50-bed shelter for homeless people living with HIV.

Today’s State of the City speech will not be remembered for soaring oratory or for groundbreaking vision. But it is in line with the image that Durkan has been trying to portray: a leader focused on getting things done. That said, there is plenty of room to argue with her list of accomplishments: whether the “service” provided to the city’s homeless has been effective; whether the newest effort to create a regional governance structure will take hold when past efforts have failed; the SPOG contract and the appointment of Carmen Best were politically challenging, and both nearly fell apart; bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure in the city are still piecemeal and woefully lacking, and it’s difficult to point to how they have improved over the last year; and the effort to make permanent the bike-share pilot resulted in two of the three vendors withdrawing.

But now we have a list of what the Mayor hopes to accomplish in 2019 — even if many of the items on the list are still poorly defined. We’ll see how many she gets done this year, in the face of an unprecedented election year for the City Council with only three of seven District-based Council members running for re-election.

You can find the full text of the Mayor’s speech here, and you can watch it on the Seattle Channel here.