Mayor Bruce Harrell delivered his second State of the City speech stressing economic recovery, the housing crisis, public safety, and police reform. He started by acknowledging that his first year had been heavily spent on “the basics,” concentrating on restoring core services like the filling of 23,000 potholes, most in the past five years.
Harrell observed that the venue he picked for his speech, Fisher Pavilion, sits in the shadow of the Space Needle. The Needle, he noted, was built from the ground up in one year for the World’s Fair that celebrated the “World of Tomorrow.” Taking the Needle as a metaphor, he called for “Space Needle Thinking,” for a city of tomorrow. He recalled his campaign for “One Seattle,” including a day of service to the city. He set aside May 20 for a repeat service day.
Admitting his optimism as “chief enthusiast,” Harrell said that — with a downtown activation plan — the problems Seattle faces are “not insurmountable.” He cited successes like Amazon’s decision to send employees back to work three days a week. But, he added, “employees must be safe to return.”
The mayor confessed he had just walked Third Avenue from Pioneer Square to Pike Place Market, witnessing open drug use and “the epidemic of fentanyl.” He allowed “safety concerns are real” and promised he’d be sending “a suite of actions” to the City Council to respond to public safety concerns and to revitalization of downtown, which he described as the city’s economic engine.
Harrell said he’d incentivize rebuilding using “five pillars.” These pillars include homeless approaches, solutions to criminal behavior, enforcement of laws, recruitment and retention of police officers, cultural excellence, and learning from past mistakes. He spoke of setting up a new public safety department dubbed Community Assisted Response and Engagement or CARE. He said the city would be bargaining with public safety unions while making plans for a pilot program later this year.
He talked of turning excess office space into housing, “affordable for everyone,” a range of possibilities such as “a linear arts/entertainment district,” bringing lighting and Pike Place Market vendors downtown and promoting restaurants and businesses in the stadium area.
Harrell didn’t neglect other city employees and officials, some of whom were in the audience. He called out each councilmember by name and handed out verbal bouquets for their work on city issues. He saved Councilmember Kshama Sawant for last, noting that she has a been a strong advocate for environmental justice. However, he joked that he hopes that, when Sawant leaves the council at the end of the year, she will voice “just one favorable statement as a parting gift.”