Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell offers olive branch to Council in first 'state of the city' address
Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell delivered his first "state of the city" address Tuesday afternoon. It's the first time a mayor has directed the speech to the City Council, albeit remotely this time, since former Mayor Ed Murray did back in 2016.
Harrell also called out each council member by name, signaling an effort by the new administration to try and develop a stronger working relationship with them than his predecessor, Mayor Jenny Durkan.
Rhetorically, the speech struck similar notes to Harrell’s campaign last year, emphasizing his goal of uniting the city around common, core values.
Highlights included the announcement of a new effort aimed at police recruitment, coming at a time when nearly all employers, including the city and its police department, are having a hard time filling jobs.
“Even if you're watching today and interested in making our city safer and more just and supportive, please reach out. We are hiring,” Harrell said.
Previously, the City Council budgeted to hire 125 new officers. It’s not yet clear what sorts of new incentives or other recruitment strategies Harrell and the city will use to attract them.
“It is important that this will be consistent with the values I expect to see in our officers, the culture of the department, the engagement with the community, the understanding that justice requires serving the people,” Harrell said.
On the Covid front, Harrell announced for the first time publicly that the 35% of city employees still working from home will return to the office in mid-March.
The Mayor also talked about how to solve the city's $150 million budget gap. Harrell wants to start with $31 million in unexpected revenue from the city's new Jump Start tax on large employers.
The 2021 budget forecast from the tax was for $200 million, but this week it was revealed to be higher – $231 million.
That suggestion from Harrell could prove controversial with some council members, as the money is currently earmarked for items including affordable housing, small business assistance, and an equitable development initiative.
But there will be plenty of time to debate the details. The Seattle City Council won’t be finalizing the budget until the fall.