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Seattle's third mayor this year: Councilmember Tim Burgess

Seattle has another new mayor, the third in less than a week.

The Seattle City Council has picked Tim Burgess to fill the role of interim mayor until after the November election results are certified. In a 5-1 vote, only Councilmember Kshama Sawant voted against him becoming mayor.

At the end of November, either mayoral candidate Cary Moon or Jenny Durkan will take over the role.

The upheaval at City Hall comes after Ed Murray resigned last week amid mounting allegations of child sex abuse.

Five men have accused Murray of abusing them as teens in the 1970s and 80s. The latest accusations come from Murray’s younger cousin.

Murray strongly denies all allegations.

On Friday, Bruce Harrell – who was automatically elevated to mayor when Murray stepped down – declined to serve out the rest of Murray’s term.

Harrell would have had to give up his City Council seat to keep the job and said he did not want to do that.

Burgess, on the other hand, is retiring at the end of this year and does not stand to lose anything by giving up his seat a couple of months early.

Before being sworn in, Burgess said this was not how anyone would want to take the job.

"This is certainly not the way anyone would have chosen to become mayor of Seattle, but it is where we are at today. And I promise to work every day, for the next 71 days, as mayor, to help heal and move the city forward."

Burgess takes office as budget discussions are about to begin. As budget chair for the council, he’s well placed to lead discussions as mayor.

He’ll present the budget to the council next week.

“It will be balanced, it will be fair and just, and it will uphold the progressive values of Seattle," he told council members Monday.

Sawant said she opposed Burgess’s rise to mayor in part because she does not trust that he’ll deliver a progressive budget.

"The question for me is, will the person who is appointed act in the best interest of regular working people and the most vulnerable and marginalized in our community?” Sawant said.

She continued: “Will the person who is appointed as mayor use their position to put forward yet another business-as-usual budget with a bloated police department, or which yet again fails to address the needs of our homeless community members, the acute shortage of affordable housing and services for sexual violence and domestic violence survivors? Or will the person appointed really present a real fight on behalf of those who are always left out?”

After taking the oath of office, Burgess said much of the work on the budget was completed by the Murray administration.

He said, however, that he plans to tweak it before handing it to his colleagues on the council.

Burgess is seen as somewhat conservative compared to some of the council’s more left-leaning members.

During her explanation of her "no" vote, Sawant brought up a bill proposed by Burgess several years ago that aimed to put in place strict rules to deter aggressive panhandling in Seattle.

But other council members had nothing but praise for Burgess Monday.

Councilmember Sally Bagshaw acknowledged his work on universal pre-K and thanked him for his leadership.

"You're steady, you're dependable, and you will make an excellent mayor. Even though it's only going to be for 10 or 11 weeks, I appreciate the fact that we can count on you to do that."

Burgess’s ascent to the mayor’s office leaves a vacant seat on the City Council.

Council members discussed Monday how to fill Burgess's seat. Several members spoke in favor of filling the role as soon as possible instead of taking the 20 days allotted by the city charter. They could appoint a new member in a full council meeting as early as this week.

Councilmember Sawant argued in favor of a slightly longer process, saying the position should be opened for applications in order to increase transparency.

If the council opts to take applications they have 20 days to receive resumes, create a short list and vote on a replacement council member. Short-listed applicants would be required to state their case in an open meeting and the public would also have a chance to weigh in.

Whoever fills the role would be in the job until late November, when election results are certified, and either candidate Teresa Mosqueda or Jon Grant could take over. But they would also be a part of important budget discussions.

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