“I am grateful for what I am and have. My thanksgiving is perpetual.” - Henry David Thoreau
by Tyler Mangrum
- The Capitol Hill Times -
With a majority of Seattle’s City Council at his side and the election just one month away, Senator Ed Murray is now attempting to broaden his base by targeting a demographic that famously helped Mayor McGinn take office in 2009: the working class.
Following a statement during the primaries in which Murray said that he would “not be a progressive mayor,” and amid criticism for being the “big business” candidate in contrast to McGinn’s reputation as a grassroots progressive, Murray has increasingly attempted to prove that he would be as liberal in his administration as his opponent.
On September 24, Murray released his “Economic Opportunity Agenda for Seattle” in a press conference from his Capitol Hill campaign office, aimed at pulling youth voters, immigrants and those in the service industry away from their support of the incumbent, who has regularly been seen as a champion of the working class.
Chief among Murray’s agenda was an endorsement of the $15 per hour minimum wage for Seattle workers recently proposed by labor groups. Murray’s platform suggests offering “phasing options” for small businesses that would be unable to sustain the minimum wage, and require higher wages for employers that don’t offer healthcare to their employees.
“Economic opportunity should be the promise of Seattle,” said Murray in a press release. “Good jobs, equity, fair wages, worker protections, affordable housing and a livable city for the diversity of people who should be able to call Seattle home – these are values I have fought for all my career. As Mayor I will make sure Seattle is a city that works for all.”
Murray emphasized that the wage increase would be incremental, and would first be aimed at large corporations, like national big-box retail and fast food brands, for whom the loss in revenue from instituting an increase from the current $9.19 level would be less severe.
“I’m not talking about raising the minimum wage tomorrow,” Murray said. “This is not a one-size-fits-all proposition. It’s something we need to approach thoughtfully.”
Mayor McGinn, who previously voiced support for increasing the minimum wage without fully endorsing the $15 per hour level proposed by labor groups, was largely dismissive of Murray’s rhetoric. In a statement released after Murray’s press conference, McGinn pointed out that his opponent was not actually promising an increase in the minimum wage if elected, but was instead calling for a discussion in regards to the practicality of a wage increase.
“I support increasing the minimum wage – federal, state local – whatever it takes to get it done,” McGinn said in a statement. “If you take a close look at Senator Murray’s proposal, all he’s actually proposing to do is to convene people to talk more about ‘moving toward’ a higher minimum wage. Talk is cheap. Taking action is a lot harder.”
Other wage-related policy points include reducing inequity for women workers, improving working conditions for fast food and restaurant workers, as well as investigating wage theft within those industries.
Additionally, Murray’s agenda touched on the current housing crisis seen across Seattle by promising to “provide shelter to people of all ages, incomes, and family types and sizes.” But, as The Capitol Hill Times reported earlier, much of Murray’s proposals continue to focus on homeowners rather than renters, a group that accounts for the majority of Capitol Hill’s population.
Despite the fact that Seattle had experienced the largest rent escalation in the nation over the past year with an average increase of $400, Murray offered little suggestion for how to bring down the skyrocketing costs of living for those who do not own homes, outside of continuing existing programs.
Specifically, Murray’s agenda suggests renewing the 2016 Housing Levy in order to plan for “the doubling of its senior population by 2025,” as well as continuing the 2008 incentive zoning program, the expansion of Yesler Terrace, and the Multifamily Property Tax Exemption instituted in 2011 by McGinn.
The absence of any new agenda for handling the recent rent increases seen across the region will remain a sore point on Capitol Hill, an area dominated by apartment buildings, and will likely underscore a difficulty in coaxing the neighborhood’s residents away from their steadfast support of McGinn.