by Tyler Mangrum
- The Capitol Hill Times -
Amid the largest crowd to ever assemble for a Seattle inauguration, two months after his electoral victory, this Monday Ed Murray officially took the oath of office as Seattle’s 53rd mayor. The massive turnout reflected the historical significance of the ceremony, with Murray becoming the city’s first openly-gay mayor and the first American mayor to be in a same-sex marriage, as well as the swearing-in of Kshama Sawant, the first socialist City Councilmember in at least a hundred years.
Speaking before the crowd, Murray noted that he wanted the turnout to be a reflection of Seattle residents entering a partnership with his administration, and that he would levy his new position to act as a conduit for renewing the people’s faith in government.
“We live in a moment in history where government and its ability to function have been called into question,” Murray said. “I reject that cynicism. Government can function again, and Seattle can lead the way.”
Murray, however, also said that he didn’t believe his administration would provide the “sole solution” to the region’s issues, but instead that it would be an incubator for finding and experimenting with new measures to face those problems. He went on to lay out the priorities of his administration – raising the minimum wage and lowering the cost of living took center stage in his agenda, along with social justice issues like racial and gender equality.
“We must be courageous enough to acknowledge that despite the huge gains we have made towards a more equitable city, there is much that still divides us, and we must be brave enough to act to address those divisions,” Murray said. “I pledge that every department and program of this city government will challenge ourselves and the city as a whole to address the issues of economic disparity in wages and in housing.”
Outside of the living wage debate, Murray directly addressed the continuing controversy surrounding the Seattle Police Department, which the U.S. Department of Justice has deemed to be acting too slowly in implementing mandatory changes following a federal investigation of excessive use of force. Murray stated that reform of the SPD would be a top priority during his tenure as mayor.
“Our police department must be reformed,” Murray said. “This will require great effort. I am committed to making sure that our police department achieves the federal court’s mandate and moves on. However, that alone is not enough. The agreement with the Department of Justice must be embraced and woven into the fabric of our police force… I pledge to make Seattle’s Police Department a model of urban policing for the rest of the nation.”
While his agenda priorities reflect Murray’s platform during last year’s campaign, the debate surrounding the expansion of Seattle’s bike lanes was only vaguely mentioned while Murray discussed the city’s transportation infrastructure.
“I believe we can build a truly integrated transportation system with a world class transit system at its core,” Murray said. “I believe we can maintain and expand a vibrant park system, sidewalks, bike lanes, repair our crumbling streets, and rebuild our central waterfront.”
Murray’s predecessor, former mayor Mike McGinn, famously made the issue of improving and expanding the city’s bike infrastructure a top priority of his administration. Following McGinn’s defeat, many analysts pointed to the former mayor’s focus on bike lanes as a contributing factor. So far, Murray’s office has been reluctant to speak on what his transportation policy will entail, hinting that a more balanced approach to transportation would be explored.
In his closing remarks, Murray again emphasized the importance of establishing partnerships between the community and City Hall, and that his role as mayor ultimately is that of a public servant.
“Leadership is ultimately about service – service to the people of this city,” Murray said. “Those of us who have taken the oath of office today join our colleagues in governing this city, first and last as servants – public servants. I am hopeful and excited about the possibilities that these challenges present, because we live in a place of unmatched beauty, with the most innovative businesses on the planet and a wealth of talented people committed to improving the lives of those around us.”