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    Tim Burgess' secret mayoral sauce

    A former police officer, Burgess is a leading challenger in the 2013 mayoral campaign. What's he really made of?
    Seattle City Councilmember Tim Burgess

    Seattle City Councilmember Tim Burgess Seattle City Council

    Tim Burgess wants to be a mayor who brings people together. In a visit with Crosscut writers and editors on Thursday, the Seattle City Council member and mayoral candidate said that two of his main goals as mayor would be to create a police department with strong public confidence and to greatly improve transportation.

    Burgess also emphasized the need for changes to the school system, including the possibility of the city taking over Seattle Public Schools. He faulted the district for not moving more aggressively to overhaul its most persistently underperforming schools.

    The interview with Burgess was the first in a series of Crosscut sessions that will be held for mayoral candidates in this year's election. Incumbent Mike McGinn and at least six other serious candidates are running in the August primary, although the official filing of candidacies doesn't occur until mid-May.

    Burgess drew a sharp contrast between what he described as his own emphasis on collaboration and the leadership of McGinn. In particular, he harked back to McGinn's 2009 pre-election commitment to work with the council on replacing the Alaskan Way Viaduct with a tunnel. That commitment, he said, was quickly revoked once he took office and began to work against a tunnel. "That was our first indication of an elected official who consistently chooses conflict over collaboration," he said. McGinn has said that the conflicts with City Council are exaggerated and that they work together very productively on many issues.

    Burgess pointed to Norm Rice and Charles Royer as models of the more collaborative mayoral approach he would pursue. There is "some natural conflict or adversarial quality to the relationship" between councils and mayors, he conceded, but said New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has shown that a working bipartisan relationship can be productive. 

    A former Seattle police officer, Burgess praised the quality of officers in the city department, but said other cities have taken more innovative routes to improving police practices overall. Chief John Diaz and a number of other senior department officers directly under him, he said, should go. While the police chief can be recruited outside the department, under city charter, the other officers would have to be recruited internally. Still, Burgess said, there are well-qualified people to promote.

    One of his main goals after four years as mayor, Burgess said, would be that citizens "look to our Police Department and say, 'That is our most respected, honorable institution.' "

    Another of the term cornerstones he'd like to see himself achieve: "Huge progress" on transportation and "not this conflict" in which some residents feel that there is a war on cars. Alluding to potholes, he said, "We dare not let our streets deteriorate to the level that bike riders tumble into holes."

    That won't be easy. Burgess says there's a nearly $2 billion backlog in needed transportation maintenance and improvement projects. Without more public trust in the use of transportation money, he warned, voters will reject a 2015 levy that must be submitted to renew local transportation funding.

    Burgess, his wife, Jolene, and their three children are products of Seattle Public Schools, so it's no surprise he considers it another of his priorities. "I graduated in 1967 and the adults then were talking about North End schools vs. South End schools," he said. "And they are talking about it today. That's a tragedy."

    It's important, he argued, for the city and the school system to align their resources and efforts for education. One such example: the city's agreement to let its ethics office handle questions for the Seattle school district.

    Would he push for a mayoral takeover of the school system? Burgess pointed to a recent Center for American Progress study that showed mixed educational results in cities that control of school systems, but said the report is a good source for best practices if a city does choose that approach.

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    Posted Fri, Mar 29, 8:02 a.m. Inappropriate

    "Burgess also emphasized the need for changes to the school system, including the possibility of the city taking over Seattle Public Schools."

    Well, this is NO surprise to any of us who follow public education in Seattle. Councilman Burgess had a fundraiser recently that was attended by the who's who of ed reform in Seattle including three Seattle School Board members.

    From the Center for American Progress study cited in this article;

    "Often, though not always, mayors are given the power to appoint members who will replace some or all members of the elected school board."

    No, no and no. We then would have the entire of our elected official oversight by one person - the Mayor. That will not work for Seattle (and the results from other cities doing this is mixed to terrible - see Rahm Emanuel in Chicago).

    To note, he would have to go the Legislature (many of whom, like Rodney Tom, hate Seattle anyway) and ask for permission to do this.

    What would be great - and I asked him about this on Wednesday at a community meeting - would be if the City would do its job of creating safe communities for schools to exist in. Rainier Beach HS comes to mind. It's the district's job to make a safe school building but it is the City's job to make the surrounding community safer. He named a couple of things that should have been done (more commerce around the light rail station) and policing differently. Nothing stopped him from advocating for this as councilman and yet it didn't happen.

    Also to note, Councilman Burgess steadfastly refused to state his position on charter schools all through the 1240 campaign. He dodged, he hedged and to remind everyone, Seattle said no to charters. I think the Councilman underestimates the depth of caring and concern in our city for our public schools to think that anyone who is advocating takeover of the public schools will be elected mayor. (I know McGinn stated this when he first ran but in my discussions with him at the time, his position is quite nuanced as opposed to Burgess'.)

    But that's what will make for an interesting (and energetic) race.


    Posted Sat, Mar 30, 6:15 p.m. Inappropriate

    We do not need the Mayor running our schools. This is an idea similiar to the effort to have voting Districts. The Mayor taking over the schools reduces the political power of the Citizenry, which votes on the School Board. The Districts would reduce the political power of the Citizenry by reducing their City Council voting from all nine City Council seats to three. The current crop of Seattle politicians for the most part seem to be pushing an agenda that disempowers Citizens.


    Posted Sun, Mar 31, 3:25 p.m. Inappropriate

    Exactly, J handle. Burgess supported a proposal to ELIMINATE school board control from Seattle's Creative Approach Schools. He put a lot of political pressure on our respectable and caring school board members that represent their constituents. Under pressure, this proposal was passed.

    Caring citizens took this to court and won. The law states elected officials have to take responsibilities for our schools. We can not give away millions and millions of dollars to unelected officials.

    If Burgess is elected Mayor and takes control of our schools, I am certain we would see privitization of our public ed. system. Again, taking the voice away from the people- essentially having taxation without representation. There is a reason that those that support privitization of public ed. are supporting Burgess.

    Burgess is a snake.


    Posted Sun, Mar 31, 3:27 p.m. Inappropriate

    I meant to say "ELIMINATE school board oversight."


    Posted Sat, Apr 6, 10:47 p.m. Inappropriate

    Rodney Tom doesn't 'hate' Seattle. He's too dumb.

    Posted Fri, Mar 29, 8:03 a.m. Inappropriate

    I have plenty to say about this article, but until such time, can we please end -- forever -- this "secret sauce" bullshit? Thank you.


    Posted Sat, Mar 30, 6:11 p.m. Inappropriate

    I completely agree about the use of "special sauce". It is nonsense.


    Posted Fri, Mar 29, 8:12 a.m. Inappropriate

    Burgess supported both Peter Maier and Steve Sundquist as they sought re-election to Seattle Public School Board.

    Both Sundquist and Maier were charged by the State auditor for putting public assets "at risk" and for failing to oversee district operations. Additionally, both Maier and Sundquist had a scandal which involved $1.8M on their watch. Why would we trust Burgess when he has shown such poor judgement in supporting both of the above individuals? Is this the type of individual we want controlling our schools system?

    I also note that Burgess showed he was an incredible coward when he refused to take a position on I 1240.


    Posted Fri, Mar 29, 8:19 a.m. Inappropriate

    "It's important, he argued, for the city and the school system to align their resources and efforts for education. One such example: the city's agreement to let its ethics office handle questions for the Seattle school district"

    Ahh...Timmy, the district is paying the city for this service and you know it.


    Posted Fri, Mar 29, 9:14 a.m. Inappropriate

    "What's he really made of?" I guess that depends on which of America's billionaires who don't live in Seattle end up giving him money. That should answer the question if he is made like a man or a money sucking leech.

    Posted Fri, Mar 29, 10:08 a.m. Inappropriate

    His stand on public schools in Seattle is precisely why I will never vote for him no matter how much I dislike McGinn.


    Posted Fri, Mar 29, 12:30 p.m. Inappropriate

    His view of the City's role with the schools is a deal breaker for me, as well as, his immeidate call to fire the Chief of Police.

    That said, he is one of the very few council members who shows respect for the citizens. I watch him in the PLUS Committeee meetings where the other talk about 'managing' the people or make snide remarks, he really reflects views in a fair manner.

    Posted Fri, Mar 29, 12:59 p.m. Inappropriate

    He's not respectful CriticalThinker. He refused to address constituent concerns when it comes to taxation without representation i.e Initiative 1240- even when those same people voted to fund the $225M Family and Education Levy that he manages.


    Posted Fri, Mar 29, 5:38 p.m. Inappropriate


    Posted Fri, Mar 29, 9:40 p.m. Inappropriate

    These people that are jumping onto the reformers bandwagon because it's fashionable I guess aren't worth the spit they spew when they talk. I'm sorry. I'm sick and tired of this take-over of everything public to enrich private enterprise. That is all this is about and there is no dressing it up for those of us who get what's really going on. We have got to do something to save our democracy and the commons. Any talk of a school take-over in Washington State is ridiculous. How can anyone countenance such a ridiculous and undemocratic idea. We are not Michigan or Mississippi. Thom Hartmann made a semi-joke today that eventually we'll all work for Walmart. The United State of Walmart. I Pledge Allegiance to the dollar sign of the United States of Walmart. Unbelievable.

    Posted Sat, Mar 30, 6:23 p.m. Inappropriate

    Burgess was lobbied by Christian Sinderman, who was working on behalf of arena proponents Hansen and Ballmer. Burgess, also, had private dinners with Hansen. The result of this was Burgess giving wholehearted support to paying Hansen public funds (which Hansen would not have to pay back), and gaining Hansen complete Seattle tax exemption.

    Immediately following his private dinners with Hansen, and the Sinderman lobbying, Burgess increased the Seattle public funds that would go to Hansen by 20-25 million dollars; from 115-120 million to 140 million dollars. Burgess also, reduced the Hansen's rent from 2 million dollars a year to one million dollars a year. Burgess, also, has Key Arena revenue going to Hansen, instead of the Seattle general fund.

    Burgess is a terrible choice for Mayor.


    Posted Sun, Mar 31, 3:11 p.m. Inappropriate


    Please produce verifiable information to your claims. This needs to become public information. There is NOTHING about Burgess that I trust.


    Posted Tue, Apr 2, 6:23 p.m. Inappropriate

    Burgess...Vulcan. Same thing.

    I remember the ONLY time I've seen him at a board meeting was when they were voting to deprive teachers of their collective bargaining rights.

    Shame on all of them!


    Posted Fri, Apr 5, 11:50 a.m. Inappropriate

    I'll vote for whoever survives the primary to run against McGinn, but have low hopes for Burgess. Same sh!t, different sandwich.


    Posted Sat, Apr 6, 10:23 a.m. Inappropriate

    Allow me to summarize what all the foregoing comments effectively conclude:

    Burgess is a hack.

    He was a hack "political consultant" before he defeated a very weak Council incumbent, and he's been a hack Council member (joining the rest of the hacks) ever since. He has the vision of Mr. Magoo, the resolve of a set of wind chimes and the conviction of whoever's lining his pocket most at any given moment.

    Next, please.


    Posted Sat, Apr 6, 10:46 p.m. Inappropriate

    "I graduated in 1967 and the adults then were talking about North End schools vs. South End schools," he said. "And they are talking about it today."

    Why do you think people are still talking about North End schools vs. South End schools even after 46 years?

    This is not a problem the City of Seattle can or should try to solve. There are important economic issues to pay attention to. Create and hold decent paying jobs -- in the north end and in the south end -- and let the bloody school district and elected school board pay attention to the schools.

    Burgess just isn't qualified to be Mayor.

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