Dear Mayor Murray,
I hate to-do lists — my mother was always thrusting them in my teenage face — but that doesn’t mean I can’t make myself obnoxious by offering you one now that the election is over. The coming four years are big ones for Seattle, with numerous huge projects coming online and posing challenges. So, here’s my modest list of top priorities.
1. Public Safety
As you know, picking a permanent police chief is important. So is gaining the trust of both the people and the rank and file in the department, under the watchful eyes of the Department of Justice. There are technical challenges (modernizing policing with data, for one) as well as personnel challenges (adding new cops and accountability). You'll have to deal with the systemic problem of an overuse of force, while also cracking down on crime.
Also as critical, or more so, than hiring new police officers: the mental health piece of the puzzle. As the September stabbing of a couple on their way home from a Sounders game highlighted, there are too many dangerous mentally ill people on Seattle’s streets and too many holes in the social safety net. You must lead a comprehensive approach to fixing the problem.
City Council member Tim Burgess’ proposal for universal preschool is an excellent one. If City Hall can’t run the school district, the city can help by better preparing kids earlier. Getting children launched with universal pre-K is ambitious and worthy — and something we (and you) could actually accomplish.
3. Lurking Boondoggles
The deep-bore tunnel got off to a slow start. The SR 520 bridge is already blowing through its contingency fund with cracked pontoons and major design problems. Both projects, by the way, have big funding concerns, too. These state highway projects impact the city mightily. You’ll have to weigh in to insist on smart resolutions to these challenges and the inevitable surprises to come.
Seattle needs to do a better job of making alliances in Olympia and on the Eastside, and leading on regional — not simply city — issues. Everyone recognizes Seattle is the Puget Sound region’s 800-pound gorilla, but a gorilla that’s too parochial makes enemies, not allies. The next mayor needs to dial back on the us-versus-them mind-set that has crept into mayoral and Oly politics.
5. SoDo and the Future Arena
You will be key to whether we build a new basketball arena in SoDo. Entities such as the Port of Seattle worry that a new SoDo arena and attendant development will be the straw that breaks Seattle’s blue-collar back. The longshore union argues that we can have a Sonics arena and industrial jobs — just not in the same place, and since the port can’t move…. The arena’s environmental impact research needs to be an honest evaluation of the pros and cons. A Solomonic Sonics decision might well be required.
6. Transformation Management
With big projects kicking in — the redevelopment of Yesler Terrace, a once-in-a-generation redo of the central waterfront — you must be an orchestra conductor extraordinaire, getting quality performance and public value out of all of these parts. Getting the best outcome for the downtown waterfront is critical to safety (seawall), transportation (post-Viaduct), business (tourism), image (Seattle’s front porch) and growth (adjacent development). The onus is on you to make it all work.
7. Lesser Is More
Lesser (as opposed to Greater) Seattle will likely never have a Seattle mayor. There’s too much at stake for the business community and powers that be. Still, remember that our best mayors have paid attention to getting things right in the neighborhoods, and by boosting small businesses and not being held captive by the big ones. Community centers, neighborhood libraries, bike lanes, P-patches, affordability: Seattle livability is in the details.
8. Mow the Lawn
This was on every chore list I ever saw. Please get it done before dinner.
This column appeared in the November issue of Seattle Magazine.