Mayor Murray names new acting Human Services Department head

John OkamotoMayor Murray today announced John Okamoto as the new acting Director for the city’s Human Services Department (HSD). Okamoto will replace current HSD interim Director Catherine Lester, who will remain with HSD and assist Okamoto in his transition.

“I want to extend my gratitude to Catherine Lester for the great work that she has done since 2011, first as deputy director and then interim director,” said Murray. “As the interim director, Catherine successfully led the department through a period of significant change and uncertainty, prospering in many areas. I’m confident John will build upon Catherine’s great work as we continue looking for a permanent director.”

Okamoto served as Executive Director of the Washington Education Association from 2008 – 2012. He has a long track record of successful leadership positions, and is well known by community, public and business leaders. His extensive management experience includes leadership positions with the Port of Seattle, the Washington State Department of Transportation, and as Director of the former Department of Engineering and former Director of Personnel for the City. Read his resume here.

“I started my ‘calling’ in public service in the Human Services Department many decades ago when I was a summer youth worker job developer and counselor. Coming back to HSD is a full circle for me,” said Okamoto.

“My family has deep history in elder care programs with the creation of Keiro nursing home, the Midori senior housing and Nikkei Manor assisted living facility. I volunteer with homeless meal and housing programs at Operation Nightwatch and Lord’s table,” continued Okamoto. “I am deeply passionate about social justice, equity, and inclusion, but I don’t have an extensive background in human services, housing, and homelessness issues. It’s going to be very important for me to reach out to our nonprofit service provider community and to other external stakeholders and make sure my leadership is informed by their insights and perspectives.”

Paul Lambros, Executive Director of Plymouth Housing Group, served as Co-Chair of the HSD Search Committee along with Co-Chair Dorothy Mann, a retired public health expert who was Regional Health Administrator, Region X, U.S. Public Health Service from 1979 – 1993.  Mann also served two years in the office of Mayor Norman B. Rice as Co-Director of the Mayor’s Violence Prevention Project.

“We have tremendous opportunities under Mayor Murray and his administration to have Seattle leading the way across the country in providing innovative social services and in ending homelessness. John will add value by bringing his strategic understanding of systems, diagnosing challenges and new opportunities, and strengthening relationships,” said Lambros.

Estela Ortega, Executive Director of El Centro de la Raza, added, “I’ve known John for many years and know him to be a honest broker who is deeply committed to our immigrant/refugee communities and someone who understands the importance of culturally competent services. I am confident that John’s steady leadership will help the department continue to meet its mission while working collaboratively with our community-based organizations.”

In appointing Okamoto to this interim role, Murray has tasked him to identify where the department can refine its focus, to strengthen partnerships and alignment with other funders, service providers, and stakeholders, and to lay the foundation for transformational change for the next permanent director.

Okamoto’s interim assignment will start on August 1, 2014, with an annualized salary of $151,000. Lester has agreed to stay on and help with the transition. The search process for the permanent HSD Director will be placed on hold until early 2015, with a goal of identifying a new permanent Director by the middle of next year. Similar to the current process, next year’s search process will also include extensive outreach to service providers and community stakeholders for their input and guidance.

The Human Services Department funds and operates programs and services that meet the basic needs of the most vulnerable people in our community — families and individuals with low incomes, children, domestic violence and sexual assault victims, homeless people, seniors, and persons with disabilities.

Murray also announced the reappointment of Fred Podesta as the Director of the Finance and Administrative Services Department and Glen Lee as Finance Director. Podesta’s annual salary will be $157,300 and Lee’s annual salary will be $152,700.

Join us for the Seattle’s 30th Annual ‘Night Out Against Crime’ celebration on Aug. 5

Night Out SeattleThis year marks the City of Seattle’s 30th Annual “Night Out Against Crime” celebration on Tuesday, August 5th. Recently, Mayor Murray laid out a comprehensive public safety plan for Seattle that underscores the importance of providing opportunities for youth and community members to enjoy their streets and public spaces citywide. The Mayor believes Night Out is a great example of the types of opportunities that exist for reconnecting community to Seattle streets. Night Out, an annual national event hosted locally by the Seattle Police Department, shows that residents and City government can mobilize resources and energy together to move toward a safer and more connected Seattle. We hope you’ll join in making this Seattle’s best Night Out yet.

Sign your block up for Night Out:

  1. Register your event and add it to the map. (When you register your event in Seattle, most non-arterial streets can be blocked off—without a fee—so you and your neighbors can take over the street.)
  2. Invite your neighbors by printing off the materials on our website and distributing around your block.
  3. And finally, help us promote Night Out around Seattle by liking the Night Out Facebook Page, sharing updates, and inviting others do the same.

If you have any questions, you can email or call your Precinct Crime Prevention Coordinator.

Find a Night Out event:

View the public Night Out map to see events in your neighborhood.

Attend a Picnic in the Precinct:

Another key element of safer communities is when we all know our local police officers. Coming up are several opportunities for you to get to know the Seattle Police Officers who protect your neighborhood. Meet the new Chief of Police, Kathleen O’Toole, your local police officers, and other community members at one of four upcoming Picnics in the Precincts:

  • Tuesday, August 5th: West Precinct Picnic / National Night Out
    Occidental Square in Pioneer Square, 5pm – 8pm
  • Saturday, August 16th: South Precinct Picnic
    New Holly Campus (7058 32nd Ave S), 1pm – 4pm
  • Sunday, August 24th: North Precinct Picnic
    University Heights Center (5031 University Way NE), 1pm – 4pm
  • Saturday, August 30th: East Precinct Picnic
    Cal Anderson Park (1635 11th Ave), 1pm – 4pm

Whether it’s getting to know your neighbors better or building a stronger relationship with the officers in your neighborhood, a safer Seattle takes all of us organizing and working together. Take a moment to register a Night Out event on your block and put your local Picnic in the Precinct on your calendar. We hope you’ll take some of these important opportunities to build public safety across the city.

Mayor Murray’s statement on Barton foreclosure

Mayor Murray issued the following statement today on the Barton foreclosure:

“We are attempting to understand all options that may exist in this situation and I have asked Chief O’Toole and the Seattle Police Department to stand by while the latest court proceedings unwind.

An interdepartmental team has been working on the issue of foreclosure and how the City of Seattle can proactively connect residents to resources early in the process. I’ve pledged the City of Seattle’s participation in the Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness in 2015, and will launch a separate process to address homelessness and increase housing affordability in the months ahead, one of my visions toward making Seattle an affordable city.

In Washington State, we’ve seen recent victories such as the 2011 Washington State Foreclosure Fairness Act, which I worked on closely, designed to help homeowners and their lenders explore alternatives to foreclosure and reach a resolution when possible. I’m committed to working with all stakeholders, using this and other alternatives in the work Seattle does on housing affordability.”

The City of Seattle and Washington State have resources to help homeowners avoid default and work out repayment plans in order to stay in their homes, or gain enough time to sell their homes on their own terms:

City invites neighbors to participate in third ‘Find It, Fix It’ Community Walk

In his public safety address to the Seattle City Council last month, Mayor Murray detailed a series of ‘Find it, Fix it’ Community Walks, focused on several crime hotspots.

At the walks, community residents, police, and city officials have been walking together to identify physical disorder and solve it. The two walks already conducted have seen great success with a 40 percent rise in use of the Find It, Fix It application and identification, notification and action taken on graffiti removal, street lighting, litter and garbage clean-up, and trimming overgrown bushes and trees.

The next Find It, Fix It Community Walk
Tuesday, July 22, 7 – 9 p.m., Rainier Beach Station Plaza (Martin Luther King Jr Way and S. Henderson St.)
Meet in the plaza (Map)

7 – 7:15 p.m.

  • Short program featuring City Councilmember Bruce Harrell, City Attorney Pete Holmes, Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole and department representatives.

7:15 – 9 p.m.

Walk commences along the following route:

  • East on S. Henderson St.
  • North on Renton Ave. S.
  • Stop at the Somali Community Services (8810 Renton Ave South)
  • West on S. Trenton St.
  • Return to Light Rail Station, board northbound train to Othello Station.

**Please note, fare passes will be provided for this part of the walk**

  • South on Martin Luther King Jr Way S.
  • East on S. Othello St.
  • Walk ends at Othello Playground

9 p.m.

  • Walk concludes and department representatives are available for follow-up questions.

The Rainier Beach Light Rail Station is one of five hot spots identified in the City of Seattle’s three-year U.S. Department of Justice Byrne Criminal Justice Innovation grant. The project called Rainier Beach: A Beautiful Safe Place for Youth, focuses on non-arrest, place-based interventions to reduce crime. The project is based on hot spot research by George Mason’s Center for Evidence-Based Crime Policy. The work is being conducted by a 60-member, diverse community task force that has been analyzing crime and community data for more than six months and has identified recommendations to reduce crime at the Light Rail Station and four other locations. Members of the community task force will be participating in Tuesday’s Find It Fix It walk.

Additional ‘Find it, Fix it’ Community Walks will take place in the upcoming weeks:

  • July 29, 7 – 9 p.m.: Rainier Ave. and Genesee
  • August 12, 7 – 9 p.m.: Rainier Beach

For more information on Murray’s public safety strategy for Seattle, visit

Mayor Murray applauds vote on Metro transit funding in Seattle

Mayor Murray issued the following statement in response to the Seattle Transportation Benefit District Board’s vote to place a proposal to fund Metro Transit service in Seattle on the November 4 ballot:

“I was very disappointed with the failure of King County’s Proposition 1 in April, especially because of the overwhelming – two-thirds – support from Seattle residents. It’s clear that Seattle voters value transit service as a way of life and, for many, it is a lifeline we cannot afford to cut. Preserving transit service is the most progressive act we can take, but we must ensure our low-income residents are not overly burdened by the increased taxes. The proposal includes a low-income vehicle fee rebate and increased access to King County’s planned low-income fare.

I want to thank the Board members for sending the proposal to preserve Metro Transit service in Seattle to the ballot. I especially want to thank Board Chair Tom Rasmussen for his leadership in moving this through the Transportation Benefit District.

My colleagues on the Council and I are committed to a long-term, regional funding solution for transit. While this measure will help preserve service in the short-term, I am also committed to working with the King County Executive, coalition partners and our legislative leaders toward achieving a balanced comprehensive statewide package as quickly as we can.”

Pianos in the Parks campaign launched July 17

Shenandoah Davis performs with Sean Nelson in Othello Park

Local musician Shenandoah Davis performs with Sean Nelson in Othello Park

On July 17, Seattle Parks and Recreation, King County Parks, Laird Norton Wealth Management, and local arts and business organizations collaborated to launch Pianos in the Parks. The Pianos in the Parks campaign placed 20 decorated pianos in Seattle parks, King County parks, Seattle Center and City Hall Plaza hoping to encourage residents to explore green and open spaces and to share and enjoy each others’ art.

“We are delighted to host the pianos at 13 city parks, Seattle Center and City Hall plaza,” Mayor Murray said. “Pianos in the Parks will enliven our parks and engage communities through the power of art and music.”

The first piano was unveiled Thursday, July 17 at an event in Othello Park. Other Seattle Parks locations for the pianos include Cal Anderson Park, Denny Park, Hing Hay Park, Ballard Commons Park, Green Lake Park, Alki Beach Park, Maple Leaf Reservoir Park, Pier 62/63, Sam Smith Park, Rainier Beach Plaza, Volunteer Park and Westlake Park.

“We are thrilled to host this positive and innovative way to bring more people into our parks and to listen to music for all to enjoy,” said Christopher Williams, Acting Superintendent of Seattle Parks and Recreation.

Other partners include Seattle Symphony, KEXP, Gage Academy of Art, City of Music and Classic Pianos.

The pianos were procured and donated by Classic Pianos and will be available in the parks until Aug. 17. Members of the public are invited to play the pianos and can upload videos of their park performances to the Pianos in the Parks Facebook page for a chance to play at KEXP’s and Seattle Center’s “Concerts at the Mural” on Friday, Aug. 22. The Facebook entries that receive the highest number of “likes” will be judged by a community panel and a winner will be selected.

At the end of the campaign, the pianos will be sold to the highest bidder in an online auction on Proceeds from the pianos sales will benefit Seattle Parks and Recreation, King County Parks, Seattle Symphony, KEXP and Gage Academy of Art.

For more information about Pianos in the Parks scheduled activities, participating parks/open spaces and full contest information, please visit: To tag contest entries, pictures and experiences, use the hashtag #PianosintheParks and send your photos to @seattleparks on Twitter.

Mayor Murray renames City Hall to ‘Kitty Hall’ for the day to highlight Animal Shelter foster program

Mayor Murray renamed City Hall to Kitty Hall today to highlights the Seattle Animal Shelter’s foster care program and to promote shelter cat adoptions. The shelter currently has more than 200 cats and kittens available for adoption, both at the shelter and in foster homes. The kittens that took Kitty Hall by storm today are all currently under the care of foster parents.

The Seattle Animal Shelter, located at 2061 15th Ave. W., is open Wednesday through Sunday, noon to 6 p.m. for adoptions and licensing. Animals available for adoption can be viewed online at The animal shelter’s next Adopt A Cat event will be held this Saturday, July 19 from noon to 3 p.m. at the Phinney Ridge Neighborhood Association at 6532 Phinney Ave N.


The kittens requested plenty of treats and paw sanitizer in their contract.


“Oh hi. I’m Cat Mayor now.”


“I hereby proclaim that you put me down.” (photo courtesy Kitty Council staffer Dan Nolte)


“I wouldn’t do that if I were you.”


Council staffer Dan Nolte and Mayor’s office press secretary Megan Coppersmith get some “real work” done while draped in cats.


KOMO-TV comes to all the right assignments.


The Mayor thanks Animal Shelter volunteers for their daily dedication to the welfare of our shelter animals.


Mayor Murray and Councilmember Sally Clark get on the cats’ level.

Mayor Murray hires Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs Director

Cuc Vu

Mayor Murray today announced Cuc Vu as his choice to lead the City’s Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs (OIRA).

Coc Vu“I hope to establish Seattle as a leader in immigrant and refugee integration and create an environment that welcomes the participation and engagement of immigrants and refugees in all areas Seattle,” said Murray. “Cuc is the perfect choice to lead the office, as her experience on immigrant and refugee issues is bolstered by her passion for equity and equality, working for two decades on some of the most important civil rights issues of our time, including the rights of workers, women and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.”

“I am honored and truly excited to join Mayor Murray and his team at City Hall, the most diverse cabinet I have ever seen in City government. I share the Mayor’s vision for immigrant and refugee integration in Seattle and commit to achieving real progress and equity for Seattle’s immigrant and refugee communities,” said Vu.

In her new role as Director of the Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs, Vu brings her life experience as a refugee who knows the stigma of food stamps and the prestige of an Ivy League school, as well as 12 years of experience working on immigrant and refugee affairs as an advocate, issue organizer and non-profit founder and executive.

Vu most recently served as the first Chief Diversity Officer for the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) where she provided the vision and strategy to help the organization fulfill its stated commitment to diversity and inclusion. She has also worked at SEIU, AFL-CIO and the U.S. Department of Labor.

“I am excited with the announcement of Cuc Vu as Director of the Seattle’s Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs. She is an outstanding leader who will be a passionate and effective advocate,” said Eliseo Medina, labor union activist and leader, and advocate for immigration reform in the United States. “Thank you, Mayor Murray for your leadership and support.”

“I am delighted that Cuc Vu will be the next director of the Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs. I have known and worked with Cuc for over a decade, on the Immigrant Workers Freedom Ride, immigration reform and naturalization and voting for immigrants,” said Pramila Jayapal, OIRA director search committee member. “Cuc brings a wealth of leadership, strategy and policy skills that will serve the office well as it seeks to build a strong and innovative portfolio of programs to better serve Seattle’s immigrant and refugee communities. It’s great to welcome her back to Seattle.”

“I want to extend my profound appreciation to Aaliyah Gupta for her work over the past six months, leading the office and developing a five-point plan that will guide Seattle’s work to strengthen immigrant and refugee communities,” said Murray.

Vu started on July 15 and will make $125,000 annually. This position requires confirmation by the Seattle City Council.

Seattle is home to refugees and immigrants from more than 112 countries. Over a third of Seattle residents are persons of color, and 19 percent are foreign born. Washington State is the eighth largest refugee resettlement state in the country.

The Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs facilitates the successful integration of immigrants and refugees into Seattle’s civic, economic, and cultural life; celebrates diverse cultures of immigrants and refugees and their contributions to Seattle; advocates on behalf of immigrants and refugees and promote a citywide culture that understands and values the benefits that all members of our society receive when immigrants and refugee communities are successfully integrated into our civic, economic and cultural life. For more information, visit

Mayor Ed Murray commends Council on passage of for-hire legislation

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray issued the following statement, in response to Seattle City Council action in favor of for-hire transportation in Seattle:

“Today’s Council vote was one for the history books. I want to thank the Seattle City Council for repealing the initial for-hire legislation last week and today voting in favor of maintaining the principles of the legislation I recently transmitted: balancing the legitimate interests of all sides, protecting public safety, and promoting access to a broad array transportation options in Seattle. Cities throughout the United States will be looking to our innovative work on this issue to bring similar approaches to their cities that focus on public safety and consumer protection while balancing innovation.

“I am also grateful to all parties across the transportation industry who participated in creating this framework. Your hard work and spirit of compromise led to the agreement we developed together which will enable all parties in the industry to compete fairly to serve the needs of the public. We could not have done this without your participation.”

For more information, visit

City of Seattle offers services during heat wave

Seattle Center fountainThe National Weather Service has issued an excessive heat warning throughout the weekend with expected temperatures in the 90s. Many homes in Seattle are not equipped with air conditioning and may get very hot during the daytime. The City offers many locations for you to cool down when the temperatures start to rise. Visit 18 of the City’s libraries, senior centers or Seattle Center facilities for some relief from the heat.

Hot weather tips

  • When you’re outside, limit the time you’re in direct sunlight and avoid or reduce activities that are tiring or take a lot of energy.
  • Take extra precaution if you work outside and know the signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
  • Do not leave infants, children, people with mobility challenges and pets in a parked car, even with the window rolled down.
  • Check in with your elderly neighbors and relatives to make sure they are staying cool too.
  • Drink plenty of water. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink.
  • Avoid drinks with caffeine, alcohol and large amounts of sugar because they can actually de-hydrate your body.

Protect your pets

Pets are especially vulnerable in high heat and the Seattle Animal Shelter recommends the following:

  • Never leave your animal chained or penned up directly in sunlight. Provide a shady area for retreat, such as a dog house, porch or shady tree, and always provide cool water.
  • If you leave animals indoors, open the windows, keep a fan running, provide plenty of water, and if possible, leave them in a cool location.
  • Never leave dogs or cats unattended in a closed, locked car. Animals do not perspire like humans; they cool themselves by panting and vinyl seats in vehicles get hot under animals’ feet and prevent them from perspiring through their paws.
  • If you must travel with your pet, carry water.
  • Avoid overexerting your animal in hot weather.
  • For birds, take caution and place the bird’s cage away from direct sunlight during the intense heat of the afternoon. Provide water and fruits and vegetables with high moisture content.


The following Seattle Public Library locations are equipped with air conditioning, and serve as cooling centers when the area experiences extreme heat. Please call the individual location before you go for open hours and to verify that the air conditioning is working.

  • Central Library (1000 4th Ave) – 206-386-4636
  • Ballard (5614 22nd Ave NW) – 206-684-4089
  • Beacon Hill (2821 Beacon Ave S) – 206-684-4711
  • Broadview (12755 Greenwood Ave N) – 206-684-7519
  • Capitol Hill (425 Harvard Ave E) – 206-684-4715
  • Delridge (5423 Delridge Way SW) – 206-733-9125
  • Douglass-Truth (2300 E Yesler Way) – 206-684-4704
  • Greenwood (8016 Greenwood Ave N) – 206-684-4086
  • High Point (3411 SW Raymond St) – 206-684-7454
  • International District / Chinatown (713 8th Ave S) – 206-386-1300
  • Lake City (12501 28th Ave NE) – 206-684-7518
  • Madrona-Sally Goldmark (1134 33rd Ave) – 206-684-4705
  • Magnolia (2801 34th Ave W) – 206-386-4225
  • NewHolly (7058 32nd Ave S) – 206-386-1905
  • Northgate (10548 5th Ave NE) – 206-386-1980
  • Rainier Beach (9125 Rainier Ave S) – 206-386-1906
  • Wallingford (1501 N 45th St) – 206-684-4088

Seattle Center

(View the campus map PDF at

  • Seattle Center Armory serves as an indoors cooling center; and tomorrow, visitors are most welcome to take in Seattle Center Festal:  Polish Festival from 12 p.m. – 8 p.m. in the Armory and Mural Amphitheatre
  • Armory Center House (Open 7 a.m. – 10 p.m. on Fridays & Saturdays and 7 a.m. – 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday)
  • International Fountain (Closed Saturday for a private event, but open until 9 p.m. Sunday)
  • Fountain of Creation (Open until midnight – when the Center Campus closes)

Senior Centers

The following senior centers have air conditioning or are relatively cool and are open to the public:

  • Greenwood Senior Center (525 N. 8th Street)
  • International Drop-In Center (7301 Beacon Ave S.)
  • Pike Market Senior Center and Food Bank (85 Pike St, #200)
  • Ballard NW Senior Center (5429 32nd Ave NW)
  • Southeast Seattle Senior Center (4655 South Holly St)
  • The Senior Center of West Seattle (4217 SW Oregon St)
  • South Park Senior Center (8201 10th Ave S)
  • Wallingford Community Senior Center (4649 Sunnyside Ave N, Suite 140)
  • The Central (500 30th Ave S)

Additional resources