In his State of the City address before the Seattle City Council today, Mayor Ed Murray expanded the City’s commitment to support education, job opportunities and success for all of Seattle’s youth. He also pledged to hire an additional 100 police officers above the 100 net new officers he has already budgeted, and offered new initiatives to support small businesses, foster the arts, and activate urban parks.
“Today the State of the City reflects the 21st Century dreams of the 1962 World’s Fair: a vibrant city driven by technology and science, creating jobs and innovation in everything from transportation to health care,” said Murray in a packed City Council Chambers. “The State of the City also reflects our worst fears from the Great Depression, as issues of homelessness and inequity continue despite decades of effort on the part of this City to resolve them.”
The mayor cited Seattle’s current successes, including 63,000 new jobs in the city in the last five years, an unemployment rate of 3.5 percent and median income at an all-time high.
But the mayor noted that some communities are not fully benefiting from the current growth, especially African American and East African male youth between the ages 14 to 24. Seattle is one of 14 cities to receive a grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Innovation Teams program, which aims to enhance the capacity of City Halls to solve intractable urban problems and improve the lives of residents. The team’s first charge is to assess and address disparities facing young black men.
“The health of black men is essential to the health of society,” said Murray. “I believe that when our young black men are at their best, Seattle is at its best. My vision is that in 10 years, all of Seattle’s young people will have the opportunity to enjoy the benefits that come with a growing city and a growing economy.”
Murray challenged Seattle’s employers to help double the number of available positions in the Mayor’s Youth Employment Initiative to 4,000. The City will partner with the Center for Children & Youth Justice to train outreach workers to engage young men and link them to school, jobs, training and other services. The City will also create a first-in-the-nation program to respond to the 40 percent of youth-violence cases that involve violence against a family member, reducing the need for youth detention. Seattle will also provide an additional $200,000 for Career Bridge, a proven program that puts individuals with criminal records on a path to success through job training, education and other supports. Seattle will also partner with Seattle Colleges to create a new College for Working Adults to help lower-wage workers increase their earnings or change careers.
To address the opportunity gap and the persistent disparities in our public schools impacting children of color, Murray will build on last year’s launch of the Seattle Preschool Program with a the first citywide Education Summit in more than 25 years.
As part of the City’s efforts to ensure that neighborhoods remain affordable and livable, the mayor today announced new initiatives to support small businesses and nurture art and culture as Seattle grows. The Commercial Affordability Advisory Committee will identify issues that lead to displacement of small businesses in growing Urban Villages and recommend actions that support affordable commercial spaces. And to support Seattle’s vibrant arts and cultural community, another major employment sector, the mayor announced that a significant portions of King Street Station will be permanently rededicated with 15,000 square feet of public arts space and new affordable spaces for small businesses.
In his address to the Council, Mayor Murray noted that “public safety is an area where we have made significant progress, yet still have significant challenges. Even with the progress we have made in the past year, much more needs to be done to address property crime.”
Under the leadership of Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole, crime overall fell 7 percent citywide in 2015, including a 30 percent drop in auto thefts and a 20 percent drop in crime in Southeast Seattle.
To respond to community concerns about property crime, the Seattle Police Department are forming a dedicated team focused on bringing down property crime rates. The department is now using many of the same strategies that have been effective in addressing chronic crime and drug dealing downtown in other neighborhoods in the city. The department will also improve the efficiency of the City’s 911 response system.
“Although the Seattle Police Department is larger than it has ever been in its history, our police force is still strained,” said Murray. “When I came to this office, I committed to hiring 100 more officers over attrition during my first term. But I recognize that we need more officers for better visibility throughout our city.”
To address the needs of a growing city, the mayor called for a larger police department, with a total of 200 net new officers from 2013 staffing levels. In the last two years, the City has hired 50 additional officers. In 2015, 30 percent of police department hires were people of color.
The mayor cited continued positive feedback from the U.S. Department of Justice and the Federal Monitor for the progress Seattle has made on police reform, including the appropriate use of force by officers. The department has created Crisis Response Teams that pair trained officers with mental health workers. These teams will respond to an estimated 10,000 calls from people experiencing mental-health- or addiction-related crisis in the coming year. Initial data show that as a result of de-escalation training, officers are using force against individuals in crisis less than two percent of the time. And, when officers do use force, 80 percent of the time they use the lowest level of force.
The Seattle Police Department continues to expand its Safe Place program to address violence and intolerance directed at the LGBTQ community. Today the mayor announced that the program will expand in a new partnership to make all Seattle Public Schools available as Safe Places, as well.
To support enjoyable, safe parks in Seattle’s urban core, the mayor will expand the Urban Parks Activation Partnership. The partnership has made a dramatic difference in the experience in Occidental and Westlake parks. In addition to maintaining the current partnership for another five years, the City will expand the initiative, partnering with other community organizations in up to ten additional urban parks.
In his address, Mayor Murray also announced a major expansion of the City’s Utility Discount Program, which reduces utility costs for low-income families by 50 percent. By auto-enrolling more than 10,000 tenants in Seattle Housing Authority properties, the City will reach the mayor’s goal to double enrollment in the discount program to 28,000 households two years early.
The mayor also heralded the success of Vision Zero, Seattle’s strategy to eliminate traffic fatalities and serious injuries by 2030. In just one year, through education, engineering and enforcement, the City has reduced traffic fatalities by 25 percent, reaching an all-time low.
Performance Seattle, the accountability tool to allow the public to measure the success of City government, continues to chart accountability measures for each department. Currently departments are meeting or exceeding their targets on 71 percent of goals and are close on another 13 percent. For 16 percent of goals, the City has more work to do to meet performance measures. The Seattle Department of Transportation also charts the progress of major construction projects at capitalprojects.seattle.gov.
The mayor will issue a new Executive Order that establishes an Open Data policy that was developed by the Seattle Department of Information Technology in partnership with the University of Washington, the Sunlight Foundation, and Seattle’s civic technology community. The policy will prioritize data transparency for all City programs, while reinforcing the City’s Privacy Program.
The mayor’s complete State of the City remarks as prepared are available at seattle.gov/mayor.