At a press conference at state Sen. Ed Murray's (D-43, Capitol Hill) mayoral campaign headquarters this morning, city council public safety committee chair Bruce Harrell, a former mayoral candidate himself, endorsed Murray over incumbent Mayor Mike McGinn, giving "my official and unconditional endorsement" to Murray, who Harrell said has both "compassion and the ability to clean up the streets" downtown.
Yesterday, as we reported in Fizz this morning, Harrell's committee heard from a parade of downtown stakeholders about what they perceive as a public-safety "crisis" in their neighborhood—a theme Murray echoed this morning, calling the perceived increase in problems like public urination, public intoxication, and aggressive panhandling "a crisis not just of our police department but a crisis in the streets.""Despite McGinn's rosy claim, crime is up." —Mayoral candidate Ed Murray.
"Despite [McGinn's] rosy claim"—the mayor has touted the city's reduced overall crime rate as one of his major achievements—"crime is up," Murray said. Murray later clarified that he was referring to violent crime.
Between 2009 and 2012, aggravated assaults increased 12 percent overall, thanks largely to a 60 percent increase in domestic violence assaults—an increase Murray attributed, in part, to McGinn's decision to eliminate the city's Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault office in 2011.
"I will restore the office of domestic violence that was eliminated under this administration," Murray said. "When you don’t highlight an issue, then that issue tens to get lost in a city of 10,000 employees." Murray said he would also create a new "family justice center," with "social service, law enforcement, and medical personnel under one roof." '
Murray also accused the mayor of "completely ignor[ing] public safety" during the first three years of his administration, adding, "And that's where we started to spiral."
City attorney Pete Holmes, who was steamed when McGinn's police director, Jim Pugel, publicly demanded that Holmes prosecute 28 specific individuals who've committed multiple civil infractions for things like peeing or drinking in public, joined Murray and Harrell today (he endorsed Murray in late June). He said today: "a leader needs to stay the course, not respond publicly" when people complain about crime.
Murray added, pugnaciously: "The difference I will bring is I will sit down with the city attorney's office, with the chair of the public safety committee, with the police department, and with the King County prosecutor and sort it out—and not just send out press releases saying we need to have Pete Holmes arrest 28 people."
"The fact that our police department is under a court order is, frankly, an embarrassment," Murray said. "We need to hire more police, but we can't do that until we reform our police department."
Editorial aside: Murray—who we compared to stiff, stumbly John McCain after his primary-election victory—has been back to his former bomb-throwing self lately, lashing out at an opponent who has tried to paint Murray as the "downtown," "establishment" candidate.
And he does continue to give McGinn fodder: Murray also said he was open to the idea of an aggressive panhandling ordinance like the Tim Burgess-sponsored proposal that McGinn vetoed, but only if the city has reformed its police department, "reestablished respect between the police department and the citizens," and expanded programs like Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD), which directs low-level offenders to services instead of jail.
Harrell's presence was significant not just because he's chair of the council's public safety committee (and Murray's former rival), but because he's the fourth council member to endorse Murray in the mayor's race. (The Murray campaign says they hope to see at least one more council endorsement, which would bring the pro-Murray council camp to a majority—unprecedented for a mayoral challenger.) It's also major because a vocally anti-McGinn council could have to work with McGinn in the future, if the mayor wins what is certain to be a tight general election.
Asked how the council endorsements might affect their ability to work with the mayor in the future, Harrell said, "I don’t think it could get much worse. ... My support of Ed Murray is not a denigration of Mike McGinn. I have a personal relationship with him that I like. I just think that Ed Murray is going to be a stronger and more practical mayor."
Murray added: "We know that the relationship between this council and this mayor is the worst we’ve seen in our lifetime, or at least in our adult, professional lifetime. If [council] members endorse me and there is retribution later on, that’s not leadership. … I would hope that, should I lose, this that wouldn’t be what we would see come out of city hall."