At Seattle City Hall on the seventh floor—where Tim Burgess just a few months earlier wasn't expecting to spend his last days as a public official—the 71-day mayor on Wednesday signed the 2018 budget into law and said goodbye to city government.
Burgess, who served on the city council for nine years, jumped into the executive role in September when former mayor Ed Murray resigned following a string of sexual assault allegations. And at a small press conference Wednesday, he said farewell with both criticisms and praise for the council, a bit of cheese (a 71-word speech for his 71 days), and a reflection on his time in city politics.
"I'm the accidental mayor," Burgess said, comparing his time in executive office to Harry Truman's time as president after Franklin Roosevelt's unexpected death. "I didn't anticipate that I would be here, but I was honored to step up and serve Seattle in this capacity. ... It's been a great ride."
His last day will be November 28, when Jenny Durkan takes office and will deliver her swearing-in speech, typically at city hall, to five neighborhoods throughout the city in the afternoon.
A former police officer and radio journalist, Burgess was mostly known as a consensus builder or centrist on the council who often found middle ground. He also kept strong ties to Seattle's business community and on Wednesday said he was glad council members rejected the employee hours tax to fund homeless services, what Burgess called a "tax on jobs" in a city that already has the highest business taxes in the state.
But he criticized the council for funding ongoing expenditures through one-time cash reserves and said it was a "dangerous road to start down because you create expectations" that can't be fulfilled. He cautioned against it with a warning to mayor-elect Jenny Durkan that it'll be an ongoing challenge to find those funds.
Still, he praised the council for creating a fair and balanced budget that reflected the values of Seattle and was especially proud that the city would be the first in the country to implement a retirement savings program available to all workers in the city.
When asked about whether Burgess wishes he could've done with more time, he reiterated concerns of disruptive meetings and said the far-left was similar to the far-right in its shouting down of opposing opinions and discouraged others from speaking in public.
"One of the regrets I have is that I was not able to perhaps constrain or resolve the nature of our public discourse," Burgess said, reiterating that the far-left is similar to the far-right in its shouting down of opposing opinions. "Of course it’s reflective of the national conversation that we have around politics and in public policy, and I think that’s very unfortunate that I wasn’t able to do as much as maybe I could to restrain that."
His 71-word speech is below. (It's actually 74 words with the Thanksgiving greeting.)
“It’s an honor to serve the people of Seattle in this time of transition. We took what we were handed, we built on it, and we left this city better than when we started. A good budget, plans for new schools, major steps in juvenile justice and police reform, retirement savings, greater accountability in spending—we achieved all of that and more in 71 days. Over to you, Mayor Durkan, and happy Thanksgiving Seattle.”