City Hall

Seattle's New Mayor, City Council Member Sworn In

"We have looked into the future, and the future is ours."

By Hayat Norimine November 28, 2017

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On Tuesday afternoon, Seattle's newest city council member Teresa Mosqueda entered the crowded council chambers as Beyonce's "Girls" played on a speaker. A few miles away, Jenny Durkan just half an hour earlier was sworn in at the Ethiopian Community in Seattle as the city's first female mayor in 89 years. 

Both Durkan and Mosqueda officially began their terms at city hall when King County certified election results on Tuesday. Durkan won the executive seat with 56.3 percent of the votes, Mosqueda's citywide Position 8 seat with 59.9 percent. Already both celebrations had been unorthodox, with Durkan traveling to five different locations throughout the city to deliver her speech. 

"I wanted to break tradition. I wanted to show that what I said in the campaign I really meant," Durkan said in Southeast Seattle. "I will be hearing you, I will be learning from you, and I will be accountable to you."

Durkan also signed two executive orders at two of those locations—one to create a city rental voucher program for low-income households and another to review the city's Race and Social Justice Initiative. On Wednesday she will also announce launch a program that on the campaign trail said would offer public high school students two years of free community college tuition. 

And in city hall, Mosqueda delivered a lengthy, impassioned speech on her plans for labor rights, the city's message as the "resistance" and the "last line of defense" against the federal administration, and singling out every council member on how she intends to work with them. 

"Who better than us? There is no one better than us," she said over loud cheers from her crowd of supporters.

"We have looked into the future, and the future is ours," she finished, quoting Cesar Chavez. 

With Mosqueda on the council, that makes the legislative body a supermajority of women and a majority people of color. As a longtime labor advocate, Mosqueda's replacing Tim Burgess also leaves the city council with fewer ties to business and a strong ally to unions. Interim council member Kirsten Harris-Talley, who co-sponsored the employee hours tax proposal, was appointed in October and took Burgess's place until Tuesday.

"We heard her. She's somebody that's going to...bring people together rather than separating, and that's what I'm very excited about," council member Sally Bagshaw told PubliCola after the swearing in. 

Mosqueda at a press conference, where she also took questions in Spanish, reiterated her campaign promises to close the gender pay gap and for affordable child care (no family pays more than 10 percent of their income). She didn't have estimates to the cost of that plan—she said the city first needs to address a shortage of child care providers—but to expect ongoing conversations about legislation in the first few months of next year. 

"It's going to be really great to have another person from the labor movement on the council representing the interest of the workers," said council member Lisa Herbold, who worked with Mosqueda's opponent, Jon Grant, on the Tenants Union and endorsed him for the position. 

In addition to child care and the gender pay gap, Mosqueda said she'll be focusing first and foremost on affordable housing (she'll be the only renter on the council) as well as access to health care. Mosqueda in an earlier interview told PubliCola she supports an employee hours tax, a proposal the council ultimately rejected for the 2018 budget but promised to support in the future. Council members passed a resolution that said it would consider the tax alongside other progressive tax options by March.  

"I'm supportive of working on it. I absolutely think that our city's going in the right direction with finding secure revenue to address its pressing problems," Mosqueda said Tuesday. "What the task force has in front of it is figuring out what the right balance is and how those dollars are going to get applied or distributed. I think that it's time in our city that we take every tool that we can to have a more progressive revenue approach." 

Updated 11:35am on Wednesday, November 29, to include more interviews, more details, and Mosqueda's response on the employee hours tax.


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