City Hall

5 Important Takeaways from Durkan's State of the City Speech

"These crises has been years in the making and will not be fixed overnight."

By Hayat Norimine February 20, 2018

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Central to Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan's State of the City address on Tuesday, at the Rainier Beach High School, was the demand for more affordable housing and addressing the homelessness crisis. 

Though there were no major policy announcements on homelessness or housing, Durkan said "we can't act fast enough" on affordability, racial equity and social justice, and touted the nickname, "the impatient mayor" to show she's serious about these things. 

"This is a crisis that threatens the soul of our city." But, she added, "these crises has been years in the making and will not be fixed overnight."

Instead, she announced plans she has in the short term. Here were the biggest takeaways from the speech on what plans she has in the coming months:

Free ORCA cards: Durkan will provide free unlimited public transit cards year-round to public school students, and students participating in the Seattle Promise program for free community college tuition.

That covers about 15,000 more residents after the city created its first pilot program two years ago, following demands from Rainier Beach High School students. (This was notably an idea first mentioned by former mayoral candidate Nikkita Oliver during a forum.)

The Seattles Times reported the expansion will cost about $4.8 million, $3.8 million of which will come from the Seattle Transportation Benefit District and another $1 million from King County Metro.  

Going "green": Durkan denounced President Donald Trump's stance on climate change and promoted Seattle's record on supporting clean energy, efforts to reduce carbon emissions, and electric vehicle fleets.

She said part of those efforts will include making buildings as energy efficient as possible, and would introduce a citywide pilot program to construct 20 "of the most sustainable buildings anywhere." Durkan said she'll introduce legislation to the council in the next few months. 

According to the mayor's office, Durkan plans would be based on the city's Living Building Pilot, which is a certification program that requires buildings to meet energy efficiency targets. But Durkan's plan rather focuses on existing buildings (not new ones). 

"We’ll show it can be done to scale, and we'll create a new model for green cities," Durkan said. 

A new police chief: As Durkan-appointed committee members conduct a national search for the city's new police chief, the mayor announced a new survey that would allow the public to comment on what they want from a new chief. 

Interim police chief and former deputy chief Carmen Best is interested in the job and would be a natural selection for the city, as someone who has a good relationship with police reform advocates and has served in the Seattle Police Department for 26 years. 

Labor: Durkan promised that this year, she will work with council member and labor leader Teresa Mosqueda to introduce a Domestic Worker Bill of Rights. Durkan said it's the next step after the city's $15 minimum wage to ensure fair wages and rights. 

What Durkan didn't say—she said little about the sexual harassment allegations that have made headlines this year and become a core discussion in council meetings. 

The bill of rights will be separate from the city's challenge to address sexual harassment complaints among its employees, according to the mayor's office.

Durkan has already directed staff that no individual city department can settle a complaint without providing notice to the director of the Department of Human Resources. City officials are also weighing other options, like creating new legislation or updating current policies. 

"To our city employees, I know we need to give you a safe place to work, free of discrimination and harassment," Durkan said. "We have a lot of important work to do together."

Sports: Oh yeah, an NHL team. Durkan promised that you can buy season tickets starting March 1, so there's that. 

Updated at 4pm on February 20 to include the NHL announcement. 

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