By Jason Cruz
Northwest Asian Weekly
Mayor-elect Ed Murray answered questions concerning the Asian Pacific Islander community at a luncheon on Monday, Dec. 30. The questions, posed by leaders and others of the API community, ranged from the Murray administration’s commitment to the International District, Seattle Police Department, and debate over minimum wage.
“My past is a good indication of the future,” Murray began his remarks to the assembled community members at the New Hong Kong Restaurant in the International District.
The mayor-elect referred to his strong ties to the API community, which started when he was hired by then City Councilmember Martha Choe 22 years ago. He pointed to his record as a state Senator in the Washington State Legislature, when he pushed for causes important to the API community. Murray also noted his appointment of Hyeok Kim as his deputy mayor, which was widely applauded by those in attendance.
Murray indicated his openness in engaging with the API community when in office. “I look forward to work with you in bringing projects forward to me,” he said.
Here are some of the highlights from Murray’s luncheon:
“Graduation rates are not what it should be,” said Mayor-elect Murray. He pointed to graduation rates as low as 50 percent among minorities and immigrant populations. “City government cannot stand by,” he said, adding that his administration would engage with school districts and work to mend what he called a “major disconnect.” Although schools are a hot issue that draws much controversy, Murray was adamant in his commitment. Murray said this issue would be the second thing he would address as mayor, after fixing the police department.
Development of the International District
Murray was asked how he would spur development in the International District, while maintaining its cultural heritage.
The concern by many is that the community has less control in determining care of neighborhoods. Murray said his administration would look for a solution in which the community can provide more input into how the future of development will be shaped. Murray referred to an examination of current municipal zoning codes to see whether there is an opportunity to structure and plan for growth.
Murray eyes utilizing city funds to address issues of transportation. He indicated that transportation is “kind of a mess” because it is not thought about in an “integrated way.” He identified with the community concern that certain bus routes were minimized due to the impact of light rail. “Buses can’t go away because we are getting light rail,” Murray stated, as he pledged that his administration would be committed to working with the legislature in obtaining funds for transportation needs.
Murray said he would look for a new transportation director who will embrace the philosophy of integrating multiple modes of transportation for the future of the city.
Murray said seeking a police chief would be a top priority. He provided a timeline, which would begin in January, to conduct a nationwide search for a permanent police chief. “We have got to get this right,” Murray emphasized. He stated that he hopes to stick to the timeline in order to give officers the security of a permanent leader.
Murray emphasized a change in course for the department. “Police will be more on the beat and out of their cars,” he said. Murray also would like more training for officers regarding the use of force, and more recruitment of people who live and work within the community. When specifically asked, he said his nationwide search for a chief of police did not exclude current interim chief Jim Pugel
Murray addressed the hotly contested issue of the minimum wage. In November, the City of SeaTac passed a measure making minimum wage $15 an hour, benefiting many workers in and around Sea-Tac Airport. However, a King County Superior Court Judge struck down a portion of the passed initiative, citing that the Port of Seattle did not have to abide by the proposed law. Thus, all workers at Sea-Tac Airport would not be governed by the new minimum wage.
The mayor-elect recognized the balancing act between workers being able to live on their wages versus the businesses that may lose out due to the increase in costs. “We cannot address it (minimum wage issue) by driving people out of business,” Murray added, “We are committed to Seattle becoming an affordable city.”
Murray’s administration will look at “phasing-in” or “exemptions” to the potential of a higher minimum wage. “The goal is not to destroy jobs, but to create livable wage jobs,” he said. (end)
Jason Cruz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.