Bruce Harrell addresses the press. Photo by Daniel Person

The Transition

Harrell Will Be a Five-Day Mayor, But He Hopes to Leave a Mark

Harrell announces executive orders clamping down on trash, cozying up with Amazon, and envisioning a future without a youth jail.

If all goes according to plan on Monday, Bruce Harrell’s term as mayor will end, having lasted less than a week.

But on Friday he underscored just how much can get done by a five-day mayor placed in the office by circumstance. At a news conference that was billed as an announcement of whether Harrell intended to stay in office till November, Harrell prefaced his big reveal by announcing four executive orders he signed that day.

The orders direct the city to consult with Amazon on how it can be persuaded to place the 50,000 workers it says it wants to place at a second headquarters outside Seattle in the city instead; lay out a vision on small, city-funded youth rehabilitation centers that could serve as alternative to the planned Youth Detention Center; direct Seattle Public Utilities to redouble its efforts to clear trash from the streets; and commission an assessment of how vulnerable city data is to hackers.

One thing Harrell said he will not be doing, though, is staying on as mayor. As Council President, Harrell assumed the position when Ed Murray resigned in the face of mounting sex abuse claims. However, in order to stay on till a new mayor is elected in November, Harrell would have to resign his council seat. On Friday he said that wasn’t something he was willing to do.

“There are issues on the council and in the budget process that need my leadership,” he said. He added that he enjoyed serving the diverse constituents of South Seattle as the District 2 councilmember.

That means the City Council will have to appoint another councilmember to fill the mayor’s seat until either Jenny Durkan or Cary Moon assumes office (they take office as soon as the votes are certified, not in January as would normally be the case). Councilmember Sally Bagshaw appeared behind Harrell during the press conference, and afterward told reporters that she planned to nominate Councilmember Tim Burgess for the job of temporary mayor. Burgess is retiring, meaning that he wouldn’t be losing much by vacating his council seat. Bagshaw said Burgess has expressed interest in the position. However, she said she did not know how much support he has on the council.

Burgess’ centrist politics have become more and more out of line with a council that has shifted left in recent years. Another candidate for the job would be Councilmember M. Lorena Gonzalez. Since Gonzalez is up for re-election this year, she could abandon her seat council seat, then re-assume it if she is re-elected.

After Harrell’s announcement, Gonzalez put out a press release, but it was a by-the-book release, explaining how the council will fill a vacant council seat once one of the councilmembers assumes the mayor’s office. Regarding the mayoral nomination, she said in the release that at 2 p.m. on Monday at full council, “I intend for the council to cast a vote to elect a councilmember to be Mayor of Seattle. If no selection has been made within 20 days, the Council must meet and vote every day thereafter until a selection is made.”

Bagshaw suggested to reporters that Gonzalez is too busy to be mayor. “Lorena is getting married, and she’s a (council) candidate,” Bagshaw said.

Harrell would not say who he favors for the position, but said his “confidence level is pretty high” the council would make a choice on Monday.

Regarding the executive orders, Harrell briefly explained each.

On Amazon, he said he met with Amazon executives to see what needs to be done to keep the company’s growth in Seattle; he said the city will have a proposal for the company by Oct. 19. “This kind of situation must not happen again,” he said.

On the youth jail, he said the plan he’s proposed for small rehabilitation centers scattered across the city and county (many kids who commit crimes in Seattle live outside the city, he said) would not stop the jail—which is a county project. But he says it if carried out it could convince the county to scuttle the project.

“I believe if we do it correctly (the county) will re-look at what they’re building,” he said.

On trash, he wants to create of list of 10 yet-to-be-determined “hot spots” where garbage collection efforts would be focused.

“Our city has become filthy. I was cautioned not to use that word. As an elected official I’m embarrassed to drive around this city,” he said.

Lastly, he said, he wants to make sure the city’s data is safe from hackers.

Harrell said it was appropriate for him to sign the orders, despite his very temporary tenure.

“This is work that needs to get done. The Amazon work needs to get done. The youth jail work needs to get done,” he said.

Harrell also revisited his comments on abuse sex abuse victims; on Wednesday, after getting sworn into office, he offered a convoluted answer when asked by media about the impact of the sex abuse allegations against Murray, and the deference he and other councilmembers paid to Murray for months. On Friday he tried to be more direct.

“To the survivors: I hear you. It was your voice that changed history in this city,” he said.

dperson@seattleweekly.com

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