On Monday, the Seattle City Council voted to appoint decade-long councilmember Tim Burgess as the 55th Mayor of Seattle. The appointment followed the resignation of Ed Murray after a fifth man accused him of sexual abuse, and will last until late November. Burgess took the oath of office a little after 5 p.m.
Murray’s resignation triggered a round of musical chairs at City Hall. On Wednesday, Council President Bruce Harrell became Mayor Harrell, which caused Councilmember M. Lorena González to become Council President pro tem, but both switched back to their original positions on Monday evening when Burgess took the oath of office. Burgess forfeits the rest of his term, which would have lasted through the end of this year. That shortness of time is part of why he was appointed: Burgess and González are the only two Councilmembers for whom accepting the interim mayor position wouldn’t mean forfeiting two years on the Council.
Councilmembers hope to vote by next week on who will fill Burgess’ now-empty seat until it is filled by either Teresa Mosqueda or Jon Grant after the election results are certified; that’s also when Burgess will be replaced by either Cary Moon or Jenny Durkan. Ex-Councilmember Nick Licata has requested consideration for the interim council position. The Council is on the cusp of budget season, arguably the most important work it does all year.
There had been speculation that González would also seek the temporary mayor’s seat; but on Monday morning, González announced in a press release that she would not. That decision clinched the appointment for Burgess. It was also preceded by some drama in City Hall wherein González rebuked Bagshaw for saying that González may not be a good fit for the mayor’s position because she’s “getting married, and she’s a (council) candidate.”
— M. Lorena González (@MLorenaGonzalez) September 16, 2017
Lorena and friends, I sincerely apologize to CM @MLorenaGonzalez. I had no intention to offend or to demean.
— Sally Bagshaw (@sallybagshaw) September 16, 2017
The Monday afternoon vote in favor of Burgess becoming the new mayor coincided with a resolution sponsored by Councilmember Kshama Sawant in support of U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders’ single-payer/Medicare for All bill. That issue dominated public comment, and a large portion of the audience left chambers after that vote occurred near the beginning of the meeting.
Councilmember Lisa Herbold and acting-mayor Bruce Harrell were absent. Because the mayor’s job pays more than Council, Burgess recused himself from the mayoral replacement vote, on the advice of the city’s ethics office.
Most of Burgess’ colleagues waxed poetic about his integrity, compassion, and sense of civic duty. González said that her relationship with Burgess is “one I’ve truly valued, particularly as a freshman legislator.” Multiple councilmembers thanked Burgess for his mentorship. “You’re solid. You’re dependable. You will make an excellent mayor,” said Bagshaw.
Sawant was the sole no-vote against Burgess, based on his record as a legislator and support for “yet another business-as-usual budget, with a bloated police department,” she said. Without her vote, there was a bare Council majority—five votes—in favor of Burgess’ appointment. Sawant cited Burgess’ sponsorship of a 2010 law that would given police more authority to ticket panhandlers. “I do not support a mayor who is pro-sweeps, as [Burgess] has been,” she said, referring to evictions of homeless encampents.
“This is certainly not the way that anyone would have chosen to become mayor, but it is where we’re at today,” said Burgess after the vote. He promised to quickly deliver a proposed budget to Council. “It will be balanced, it will be fair and just, and it will uphold Seattle’s progressive values,” he said.
At his swearing-in ceremony, which occurred after the council meeting adjourned, Burgess was surrounded by elected officials from the city, county, and state governments, including County Executive Dow Constantine and state senator Jamie Pedersen. “We are united to make certain our governments work well for the people of our region,” said Burgess.
It’s too early to say who the Council will select as an interim councilmember, though they expect to have it done by next week. Licata, who served from 1998 through 2015, says he’d be able to hit the ground running if appointed. “I’d see my role basically to make sure the Council can get the job done as quickly as possible,” he said on Monday, referring to the budget, “particularly in this time of unexpected, rapid changes.” Licata, who has a reputation in City Hall as a numbers whiz, estimates he served as budget chair “literally a third of the time I was on City Council.” He emailed a letter of interest to Council staff about the interim position this past weekend.