SEATTLE -- Mayor Ed Murray is in the middle of several election battles this season. The most notable is his push for a big tax increase, $40 million per year, to save and even expand Metro bus service throughout the city.
C.R. Douglas sat down with the mayor Wednesday afternoon to discuss a number of topics, including why the bus system needs more tax dollars, especially after King County Metro recently found money in its budget to avoid many of the proposed cuts.
Douglas: Are you just rewarding Metro with this vote at a time when it should be reforming itself?
Murray: No. First of all Metro still will have to make cuts, and the cuts to Seattle will be significant. So, one the reasons we need to support Proposition 1 is because we’ve got to prevent those cuts. But they are reaching into their own reserves to do fewer cuts. That gives us the opportunity to actually add bus service, something this city has needed. Something that I didn’t think we would get to for two or three years.
Douglas: How does this help people who don’t live in Seattle?
Murray: The more people who are on buses anywhere, there are fewer cars in the system. And it is a system. As well as we put money in this measure that will partner with other jurisdictions should they want to restore a route that Metro chooses to cut for people moving in and out of the city for work.
Also this season, Murray is leading the charge for a $58 million levy to create 2000 preschool slots for 3- and 4-year-olds. It’s competing against a measure that would set standards for the entire child care industry, serving all kids under 5.
Douglas: Why not that broader look, as opposed to this targeted, narrow approach you are taking?
Murray: The proposal the Council and I put on the ballot actually funds preschool starting next fall for 3- and 4-year-olds. The other plan does not do that. There is not single dime attached to paying for preschool.
Douglas: This is going to raise property taxes, some say it’s going to make Seattle more expensive. It could push people and businesses out of the city.
Murray: I actually think when you pay for pre-k for kids who are struggling, you’re making the city much more economically fair.
On the police front, the mayor scored a win recently when a federal judge threw out a lawsuit by a group of police officers who claimed the new use-of-force policy actually puts them in danger by taking away their ability to control suspects.
Douglas: The lawsuit is gone, but the grievance isn’t. What do you do to those hundred officers who still feel like they are not being heard?
Murray: We’re going to work with the federal court and we’re going to work with the U.S. Justice Department. We are not going to fight them. The use-of-force policies will be put in place. I think we have a great new chief in Chief O’Toole, who’s working with the federal monitor to figure out how you make those things work on the ground. And I think she is making some headway. We’ve seen that just in Pike/Pine neighborhood, in Capitol Hill, where we have officers out policing, policing in force, and we saw a 42 percent drop in crime in that neighborhood.