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Battle over SPD already key issue in mayor’s race

Seattle City Councilman Tim Burgess is making the handling of the police department a key issue in his newly announced bid for mayor.

Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn and the City Council have clashed frequently over the police department and it’s already spilling over into next year’s campaign.

Councilmember Tim Burgess became the first legitimate contender to McGinn when he announced Tuesday he would challenge the mayor in 2013.

In an interview with Ross and Burbank, Burgess said McGinn’s style has alienated people, but he avoided directly attacking the mayor.

“I’m focused on what qualities I bring to the mayor’s office, should the people agree,” he said.

But Burgess, a former cop, journalist and small business owner, has been a frequent critic of the mayor for his handling of the Department of Justice investigation of SPD and has led the council’s efforts to appoint a strong federal monitor the mayor opposed.

“My colleagues and I on the council have been very frustrated by the way the mayor has approached the Department of Justice matters. We stood very firm on the appointment of the federal monitor and it has been frustrating that things have not advanced as rapidly as we would like,” he said.

Burgess refused to give a blanket endorsement to Chief John Diaz, saying he would review all city department heads, including the chief, if elected.

“Hiring a police chief is probably the mayor’s single most important appointment or decision,” he said.

Burgess’ announcement comes as the department finds itself embroiled in another controversy about excessive force, this time the alleged choking and punching of a suspect by a Seattle police officer caught on video.

He said he hasn’t watched the entire video and won’t comment on whether the cop in the case went too far.

“I think what’s important in this case, and in all cases of alleged police misconduct, is whether or not a council member or the people of Seattle have trust and confidence that the leadership of the police department is going to properly investigate and review the case and make the right decision,” Burgess said. “I think that’s an area in recent years where frankly, we’ve been challenged.”

Burgess and McGinn have also been at odds on a number of other issues. The councilmember was among those actively supporting the deep-bore tunnel to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct while McGinn actively opposed it.

Burgess and the mayor also clashed over a measure to crack down on aggressive panhandling, with the mayor vetoing a bill Burgess supported that would have imposed a $50 fine or community service.

And Burgess said while he has nothing against bike riders, his ideas on transportation are far more balanced than McGinn. They mayor is frequently criticized for his perceived favoring of bike riders at the expense of everyone else.

“I’m not against people riding their bikes, but it’s important that our transportation service serve all users of our streets and sidewalks,” he said. “I believe very firmly we should fix what we have and finish what we have started while we are planning for the future.”

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