GEE AND URSULA
Seattle mayor wants collaboration between stakeholders to fix downtown
Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell began to reveal details of his vision of a new downtown during his appearance on The Gee & Ursula Show.
“We want to see downtown improvements,” explained Harrell. “We want higher office occupancy. We want more small business, businesses. We have a range of solutions. This has to be sustainable.”
Harrell also talked about his effort to hire 500 police officers in five years. Something Ursula thought he was behind on.
“So we’re doing everything possible. I feel very optimistic. By changing our systems, we’ve decreased the time waiting to be hired by 50%. We’ve hired a recent new police innovation recruitment manager. We’ve increased the number of entry and lateral exam administrations,” Harrell said. “I tell people listening to this, please apply. We have a $30,000 bonus for lateral transfers. $7,500 bonus for new recruits. So we want people who want to serve our community to go to seattle.gov/police and work with us because we’re going to change the city for good and we’re going to protect our city.”
A new vision for downtown Seattle
Harrell said that he wanted to develop a new downtown based on data. He said he needs crime stats to go down. He wants downtown to become more appealing to small businesses. Harrell said he is committed to getting more stakeholders involved.
“When I walked the streets with my executive team just a week and a half ago, I’m seeing things, I’m talking to small business owners that caused me some great pause,” Harrell said. “I believe one of the criticisms that I would agree with is that people still want to know more specifics, so I laid out the strategy and the framework. And I did want to say that, what we’ll announce here, within the next five or six weeks, involves some changes in the law.”
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Gee wanted to know what Harrell’s vision was for a new downtown.
“What does safety look like? What does fun look like? What does a great experience look like? Once we get input from the stakeholders, we build that, and we create that,” Harrell said. “I want to be the envy of the country. I’m trying to get people to put their skin in the game and say, ‘Why do you go downtown? Or why do you go somewhere else than downtown?’ That’s why it’s rooted in public safety.”
How will the homeless and mental health issues be handled?
Much of the criticism of people’s experiences downtown is the number of homeless people they see. They have said this is not conducive to bringing your family downtown.
“There are so many people that we know need help downtown. I want to see the healthcare workers. I want to see people working doing this work to get them to treatment,” Harrell said. “Because people are asking, ‘Well, what happens to some of the people who are just doing bad things downtown, whether it’s [a] drug user having mental illness crisis, what happens if they get treated?'”
Harrell said people literally need to see government dollars at work. “I did talk about an executive order centered on our strategies around health. I want people to see it’s helping other people, we’re making these investments in the county, and the state are partners in this work.”
Bringing workers back to the office
Ursula cited a study by the Downtown Seattle Association that showed only 55% of downtown workers are back at the office. She wanted to know what he could do to bring people back downtown.
“We’re showing the leadership we want to see, for example, close to 70% of my workers work five days a week. I mandated that before many others to come back to work, with some discussions work with our labor unions,” Harrell said. “There are other jurisdictions that have not done that at all. Amazon announced they’re having a three-day come back to work effort. But again, I was speaking to a panel of small business owners around downtown about this issue.”
Listen to Gee Scott and Ursula Reutin weekday mornings from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. on KIRO Newsradio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.