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Sawant: Council should make political statement over Mayor Murray

Four men have come forward, accusing Seattle Mayor Ed Murray of sex abuse. (AP image)

Councilmember Lorena Gonzalez was not as adamant Monday as she previously was about urging Seattle Mayor Ed Murray to step down. But her council colleague Kshama Sawant didn’t hold back.

“If we say a lot and then it’s a normal transition [to the next mayor], then ultimately where do we stand with sexual violence survivors?” Sawant said during the council’s Monday morning briefing. “Are we going to take the kind of action demanded by the situation or not? Those are the questions facing us. It’s not entirely administrative and legal, it’s primarily political.”

RELATED: Mayor Murray will not resign from office

Sawant was absent during last week’s briefing when Gonzalez asked for Murray to consider stepping down. The request came after it was discovered that an investigator in 1984 concluded that Murray sexually abused his foster son. She also promoted forming a council committee to ease the transition to a new administration.

Murray replied in a July 21 letter reaffirming that he is not leaving office early. He supported the idea of setting up a committee to ease transitions between mayors:

Given our shared interest and your recommendations, I would like to propose something innovative: a joint mayor-council transition coordination committee to execute a plan for ensuring a smooth transition of power to the next mayor and newly seated city council.

Murray wrote that he has assigned his chief of staff, Mike Fong, and Director of Operations Fred Podesta to work with Council President Bruce Harrell to set up the transition committee.

“I’m incredibly grateful that he took the time to listen and that he took the time to respond in the manner that he did,” Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez’s statements Monday were vague as to whether or not she still wants Murray to resign. She said she favor’s the mayor’s transitional committee idea. She also said that the council should be prepared for any situation. Gonzalez said that the decision for Murray to leave office is his alone, but that a cloud lays over city hall amid the allegations.

“It provides us both with an opportunity to have assurances and an independent understanding of whether the mayor is continuing to be effective in his role as mayor given his position that he will not resign,” she said.

Transitioning from Murray

Gonzalez hasn’t been the only person to suggest Murray should resign. The city’s LGBTQ commission has asked him to step down as well. But in his letter, Murray argued it would be a bad transition to the next administration if he resigned. That sentiment is echoed in a letter from four former Seattle mayors, which states that such a sudden departure would hamper day-to-day operations at the city.

Sawant, however, disagrees.

“Obviously there will be some challenge, but I do believe that challenge is being exaggerated,” Sawant said. “I mean, all the work is being done by the people who run the departments and the people who work under the heads of the department. That work will continue. There will be, obviously, some transition.”

“So I urge the council to not emphasize that transition so much and keep in mind that it is an important task we have of making a political statement in favor of sexual violence survivors,” she said.

“It is unacceptable that a mayor of a major city is using his position to amplify those attacks,” Sawant added. “When he questions the legitimacy of his accusers’ allegations, it gets a platform that the survivors don’t have. It’s a unique situation that deserves an unprecedented response.”

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