by: Graham Johnson Updated:
Seattle's incoming mayor took the first step Thursday toward raising the city's minimum wage as high as $15 per hour.
Mayor-elect Ed Murray introduced a group of business and labor leaders who are supposed to come up with a plan in four months.
As Murray introduced his income inequality panel, he asked, "Is this going to be a city of the rich or is this going to be a city that is diverse?"
With diversity in mind, Murray invited people onto his panel with very different views.
Murray says he wants a recommendation, preferably a consensus, within four months so he can send a proposal to the city council by the end of July.
He acknowledges the panel might come up with majority and minority reports.
Labor leader David Rolf, president of SEIU 77NW, will co-chair the panel with Howard S. Wright III, CEO of Seattle Hospitality Group.
Wright told KIRO 7 the two co-chairs will meet Monday.
"I wanted to contribute, getting out ahead of this so that there would be a good recommendation passed versus a bad initiative adopted at the polls," Wright said.
Murray also wants to avoid a vote.
But a ballot measure is possible because Socialist council member-elect Kshama Sawant says she'll start gathering signatures if city leaders don't quickly pass a $15 per hour minimum wage.
"My commitment is unwavering and unshakable on getting $15 an hour and making progress on making Seattle an affordable city," Sawant said Thursday.
Murray invited Sawant to join his panel, two days after she held her own news conference calling 2014 the year of the $15 minimum wage.
KIRO 7's Graham Johnson asked Murray at his news conference if he had been upstaged on the issue by Sawant.
"Not at all," he replied. "The thing I want to do is make a difference in people's lives. Credit can go where credit goes."
Murray later added: "To change the lives of people who can't make enough to live on - that's what this is about. This is not about a mayor who needs attention."