Durkan defends her term as Seattle Mayor, says legacy will be City’s pandemic response

SEATTLE — On Thursday, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan defended her 4-year term as Seattle’s mayor.

“Our administration has been defined by the pandemic,” said Durkan in an interview with KIRO7.

“And today, even though we were the first ones in, City of Seattle has the lowest incidences of disease, hospitalizations and mortality rate of any city in the country. That only happens by really hard work,” said Durkan.

She also celebrated the roughly $2.5 billion invested into more affordable housing units in Seattle, as well as ushering an NHL team to Seattle and launching Seattle Promise, a program that guarantees two years of tuition-free education at Seattle colleges.

Some instead will remember her term for her response to the protests during the summer of 2020.

Durkan said she believed she addressed both the pandemic and the protests with a similar approach: finding a common goal, relying on experts, and relaying necessary information to the public.

She said a lack of unity among city leaders hindered her in decisions in police reform or to clear the protest zone in Capitol Hill.

“I had seven city council members who said we’re going to cut the police by 50%, and the conflict between us really came from me saying no,” said Durkan.

When asked if she wished she had shown more strength or forceful political will during that period, Durkan said she felt it her job to de-escalate the situation.

“I don’t know how you show more strength when you have so many forces aligned on so many sides. You had such volatility coming from the president, coming from their response. Many people thought I should be more forceful against the police. Others thought I should be more forceful against the protesters. My job as mayor is, how do we de-escalate this and calm this down?”

In November, a lawsuit was filed on behalf of Horace Anderson and the estate of his deceased son, Lorenzo Anderson, a 19-year-old who was shot near the Capitol Hill Occupied Protest zone.

On June 20, 2020, Anderson was taken to Harborview, where he later died.

The lawsuit holds Durkan, City council member Kshama Sawant and the City of Seattle responsible for the death.

Durkan knows she lost the trust of some in the City. She recognized that mistrust has been exacerbated by missing text messages from Durkan and seven other City leaders from August 2019 until June 2020.

A spokesperson for the City Attorney’s Office told KIRO7 that they’re still waiting on a forensics report that should detail why those text messages were automatically deleted and out of public record.

Durkan said she did not do anything to destroy those text messages.

“I was in front of the cameras sometimes two or three times a day. Chief Best was there. We were very public about what we were doing and why we were doing it,” said Durkan.

Durkan said it’s important that the City is transparent with the public and press, and that extends to phone records.

In April, the Mayor’s Office became the first in the city to start auto-saving text messages to a citywide server.

Durkan said she’s undecided on what she’ll do after her term ends but added that she’ll always be civically involved.

“I’m going to take some time, take some time with my family. It’s been super impactful on them,” she said.

Durkan became emotional talking about the dozens of threats she and her family received over her term.

Some of those threats have violently targeted her and her family.

Protesters marched and rallied outside her house multiple times in the summer of 2020.

Mayor-Elect Bruce Harrell will start his term as mayor on Jan. 1.

There will be a swear-in ceremony on Jan. 4 at City Hall.