Seattle mayor focuses on bringing public safety in State of the City

SEATTLE — Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell unveiled his plan to tackle the city’s most daunting problems on Tuesday.

In his first state of the city address, Harrell pledged to mend fences and work with the city council to address crime, homelessness and a looming budget shortfall.

Public safety dominated the mayor’s speech.

“The challenges facing Seattle are some of the most difficult the city ha sever faced,” Harrell said.

Harrell acknowledged the struggles small businesses have been coping with for years.

“The status quo is unacceptable,” Harrell said. “It seems every day I hear stories of long time small businesses closing or leaving our city,” He said.

On Leary Way in Ballard, Sutter Home & Hearth sells fireplaces and barbecues.

“The last two years since Covid has hit has been the worst I’ve ever seen it,” siad Daniel Hammer, owner of the store.

Not far away, the owner of shoe store “re-souL” says as far as he knows, no business on Ballard Ave has been spared.

“We’ve had a lot of break ins. The whole city has seen break ins,” said Legh Burns, owner of re-souL. “I’d like to see going forward that city hall has a better relationship with the police dept and that we can grow public safety in a smart way,” Burns said. “I want to know when I call, someone is going to answer me.”

Harrell says the city has a plan to bringing on more officers. The city has funding to hire 125 new officers in 2022, and will roll out a recruiting campaign.

Harrell also said he worked with the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission bring in a 36 new officers.

“June of 2022 will have a special Seattle-only focused class at the police academy,” Harrell said.

On homelessness, the mayor says he’s working to make response more efficient.

“When we entered office, the city had six different departments tracking outreach to homeless and vulnerable neighbors,” Harrell said. That’s been changed to one system to streamline efforts.

“We can help people living unsheltered and restore parks and make sidewalks accessible for all,” Harrell said.

The city is also launching a better way for people to report concerns about encampments.

“If someone wanted to report their concern about an encampment with the city, the city didn’t have a centralized system to log their report and act. Now for the first time we’re putting the necessary people and processes in place to address the 1,500 reports since we’ve taken office,” Harrell said.

In December, before Harrell took office, the city closed large encampments at: Green Lake, Broadview Thompson and the Ballard Commons.

Harrell said now his office is working with people in the lower Woodland Park community to get that camp cleared and people into shelter or housing.

“We can and will set a new tone and new example on what can be achieved,” Harrell said.

Harrell said a new homeless housing plan will be announced in conjunction with the King County next week.