Campaign Kick-Off Speech

The following is from Jenny’s campaign kick-off speech at Pac Med Center on May 12

The Proven Progressive Leader Seattle Needs Now

Seattle is my home, and has helped make me what I am. I was born here, just like my mom. It was the city of my youth and it is where Dana and I have raised our sons.

I love this city, and the quirky, fun, irreverent, and engaged people that live here.

When I was a kid, I watched the Space Needle being built. I remember looking up and feeling awe and wonder. One of my brothers told me there was a secret rocket launching pad under it. I believed him.

The theme of that World’s Fair was the future — and Seattle embraced the challenge. We became the city that invents the future, not just for our region, but for the nation.

We shape industries and the culture. We spark movements for marriage equality and police reform, to raise wages, and save lives from gun violence.

We are a city that leads.

We are the city that gave you coffee on every street corner, the everything store on your phone, bone marrow transplants that cure cancer, computers and airplanes that unlock the world, and the ability to buy four gallons of mayonnaise in one tub.

Workers here won the fight for higher wages and voters showed gridlocked politicians what gun safety and accountability look like.

We are a city that has lead the nation on LGBTQ rights. I am proof of that.

In addition to leading on marriage equality and civil rights, Seattle delivered another first for equality that meant a lot to me personally. The office of United States Attorneys was created in 1789, even before the Department of Justice. But until President Barack Obama nominated me in 2009, no openly gay person had ever served as US Attorney. I was honored and proud to break that barrier. And it is no surprise that it happened here.

Today, Seattle has shining new towers and is an engine of the innovation economy. But we are also a city caught in shifting times.

In too many ways, for too many people, our incredible success is creating two Seattles. Too many people are being locked out, and too many cannot keep up with rising costs. The price of that first home, that first toehold in this great city, keeps climbing, beyond the reach of so many. And rents aren’t any better. The costs of living and raising a family here dwarf the rise in most wages.

And, in the shadows of those shining new towers, too many people are living in tents, doorways and cars.

I am running for Mayor because I believe we can bring light and love to those shadows. I believe we can reweave our frayed social fabric. I believe we can solve the problems we face, if we tackle them together.

I believe we can build a Seattle for the future generations that keeps our unique combination of grit, humor and determination. We can build a future that is more just and equitable.

Because that is who we are. That is the City where I grew up. That is the City where I raised my children. That is the City I love.

But our City, like our country, is at a crossroads. We face big city challenges now.

I want to talk about three of them.

The first is police reform and accountability. The last few years, we saw too many cities erupt around these issues. Fortunately, Seattle was ahead of most cities. We are now a national model for police reform, particularly in the areas of crisis intervention. Our police all have been trained in national leading crisis intervention practices. They partner with mental health professionals and deescalate situations every day. This has saved lives, is making a difference on the streets, and has improved the relations between the community and the officers that serve them. These reforms occurred in large part because of my leadership as US Attorney. As Mayor, I will make sure progress continues. We will not go backwards.

I signed the original consent decree and, as Mayor, I look forward to meeting full compliance so the order is no longer needed. That consent decree put a framework for reform in place, but it up to the hard work of our police officers, their leaders, and independent oversight to make sure that reform takes root in practice. Our cops — and the members of our community who never gave up on reform — deserve the credit.

A second big issue we need to face is homelessness. We are a generous and compassionate city. But our approach to the problem has not moved enough people out of tents, off the streets and into housing. We must treat the homeless with compassion, dignity and respect. But the causes of homelessness are complex and varied and cannot be solved with a one size fits all approach. We have pathways we can follow. As Mayor, I will continue to build public/private partnerships to solve this problem; I will focus on making sure no kid ever has to sleep in a car, or on the street. And we will direct more resources for mental health and drug dependency treatment and support.

Finally, we have to address the fact that housing in Seattle has just become too expensive. Too many people just cannot afford to live here. Houses are too expensive and rents are sky high.  And those that are lucky enough to own homes see their property taxes increasing to amounts that just are not affordable.

Because of Mayor Murray’s leadership on HALA, our building boom will result in more affordable units and millions of dollars targeted for affordable housing options. As Mayor, I will make sure we use that money wisely. I will also explore ways to go to Olympia and reduce the property tax burden for older homeowners, lower income owners and landlords providing affordable housing.

In short, our economic growth gives us the opportunity to invent the future on our terms – showing the nation what it means to police effectively with respect for civil rights, to support workers in the 21st century, to tackle homelessness with compassion and smarts, and to spend less time sitting in traffic or driving over potholes and more time with our families.

Tackling our challenges is not optional. With the blessings we have been given, it is a moral obligation. The solutions can and must come from us. And the solutions must come by rolling up our sleeves, and working together.

But big challenges will not divert us from sweating the “little things.” As your Mayor, I will be relentlessly focused on the basics first. I will make sure you get what you pay for. From filling pot holes, to clearing snow storms, to restoring power, to caring for our parks — in a Durkan administration we will not lose track of the basics.

We also will make sure our first responders — the firefighters and police who keep us safe – have the people, training and resources they need to do the job. When you dial 911 — you will continue to get the help you need.

I cannot end without addressing where we are not just as a City — but where we are as a nation.  I want my kids to know, and all of you to know, that President Trump’s vision for America is not my vision for America. It is not Seattle’s vision for America.

And I can promise you that neither Donald Trump, nor his head of Immigration services nor Jeff Sessions is going to tell us how to run our city, protect our people or build our future.

And they do not want to pick a fight with me.

What is our vision for America?

We believe in science, and we will continue to lead on climate solutions and building the clean energy economy.

We welcome and protect immigrants from every country and of every faith.

We fight to ensure every child gets basic rights including education, healthcare and shelter.

We believe in full social justice and equality, and will fight for it in every program.

We believe that the most successful economy is one with a diverse base of jobs, better wages, more apprenticeships, and broader opportunity.

We also know that without our successful businesses, we are lost. We will work to support and keep a vibrant and diverse range of businesses, so they can continue to invent the future.

We will take extra care to nurture the small businesses that form the backbone and provide the vitality to so many neighborhoods.

Can we do all of this?

Yes. We can. And we must.  No one, including me, has all of the answers. And we usually don’t lack ideas or rhetoric. But we will need leadership to get past the noise, pull people together and get things done.

That is the kind of Mayor I will be.

Police reform, affordable housing and homelessness are only three of the significant challenges we face. But I believe they are ones that are critical to our future and as Mayor they will be top priorities.

Seattle is still a place of wonder and opportunity. A city of hope and promise. And it needs to be that for everyone. As your Mayor, working together, we can make it so.

In close, I had the announcement here today for a very special reason. At one time, a man almost broken by WWII spent about a year here. It was then a naval hospital and he was a naval lieutenant injured in a catastrophic accident at the end of the war. He lay in a bed for months at a time, while doctors and time put him back together. He almost died and was given last rites multiple times. He was told he might lose his legs or maybe never walk again. But he defied the odds.

He walked out of this building and entered the UW on the GI bill.

That man, that sailor who fought and almost died for his country was my father.

Seattle literally rebuilt him, and gave him a new life.

So this building is a symbol of the renewal Seattle has always believed in. This building has stood here for generations. It was a hospital. It was the home of Amazon, a company that changed our City. It now is the home to vibrant non-profits, college learning and positive programs.

It is time for that same spirit of renewal throughout our city.

We plan on taking this campaign to every neighborhood in Seattle.

I will listen. I will learn. And I will lead.