Seattle mayor Ed Murray gave his 4th State of the City Address Tuesday, outlining several new proposals and positioning Seattle in sharp contrast with proposed federal policies on immigration enforcement and deportation.
The venue for the the speech was not at Seattle City Hall, instead it was given at the Idris Mosque in Seattle’s Northgate neighborhood, in what the mayor called a show of solidarity with the city’s Muslim community.
“We are here, because we are a welcoming city to all,” Murray said as he opened his speech. “We stand in support and solidarity with the Muslim members of the Seattle community.”
Murray announced he wants to know exactly what President Donald Trump has planned for cities like Seattle that vow to resist federal immigration enforcement actions.
The mayor said Seattle was filing public records requests with the Department of Homeland Security and other federal agencies seeking information about the Trump administration’s definition of “sanctuary cities” and what “enforcement actions the federal government may take against us.”
Seattle has vowed to protect immigrants and refugees and to not help federal authorities. Murray has instructed city departments to rework budgets to prepare for the possibility that federal dollars could be lost if Trump cuts aid.
The Trump administration, in documents released the same day as the address, cited a larger number of people living in the U.S. illegally who the administration considers a priority for deportation, including people arrested for traffic violations.
Murray said he also wants information about changes to federal travel and immigration policy, including a program designed to protect people brought as children to the U.S. illegally.
“We believe that the rule of law is on our side, and we will take legal action if the federal government does not answer our requests in a timely manner,” Murray said.
And Murray said he would convene a summit of mayors in the region to explore ways they can be welcoming places “for all.”
The Idris Mosque was the first of its kind designed in the Arabesque architecture style to be built west of the Mississippi River, opening in 1981. The mosque has opened its doors to Muslims and non-Muslims alike in serving the Seattle community for more than 30 years. Both the City and Idris Mosque are committed to the American ideal of separation of church and state.
Treating Homelessness as a State of Emergency
On the issue of the city’s homelessness, Murray said he has asked business leaders and council members to come up with a funding package to help provide housing for the homeless.
The plan could increase property taxes by about $150 a year for the median Seattle household and would raise $55 million a year to pay for increased homeless services.
“As you know, this would not have been my first choice, we had hoped for a partnership with the federal government, but again we are on our own,” he said.
On other city issues, the mayor hopes to qualify a measure for the August ballot that would hike taxes on residential and commercial properties to pay for more mental health and addiction treatment and housing.
Murray will also activate the city’s emergency operations center for as long as needed to respond to people living on the streets. The center is typically only used during severe storms, natural disasters or massive city events.
The city says it will apply the coordination and communication tools of the emergency operations center to address homelessness in the city.
Murray declared a statement of emergency in late 2015 as the number of people living outside spiked.
The mayor is also proposing a soda tax of $0.02 per ounce, which he says could help raise about $16 million a year for education programs. [24×7]