Today, I was sworn in for my fifth term as a Seattle City Councilmember by my wife, Andrea Okomski. You can watch it via this link to the Seattle Channel.
Also taking their oaths of office were re-elected Councilmembers Sally Bagshaw and Mike O’Brien, City Attorney Pete Holmes, and newly-elected Councilmember Kshama Sawant and Mayor Ed Murray (Edward Bernard Patrick Murray).
The inauguration ceremonies began with a stunning rendition of the National Anthem sung by Pastor Patrinell Wright of the Total Experience Gospel Choir. Later, Washington State Poet Laureate Kathleen Flenniken read her amazing poem, “Views of Seattle.” I cannot imagine a more moving reflection of our city in these times. (Kathleen read for my Words’ Worth poetry program in the summer of 2012, which you can view via this link to the Seattle Channel)
Below, is the speech I wrote for my inauguration:
First, I want to thank the organizers of the inauguration for including our State Poet Laureate Kathleen Flenniken. What better way to start the political year, than with some poetry to inspire us. Perhaps this year, Seattle could even establish its own City Poet.
But, right now, I want thank all of you for allowing me to serve as your Councilmember, which I believe is the best job in Seattle – sorry Mayor Murray, you may not have known that. Truly, the City Council is where the action will be. And there will be a lot this year.
For instance, I see some t-shirts out there supporting a $15 minimum wage. A number of council members are with you. And I thank the Mayor for getting this effort underway so quickly, even before being sworn in.
I’m impressed and I think we all should be. We also have other critically important legislation before us to make Seattle affordable.
The Council will work with the Mayor to create an Office of Labor Standards to assure that all businesses are following the law, providing paid sick leave, not holding back employee’s earned wages, and allowing an opportunity for all to be fairly considered for a job. The Council will continue pursuing principle reduction strategies so that the thousands of Seattle homeowners facing foreclosure can retain their homes. Some Seattle residents have seen up to half of their life savings lost. The Council will continue to work to have no family on the streets at night, in our otherwise rich city, without decent shelter for them and their children. I can see thousands of apartments and condos going up around the city. Personally, I ask, why can’t we see just one safe, secure and well-managed shelter to serve as a transition to permanent housing for families and children sleeping outside?
I believe must extend our Race and Social Justice goals to businesses receiving city assistance in order for them to grow and create jobs. We need to not only create more jobs, we need to create jobs for Seattle residents – particularly from the high number of unemployed youth in our minority communities. And we are creating good jobs. The average high tech job in Seattle pays over $80,000 a year.
People are coming here looking for jobs. In the last 20 years, we have added over 100,000 residents. The previous 20 years we were flat.
We can agree that growth and prosperity are good but the market alone will not provide prosperity for everyone. That is why there is a role for the public sector to play if we want Seattle to grow and be affordable for our employees.
Let me end on this note, our Chamber of Commerce pointed out that Seattle was named by Kiplinger’s as one of the “10 Best Cities for this Decade.” Let’s make Seattle the best — for all of us. I look forward to a very exciting year.
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