By Travis Quezon
Northwest Asian Weekly
Over 600 people rallied in support of Seattle City Councilmember Bruce Harrell’s bid for mayor during his Feb. 7 campaign kick-off at the First African Methodist Episcopal Church on Capitol Hill.
Harrell told the multicultural crowd, made up predominantly of African American and Asian supporters, that he was ushering in a new beginning for the city — calling for new leadership and a renewed focus on education, gangs, the police department, and environmental sustainability.
“This mayoral candidacy is about rewriting the rules in Seattle, changing the way we think, which will
change the way we act,” Harrell said. “We are talking about a rebirth in the city, physically, politically, socially, and spiritually.”
Born to a Japanese American mother and an African American father, Harrell was a practicing attorney before being elected to the Seattle City Council in 2007.
He will be competing in a crowded mayoral race that thus far includes Seattle City Councilmember Tim Burgess, State Senator Ed Murray, former councilmember Peter Steinbruek, and real estate broker Charlie Staadecker, political newcomer David Ishii, and incumbent Mayor Mike McGinn. The race is expected to grow.
“ ‘A lack of resources’ is always the excuse of the unresourceful. What we have is not a lack of resources, it’s a lack of leadership. It’s a lack of commitment.”
Headed into the new year, McGinn continues to face a lagging economy and public concerns over traffic, public education, and an increase in population — struggles Harrell said can be overcome directly through good leadership.
“Leadership is when you put your differences aside, and you pull on something deep inside and say we can improve this city,” Harrell continued.
Harrell said immediate action must be taken in empowering the city’s youth.
“A city that values the progress of its children will act accordingly,” Harrell said. “And I assure you, we are not doing that.”
Seattle’s education system faces a wealth of criticism in the form of teacher-boycotted standardized tests and a less-than-stellar showing for African American, Latino, and Native American elementary students in core subjects, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress.
Jamie Asaka, a Seattle public schools educator and administrator who spoke at the campaign kick-off, said Harrell places a high value on education.
“He values the need to meet kids where they are,” Asaka said.
Harrell, a former University of Washington football standout, said that as mayor, he would concentrate on raising the quality and availability of extracurricular activities, which he said are key for students of low-income families to resist the pressures of gangs and drugs.
“The rule that gangs are just a way of life in our city, that we must accept them, is a rule I do not accept,” Harrell said. “I believe we can eradicate gangs in this city.”
Former Seattle Mayor Wes Uhlman, who also spoke at the rally, praised Harrell’s role as chair of the city council’s Public Safety, Civil Rights, and Technology committee.
“Bruce has been your diligent protector on the city council,” Uhlman said. “He kept an eye on the department (Seattle City Lights), made sure they were efficient, and made sure they didn’t raise our utility bills without excellent full justification.”
On the City Council, Harrell has championed public safety issues and police reform. As mayor, Harrell said he would hire community service officers who reflect the racially diverse and low-income communities they come from.
Harrell also said he would push for a $20 million endowment fund for public school students to attend their first year of community college free of fees.
“I believe we can illuminate and activate all of our streets,” Harrell said. “We can have a neighborhood where our police officers actually know our names. They are not there with armed shoulder. They are not to intimidate us — they are there to protect us. With the right focus and the right intensity, we can have people walking at night in nice LED lights, getting exercise, and talking to one another. We can have structure. We can have a vibrant city. But again, it needs focus.”
Current legislation put forward by Harrell is aimed at combating discrimination in hiring practices and reducing recidivism for people who have been arrested, convicted, or charged with a crime.
Jeff Zhou, who attended the campaign kick-off, said that he is looking forward to seeing the different ways Harrell can change the city.
“Bruce can bring some good planning and regularity into the management of the city,” said Zhou. (end)
Travis Quezon can be reached at email@example.com.