Harrell Declines To Stay On As Mayor, Issues Executive Order On Youth Jail

by Emerald Staff

Two days after assuming the role of interim mayor following Ed Murray’s resignation, Bruce Harrell announced he would decline to fulfill the remainder of Murray’s term.

Speaking at a press conference at City Hall on Friday afternoon, Harrell, who was surrounded by family and city staff, said he would  not continue on as mayor. The interim mayor cited unfinished business in District 2, which he’s represented the past 2 years since the city council went to representation by geographic district.

“Issues in District 2 are always alarming […] It made sense to stay put rather than put more of my energy in another position,” Harrell said.

Prior to announcing his decision, Harrell rolled out four different Executive Orders he oversaw during his  brief tenure as Seattle’s mayor, including re-evaluating the city’s relationship with Amazon.

However, his order on King County’s Family Justice Center, called a “youth jail” by juvenile justice reform advocates may have been the most notable.

“I’ve been inside it and it is a youth jail,”  explained Harrell, who was joined by King County Council Member Rod Dembowski. The two previously authored a Stranger Op-Ed calling for the County to reassess the complex’s construction. 

Harrell announced that the order will direct the city to either lease or build alternative facilities for incarcerated youth to be held. According to Harrell, some of the facilities will potentially be located outside of the city.

The interim mayor, he spoke to King County Executive Dow Constantine earlier in the day, said this approach will better help the city embrace its stated goal of zero-percent youth detention, and also might lead King County into re-evaluation it’s design and necessity of the $210 million complex slated to be built in the Squire Park neighborhood on 12th and Alder this spring. 

However, Harrell did acknowledge that the order wouldn’t necessarily halt construction on the facility.

He also addressed the controversy around Mayor Murray’s resignation due to allegations of  child sexual abuse, directly referencing the former mayor’s accusers.

“To the survivors I hear you. It was your voice that changed the history of this city. It was your voice that prompted me to ask this city to heal. Justice and karma are universal laws of light,” Harrell said.

When asked why he was issuing executive orders though he planned to relinquish the office, Harrell said that “the work needed to get done,” whether he was mayor “for one day or one year.”

The incoming mayor will be under no obligation to carry out executive orders issued by Harrell.

If Harrell would have assumed the position for the remainder of Murray’s term he would have had to relinquish his position as the Council’s District 2 (South Seattle) representative, as well as his role as the Council President.

Harrell will stay on as mayor pro-tem, with all the powers afforded to the mayor, until the City Council picks from amongst their own. Harrell expressed he was confident the council would fill the position at Monday’s Full City Council meeting.

It is widely believed that the council will select either outgoing Councilmember Tim Burgess (District 8). Burgess announced earlier in the year that he would be retiring from public life. Early Monday morning Councilmember Lorena Gonzalez, who is the council president pro tem, issued a statement that she would not accept a mayoral appointment, so she could focus on her re-election campaign for the council’s District 9 seat. 

In the unlikely scenario where no mayor is selected, Harrell would remain mayor pro-tem until November’s general mayoral election between candidates Jenny Durkan and Cary Moon is certified by King County Elections, on November 28.

Harrell expressed that he met with both Durkan and Moon to ensure a smooth mayoral transition. 

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