Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan gave the State of the City Address on Tuesday, marking the first time a female mayor delivered the address in Seattle. The annual speech didn't exist in the 1920s, the last time a woman — Bertha Knight Landes — was mayor.
Durkan said she has earned a nickname in City Hall in the three months since she took office.
"The impatient mayor," she said. "Seriously, it's what they call me."
Displaying that quality in her speech, she called for urgent action on multiple city issues, including the housing crisis and affordable bus services.
Durkan told the crowd progress is already underway to build a more affordable city. Hundreds of new affordable housing units are scheduled to open in Seattle this year, and the city has a new pilot program that offers rental assistance to families on the brink of homelessness.
Durkan acknowledged, however, that solving the city's affordability challenges will require working with businesses, community partners and county governments. That approach, she said, will take time and require more low income and middle class housing.
The new mayor also announced an initiative called ORCA Opportunity. Starting next fall, public high school students and students who are part of Seattle Promise, a community college scholarship program, will get free ORCA transit passes.
For “too many students in Rainier Beach and on Lake City Way, and for other parts of our city, getting to school means an unsafe trip, or a long walk in the cold and rain," Durkan said. "That's wrong. Here's what's right: that every student in Seattle has access to affordable, reliable transportation."
The ORCA program will be funded by King County Metro and the Seattle Department of Transportation during the first year. Free transit passes have been a priority topic for a number of community leaders, including former mayoral candidate Nikkita Oliver.
Another topic at top of mind for the mayor is public safety and policing. She is overseeing selection of Seattle’s next police chief and announced she wants the public’s input on who to tap for that critical post. Her office is asking people to fill out a survey online or in-person.
"Lasting reform requires deep cultural change, and a critical next step is having the right chief of the police, someone who is committed to the reform process that we have begun," Durkan said.
The Seattle Police Department recently finished a reform process intended to limit bias and increase training on use of force.
The mayor delivered her speech at Rainier Beach High School to a crowd of students and supporters.