NOTE: Middle East Eye just published my latest contribution, a report on the not-so-secret visit of a senior Saudi prince to Israel to discuss the deteriorating strategic position of their regional alliance. I hope you’ll give it a read and promote it via social media.
Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, besieged by a fifth victim of his alleged sexually abusive behavior, resigned today. The resignation was sudden and unexpected. Only a month ago or so Murray, beset with the four previous allegations, announced that he would not run for a second term. He pointedly refused to resign then.
His ordeal began when two adults, who were child victims at the time of the alleged sexual abuse, came forward with the first charges against him. He denied them and hired StandWithUs attorney, Rob Sulkin to defend him, though Sulkin is not a criminal lawyer. This is an indication of how close Murray is to Seattle’s pro-Israel community.
I wrote a Seattle Times op-ed criticizing him for accepting an Israeli government, expenses-paid junket to Israel where he keynoted an international conference touting Israel as an LGBT mecca. I also wrote here about StandWithUs’ decision to give a ‘human rights’ award to Murray in the midst of these allegations. It all seemed like the most venal form of exploitation and self-interest by both parties. SWU shamelessly offered no regret for its decision and stood by its man. Self-awareness and moral candor doesn’t seem to be this group’s stock-in-trade.
Murray did not only himself, but the city and especially the LGBT community a huge disservice through his stubborn refusal to bow out of his office near the outset of the crisis. If he’d done so, he could weather the charges now being brought against him as a private citizen, rather than in the glare of the public spotlight. Whatever career he would’ve sought for himself after leaving office is now much-diminished by the series of lurid allegations plaguing him.
Whatever sympathy one might have for Murray as a young gay man forced to live a twisted, repressed secret life is totally erased by his choice of paying minors for sex, exploiting the troubled lives of the foster boys he was supposed to mentor, and getting away with it for decades before he was finally exposed. I’m only glad he was named and shamed now, rather than finding he ran for office and was elected governor or U.S. senator at a later date, only to have the news come out then.
Even before these charges surfaced, I opposed Murray despite his supposed liberal credentials. He championed the state’s gay marriage law and rode to electoral success on its coattails. But he was always a corporate Democrat. Seattle politics, as in so many cities, is beholden to developer interests (not computer developers!). We face a veritable land rush due to the major expansion of Amazon’s corporate footprint throughout the city. There are seemingly more empty holes in the ground filled with construction equipment than there are extant office buildings. Downtown traffic is zooey around these projects. The noise is deafening. Real estate values are going through the roof. Nor does the city value its architectural heritage. It is erasing landmarks right and left, including the little house that was at the heart of the film, Up. Seattle can no longer be called a livable city unless you are a venture capitalist or computer engineer working for a well-paying tech company. If you are a young family just starting out in life, you will likely be closed out of living in the city unless you are willing to make major financial compromises.
As an example, I find the response by Seattle’s 1% to Amazon’s announcement that it would open a co-headquarters in a second U.S. city, to be ludicrous. Despite the fact that Amazon has added tens of thousands of new jobs here during its current expansion, when the company said it was beginning this new project, the vulture capitalists attacked the city’s leaders for planning a new city income tax. Washington State, with no state income tax, has one of the most regressive tax structures in the nation. The leader of the campaign against the city tax bemoaned Amazon’s announcement and claimed the city’s ‘hostile business climate’ was the reason the company was “leaving town.” The truth is that Amazon is not leaving Seattle. Nor has it ever complained about the city’s business climate. It has a solid commitment to the city of its birth that will not weaken.
Though Ed Murray didn’t start this political bromance with the city’s business interests, he embraced it with gusto. He never met an office development project he didn’t like. He essentially sold the city lock, stock and barrel to developers. And they repaid him by replenishing his coffers with campaign donations which might’ve carried him to much higher office had not the fates and his past intervened.
Murray’s political demise doesn’t mean that the corporate Democratic impulse is dead. On the contrary, there is another candidate ready to take his place. Former U.S. attorney, Jenny Durkan, is a mirror image of Murray. She has the support of the Chamber of Commerce types and their pocketbooks as well. She stood by Murray till the bitter end, only calling on him to leave office one hour before he resigned. Murray had endorsed her candidacy as soon as he announced he would not seek a second term. They are birds of a feather.
It remains to be seen whether this cozy relationship will hurt Durkan. Her progressive opponent, city planner Cary Moon, pointed our that she had called for Murray’s resignation month’s ago. Moon has far better credentials than Durkan in terms of standing for a social justice and equity agenda. Further, Seattle politics has taken a decided turn to the left in recent years. We have the only Socialist CIty Council member in the U.S. in Kshama Sawant. We also have two other strong feminist progressive Council members. The most conservative Council members have retired or been replaced. In the Trump age, centrist candidates have fared increasingly poorly here.
But though Seattle has a liberal reputation in the rest of the country, we are generally cautious liberals. We like to think we are liberal, but we don’t like radical change. And we really don’t like confrontation or in-your-face politics. So how Durkan fares in the fall election is an open question. It would nice to think that Seattle could become a second Burlington and birth a true progressive political movement here in the Pacific NW.