Mayor Jenny Durkan joined the World Affairs Council on November 13, 2018 at Cambia Grove for a discussion moderated by former Governor Christine Gregoire on Seattle as a global city and how to plan for a quickly expanding and changing future. A frontier for healthcare, cloud services, and cutting-edge research and development, Seattle has seen both foreign and domestic tech firms double in presence over the last four years—becoming the fastest-growing big city in the United States. They discussed how Seattle leverages its surging global profile to be a leader in innovation and what this means for the future of work.
Many Seattleites fear the attention that Seattle has received recently on the international stage, many wonder if the city should be promoting itself so enthusiastically. While the Mayor sympathised with this concern she was quick to point out the importance of staying globally competitive. Seattle should not stop its expansion but it does need to adjust to protect its workers and residents. If it is able to create a livable environment there is no reason to be concerned about the city’s growth and population increase.
The Mayor recognized that Seattle had been unprepared for the surge, however, she stated there is a plan already in effect to better the city for its residents and visitors. The viaduct removal project is one example of how Seattle is preparing for the future. Although immediately after the viaduct is removed there will be an adjustment period, she reassured the audience that the resulting waterfront would be the envy of cities across the United States. The coming five to ten years of construction will be frustrating and disruptive, but the Mayor explained “all of Seattle is under construction anyway so let’s build the city we want.”
During the Q&A Mayor Durkan was asked what Seattle can do to expand its recognition internationally. The Mayor explained that Seattleites tend to be too humble about their city. She encouraged the crowd to be more forthcoming with Seattle’s story and the opportunities it has to offer. She also pointed out that Seattle had joined The Cascadia Innovation Corridor with Vancouver and Portland, stating that the future was in regional alliance as opposed to individual cities. The Mayor concluded the discussion by addressing a question about homelessness in Seattle. She explained that nothing would change without institutional change, people coming out of jail, rehab, or mental health centers are often discharged into homelessness. Furthermore, she explained our education system has fallen behind and left many in the state unqualified for today’s job market. Seattle needs to prepare its students for a quickly changing job market.
About the Speaker:
Jenny A. Durkan is the 56th Mayor of Seattle and the first woman to lead the City in nearly a century. She entered office on November 28, 2017 with the challenge of making Seattle affordable and inclusive for all. She is focused on the housing affordability crisis, helping those experiencing homelessness, creating economic opportunity for all, and providing free college tuition to Seattle’s high school graduates - while also delivering on essential City services.
Mayor Durkan, one of eight children, was raised in Seattle. She graduated from the University of Notre Dame, taught school and coached girls basketball in a Yupik fishing village in Alaska, and then earned her J.D. at the University of Washington School of Law. She and her partner, Dana, have two sons.
About the Moderator:
Christine Gregoire served as the Washington’s 22nd governor. Facing a $2.2 billion budget shortfall when she took office in 2005, Governor Gregoire balanced the state’s budget as she expanded health care coverage to low-income children, led an effort to make government more efficient and accountable, introduced a plan to create a world class education system, and launched a bold plan to save Puget Sound. Prior to serving as governor, Gregoire was elected to three terms as attorney general (1993-2005) and was the first woman to be elected to the position in the State of Washington. From 1988-1992, Gregoire served as the director of the Washington Department of Ecology. She received her B.A. in speech and sociology from the University of Washington and received her law degree from Gonzaga University. Chris and her husband, Mike, have two daughters, Courtney and Michelle, who are both attorneys.
The Boeing Company is an underwriting sponsor of all World Affairs Council Community Programs.