Kim attended the commission's meeting today, setting up a Seattle-polite showdown where everyone took turns saying, as kindly and diplomatically as possible, some version of "Hey, tell your boss he totally fucked this up." She promised to relay their feedback directly to Mayor Murray and conceded, "We could have done better with respect to our communications on this transition."
Neither Murray nor Keblas attended today's meeting; Keblas's replacement, the charming and universally beloved Kate Becker, did. Kim said repeatedly that the decision to hire Becker had nothing to do with Keblas's performance, calling it just "a personality fit, a personnel decision" that is perfectly normal for a new administration. "Sometimes when new leadership comes in, you have to find the right team that best fits your style and your administration," she said cheerfully.
This explanation, of course, was deeply unsatisfying, and the commission took the opportunity to let her know. The complaints they aired fell into three main points, some of which could have rippling impacts well into the future—Murray had better be listening.
1) He made this decision with zero input from or interaction with the music commission. News of Keblas's firing "was given to us with such disrespect," said Megan Jasper, a commission member and VP at Sub Pop. "One of the most respectful things that could've happened was a conversation with the people who would be impacted, and we are representative of that." This group, in political words Murray would be fond of, is an already-convened committee of music community stakeholders—why not sit down with them if you're making a huge leadership change?
Holly Hinton, a commission member who works at Starbucks Entertainment, pointed out that they serve on a volunteer basis on top of their often demanding day jobs, and it's "offensive that all the time and attention and energy" they've spent was summarily ignored by the mayor. "Especially," added Jasper, "when the support of the music community was used as leverage in the campaign. That's one of the most insulting parts of it."
Which brings up the next point:
2) Murray courted the music and nightlife communities during election time, but now that he won, he apparently doesn't need them.
"Anyone running for office—whether council or mayor—comes and courts this community," said commission member Ben London, a musician who also works on media rights at HP. To ask them for support and fundraising, and then not even deign to talk to them about this, he says, "shows a high level of disrespect" and creates an environment where members of the music industry and community won't want to bother working with politicians. If they only get attention when candidates want money and street cred, he warned, "we'll go elsewhere with our philanthropy and our energy."
3) The reasons for firing Keblas—and what the mayor's vision is for the music industry—seem unclear. "We all understand changes in leadership," said Tom Mara, KEXP's executive director. But the announcement of this transition—and it's weeks old by now, so they've certainly had time to fix it—"provided insufficient understanding, from a strategic perspective. What are we here to fight for? How does this change help us do that?" They can't get a straight answer from Murray.
Hinton says she "reject[s] the 'this is just politics, this is just how it works'" explanation—there are better ways to do this kind of thing. And London said "politics has tarnished" all the work they did to prove to the music community that they're not just some cheesy political commission. "It’s important the mayor understands the significant impact that he's had with this decision [and] the trust-building that's gonna have to happen to get us to want to support him at that level."
Whew. Everyone had a lot to get off their chests, and if Murray hears even half of it, maybe some good will come out of all this drama.
But what about Kate Becker?! Everyone loves her—and she's gracious as shit. She thanked everyone for their candor and honesty and said it was good to get this all aired out. She offered her "love and respect" for Keblas and promised, "I am deeply committed to the work of the music commission."
Well, the commission had some advice for her: "One thing to think about for yourself," joked London, "is you don't want to do too good a job." Everyone laughed, but the message is clear: Even the most celebrated hard work for a politician may well be rewarded with a shove out the door.