- Courtesy of the Office of Film + Music
- MUSICIAN LOADING ZONES Were in the works before Murray came along.
You probably recall that Ed Murray’s mayoral campaign got a huge boost when oodles of important nightlife folks publicly offered him their support. The outpouring of love was a blow to Mike McGinn’s camp, largely because McGinn had made it his personal crusade to make life easier for industry folks, campaigning for later bar hours, installing cab stands in popular neighborhoods, and rolling out the now-deceased Nightlife Initiative.
In their letter of support, the nightlife people cited Murray's "commitment to a vibrant arts, music and nightlife community." Which is why it's a little surprising that now, almost four months in, he hasn't appeared—at least outwardly—to be more invested in that community.
Kate Becker, the newly instated (by Murray) head of the Office of Film+Music, informed me by email a few weeks ago that, once SXSW wrapped, there would be "multiple key meetings [with the mayor] next week that are directly related" to the nightlife scene. Becker, it must be noted, was picked to replace nine-year position veteran James Keblas, who Murray ousted in a surprising decision that at first drew considerable heat, though Becker was hailed by many industry insiders as a capable pick. Keblas had campaigned for McGinn.
To his credit, Murray has previously helped make it easier for bar and venue owners to do business; for instance, he introduced the bill that killed the widely-despised “dance-tax.” Oh, and then there’s the “musicians priority loading zone,” which wasn’t actually his legislation and was in the works before he came along, but he is still very proud of it.
But there are a few areas where Murray hasn’t really been there for his constituents. Chiefly, he stayed pretty clear of the committee on uberX, Lyft, and other rideshares... until after the decision was made, at which point he basically said "Do what you have to do, guys!" and then "I don’t like what you did but ok, I'll give it the green light because whatever!" While the cab issue is clearly huge for low-income and immigrant communities, it’s also got a lot of ripples into nightlife, with Macklemore and other musicians and nightlife folks coming out in support of Uber. Why didn’t Murray speak up on that sooner?
Then there's the other biggest issue in town: $15 minimum wage. Murray has come out in favor of this, saying it’s not a matter of if but when—even though most industry people who have testified on the issue have been adamantly against the move.
Dave Meinert, who's been vocal about his skepticism of a minimum wage increase that doesn't include business-owner-friendly caveats like total compensation, cautions that it's still too early to start drawing conclusions about the mayor's nightlife record. "It's March... Too early to do much of an assessment," he wrote in an email, noting that Murray's only "misfire" so far was firing Keblas, "which he made up for in part with the hiring of Kate Becker."
Maybe Murray just hasn't had time to make good on his campaign promises. But then, here’s an old comment from Meinert left on the Slog in support of Murray:
We truly feel that Ed will be the more effective Mayor on nightlife and music issues. He will be the Mayor that can build the coalition to pass extended hours for bars, get rid of the Opportunity to Dance tax when it comes back in 4 years, and make the streets safer for our customers.
Oh right... that whole "safer streets" thing. So, I guess my question is, as the search for a new police chief stumbles clumsily along, and Seattle still has the same flood of drunks every night at 2 a.m. on the dot, and soon we'll also have fewer safe ways to get home... well, how's all that going to work out for nightlife?