Patrick Robinson
Mayor Ed Murray was the keynote speaker at the West Seattle Chamber of Commerce awards breakfast held at Salty's on Alki on April 3.

SLIDESHOW: Mayor Murray calls for accelerated rapid transit solution for West Seattle

General Biodiesel, Second Gear Sports and Josh Sutton honored at Chamber of Commerce breakfast

Mayor Ed Murray spoke before the West Seattle Chamber of Commerce on April 3 and his remarks touched on growth, density, transportation, and what he's found to be the best part of his job so far.

He talked in a brief preamble about his childhood in West Seattle and that he used to play as a child in what later became the Log Cabin museum on 61st S.W. He also said that "West Seattle gave me a larger vote margin than my own legislative district," in the November election for Mayor.

He spoke about how we might "reinvent the city's relationship with our neighbors," and said he would explore that concept and others on April 5 at the Seattle Neighborhood Summit.

During the campaign he said he talked to many people about growth, how to manage it, and how transportation infrastructure plays a role in that growth.

"We have to preserve the current transit we have," Murray said and urged a yes vote on Prop. 1 in the upcoming election on April 22, saying "It would be the revenue source that Councilmember Mcdermott or or would choose but it's the only option we have."

Murray said the city is in the process of hiring a new Director of Dept. of Transportation. That process will involve a committee that will take public input on what they would like to see the department doing and "how we take transportation to the next level."

Noting that "tough decisions" will have to be made he asked, "How are we going to fund a rapid transit system through West Seattle to the center of the city? While Sound Transit does have plans, those plans are probably decades away. I don't believe we can wait decades to identify some form of rapid transit for West Seattle. It might be grade separated bus that runs on a route that eventually becomes a light rail route."

He said, "I think the challenges you face moving out of West Seattle into the city is the biggest transportation challenge we face as a city. It's not the 520 Bridge, it's here in West Seattle. I pledge that once we have a new director in place we will be meeting with all of you and our counterparts at the federal, state and county level to decide what we do between now and the time light rail finally comes to West Seattle.

He spoke about the SR 99 tunnel project, dubbed "Bertha" and while it is a state project the delays affect everyone. He said he has established an office of the central waterfront as a place for people to come for information and to help mitigate the "huge tensions" between the state, the county and the city.

"Bertha is broken," Murray said and noted that the contractors are building a shaft to access it so determinations of damage and a clearer time estimate on restoration of operation can be made. While publicly people are saying it will take months to fix Murray said he has talked with the experts and believes it will take "many months, maybe as long as nine months" to get it fixed.

Murray then moved on to the issue of public safety and said that his administration is in the process of hiring a new Chief of Police. Applications close April 4 and interviews begin the week of April 7. He expects to be able to send a recommendation to the City Council "in early to mid May." He noted that the City of Seattle has been operating under a Consent Decree since the courts found the Police Department not in compliance with federal law. "When I became Mayor I said public safety would be my number one priority and we've made significant changes to the police force," including command staff and creating a Bureau of Accountability so issues like use of force, biased policing, training and compliance. Murray said "We now have the most diverse command staff in the history of the city. It has more than one person of color on it and more than one woman." He also noted that in the last few weeks the Police Department has hired an East African, though "That's actually kind of embarrassing to tell you," since the East African community is "the largest immigrant community in Seattle."

The Mayor said that he recently accepted the invitation of Attorney General of the U.S. Eric Holder to visit him in Washington D.C. "because he now views Seattle as having made progress." The Dept. of Justice sent a letter Murray said, commending the Seattle Police Dept. on its reform efforts.

What was the best thing about the job 90 days into it? He said it involved the tragic helicopter crash at KOMO and Fisher Plaza. He said it was a "terrible tragedy," of course but that the security guards got a man out of his car and rolled him on the ground to put out flames and save him, construction workers dumped ten tons of sand to prevent aviation fuel from pouring into the drain. "The police and fire were there within minutes and that made a situation that could have been more tragic, less tragic." He said it turned out that the injured man and his family, "are good friends of ours and what they tell us that the outpouring of support, the thousands of cards and letters and help have left them incredibly moved. It was a tragedy and we all came together... That incident showed me just what an incredible city this is. What an incredibly positive place this is. It's an honor to Mayor of a city like that. Thank you for that."

The breakfast was held to honor West Seattle people and businesses for their contributions to the community and they were all asked to come up and make a few remarks to the crowd and accept awards.

The Chamber of Commerce provided this background information on the award winners.

Westside Business of the Year – General Biodiesel

General Biodiesel's mission to help community businesses with free pickup of used greases, and provide alternative fuel source is awesome. Biodiesel is a fuel than can be used as an alternative to petroleum diesel in most vehicles.

Yale and Laura Wong launched General Biodiesel in 2006 to help reduce the nation’s reliance on foreign fuel. Reducing our carbon footprint they create a fuel source from discarded cooking oil. Their high quality product is used by city vehicles with great success. General Biodiesel engages the latest automation and efficiency utilizing green technology generating 10 million gallons of fuel per year plant. With diversity in ownership and staffing, General Biodiesel is a cutting edge company, environmentally aggressive in recycling and addressing a major fuel issue of our times while keeping promises to investors while producing profit during difficult time.

Yale's positive energy and enthusiasm is a testimony on how his business is a success story. He is a good mentor to his employees, good business associate and great friend. General Biodiesel and Mr. Wong individually offer support to numerous non-profits including the community food banks, the Wing Luke Museum, Susan G Komen for the Cure and the Japanese Citizens League.

Westside Emerging Business – Second Gear Sports

Second Gear Sports is a sportswear/gear consignment shop created by the Bremen family to serve the community and the environment from the Morgan Junction. Mark Bremen and his family demonstrate a belief that engaging in sports -personally or as a family or member of team - is good for your health, your relationships and your soul. At Second Gear Sports you will find the highest levels of welcoming customer service and professionalism. They balance the consignor's needs for optimal compensation with the customers' needs for the highest quality products sometimes bending over backwards to help a customer purchase an item of interest. Second Gear Sports gives back to the community supporting local schools, community events and organizations, from the Mountaineers to the Girl Scouts.

Westside Not-For-Profit of the Year – West Seattle Food Bank

West Seattle Food Bank is committed to providing food security and community connections to our neighbors in need. Last year at least 37,000 families received food support from the West Seattle Food Bank while 3400 children were served through their Baby Pantry. Since 1981, they have been about neighbors helping neighbors. They have spectacular community outreach and a passionate staff. Their community open houses allow others to see the well-oiled machine they are as they strive to serve the increasing number of people in the community who need support to put food on their tables, even meeting many where they are with in-home delivery.

Westsider of the Year – Josh Sutton

Josh is the Director of the West Seattle & Fauntleroy YMCA and is our Westsider of the Year because of his lasting impact on our community. Through his work at the West Seattle Y, Josh is known and respected by multiple generations of West Seattleites. He generously volunteers his time as a West Seattle Rotarian and Director of the Junction Association and is always available for lengthy and deep discussion about issues impacting our community.

One of his own staff members states “Leading an organization with a large and diverse staff so well for so long is testament to Josh's ability to include and inspire people. While I admire his intelligence and compassion, it's his unmistakable laugh and sense of humor that make Josh a uniquely adept team builder, and a lot of fun to work with!”

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