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Who Is Kate Joncas?

Ed Murray names Kate Joncas (center) his new deputy mayor of operations, June 11, 2014. Photo courtesy Seattle Mayor's Office
Ed Murray names Kate Joncas (center) his new deputy mayor of operations, June 11, 2014.
Photo courtesy Seattle Mayor’s Office

Fresh evidence in support of the theory that Seattle Mayor Ed Murray is ultimately a puppet of big business arrived yesterday with the announcement that Murray has chosen Kate Joncas as his new deputy mayor of operations.

Who is Kate Joncas?

She’s the longtime president and CEO of the pro-business Downtown Seattle Association (DSA) — which should provoke severe skepticism among Seattle’s longtime social justice activist community. Not only is Joncas a perfect example of the sort of Seattle establishment leader who helped railroad former mayor Mike McGinn out of office and eagerly supported Murray’s bid for mayor last year, she also supported, as head of the DSA, two still-controversial local government initiatives: the deep-bore tunnel project and the draconian anti-panhandling bill that was defeated in 2010 despite strong support from Seattle’s business community.

The DSA has long been at odds with citizen activist efforts to bring genuine economic justice to Seattle. During the 1990s — Seattle’s most prosperous twentieth-century decade — the DSA fully supported the so-called “civility laws” championed by Mark Sidran, the notorious city attorney who occupied that office from 1990 to 2002. These proposed laws, aimed at banning public drinking, public urination, aggressive panhandling, sleeping in parks, sitting on sidewalks, and driving with a suspended license, would have effectively criminalized homelessness within the Seattle city limits.

Joncas became head of the DSA in 1994, at the height of the controversy over Sidran’s draconian legislation.

Despite her strong identification with Seattle’s business community, there’s reason to believe that Joncas, as a public official, won’t be entirely hostile to Seattle’s underclass. She has in fact supported certain social service initiatives in the past, such as the Metropolitan Improvement District and the 1811 Eastlake project. The crucial question right now is whether her performance in office will reflect the economic fundamentalism so typical of the DSA during her tenure there, or a vision of Seattle as a city that values economic equity as much as economic development.

Ultimately, Joncas is widely respected among Seattle establishment figures for her overall performance as a local civic leader during the past 20 years. Murray summed up his reasons for choosing her in an official statement yesterday.

“From transit and economic development to human services and the redevelopment of our central waterfront, she has been a well-respected, deeply involved and highly influential voice in this city,” Murray said. “She brings a wealth of experience and expertise to the role, and she also brings history of delivering successful results.”

Joncas begins her new job on June 30 at an annual salary of $170,000, replacing Andrea Riniker, a temporary appointment, and joining current deputy mayor Hyeok Kim. In her new position, Joncas will manage communication and activities between the various city departments and the mayor’s office.