Mother of legal pot law wants to be Capitol Hill’s first District 3 council representative


(Image courtesy Alison Holcomb)

Writing the measure that ended marijuana prohibition in Washington state would’ve been enough to enshrine Alison Holcomb among Capitol Hill’s most celebrated residents. Now that voter-approved I-502 is finally rolling out, Holcomb is carefully considering her next move, which could include deepening her position as a neighborhood leader by becoming Capitol Hill’s first representative on the Seattle City Council.

In her current day job as criminal justice director for the ACLU of Washington, Holcomb has largely focused on protecting individuals from government overreach. In recent years she said she’s been drawn towards thinking about how the government can better serve individuals. “A little bit more about creating new policies instead of having to defend against bad ones,” she told CHS.

Screen-Shot-2013-11-07-at-9.17.04-PM-400x542Last month Holcomb announced in an interview that she was strongly considering running for the newly created District 3 council seat, where she would become Capitol Hill and the Central District’s first ever dedicated council member. To get there, Holcomb will almost certainly have to challenge city council member and Capitol Hill resident Kshama Sawant.

“I’m fairly frustrated (by) the way that she approaches the work,” Holcomb told CHS. “I think it’s very important that she distinguish between being an activist and a legislator.”

Holcomb’s early city council announcement, which she called a “bit of a rookie blunder,” was met with some surprise given her strong progressive credentials and Sawant’s popularity on Capitol Hill and in Central Seattle.

Holcolmb said it was her deep connection to Capitol Hill and some political calculus that led her to hone in on the District 3 seat over challenging one of the two presumed incumbents for the at-large positions. She said she wouldn’t run against Tim Burgess as they’ve worked together extensively on criminal justice issues and she hasn’t heard a convincing argument to challenge Sally Clark.

Alison and son Dashiell outside the Capitol Hill library (Image courtesy Alison Holcomb)

Alison and son Dashiell outside the Capitol Hill library (Image courtesy Alison Holcomb)

Capitol Hill food and drink owners that have sparred with Sawant over the $15 an hour minimum wage issue would likely be a big source of support for Holcomb’s campaign. Holcomb’s husband, Gregg Holcomb, is a longtime Capitol Hill bartender who opened Witness on north Broadway last year.

Holcomb said she is still mulling the run for council and said she wouldn’t make a decision until after November’s general election.

Holcomb’s interest in elected office didn’t come out of the blue. Last year she sought the appointment to Sen. Jaime Pedersen’s seat in the House after he took over for Mayor Ed Murray in the Senate. Brady Walkinshaw, a Capitol Hill resident and program officer at the Gates Foundation, ultimately took the role.

Holcomb tells CHS she always assumed she would end up at the state level. Upon reflecting on her work to legalize marijuana, Holcomb said she realized that much of the movement at the state level began with the cities, including SPD’s de-prioritization of marijuana enforcement.

“I had just come to understand how much I really love problem solving and I-502 was the most dramatic example,” she said. “It’s fascinating to me, it’s a multi-demnsional chess game and I think it’s the next work I want to do”

Living on Capitol Hill since 2000, Holcomb has established deep roots in the neighborhood. She was married at All Pilgrims Church, her 6-year-old son attends Lowell Elementary School, and her husband has made a career behind Capitol Hill bars. Those connections are part of the reason why Holcomb wants to represent the area on the council.

“I’m really committed to this neighborhood because it’s where we’ve had some of the most amazing experiences of our lives,” Holcomb, who owns a 700-square-foot condo in a 1910-built building, said.

It has been eight months since Washington state effectively ended marijuana prohibition with Holcomb’s I-502 measure. Holcomb said she’s mostly pleased with the rollout thus far, but is concerned about the lack of supply and prohibitive buffer regulations for retail locations.

The problems are perhaps most emblematic in Holcomb’s own neighborhood where pot-loving Capitol Hill has no retail marijuana shops and the closest permitted location is at 24th and Union.

This 24th and Union house stands at the address registered by Mello Times in its successful application to be the closest pot shop to Capitol Hill  (Image: CHS)

This 24th and Union house stands at the address registered by Mello Times in its successful application to be the closest pot shop to Capitol Hill (Image: CHS)

The problem lies in the buffer rule that prevents marijuana shops from being within 1,000 feet of schools and parks — a tough feat on Capitol Hill. Holcomb said she would like to see the 1,000-foot buffer cut in half, especially for large cities.

“The 1,000-foot rule is not workable, especially in more densely populated cities,” she said. “I think it’s fair to say there would be healthy demand for marijuana in the Capitol Hill neighborhood.”

One solution could be giving local lawmakers the power to decide where shops should be located within their own city limits, something Holcomb said she supports.

Until Holcomb makes a final decision on a council run, she said she’ll continue to monitor the rollout of I-502 through her post at the ACLU. As a Capitol Hill resident, she’ll also be eagerly awaiting more development in her north Broadway neighborhood.

“We’re hoping there will continue to be a development for a range of people,” she said. “We do want the preservation of the economic diversity of the neighborhood because it gives it so much character.”

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34 thoughts on “Mother of legal pot law wants to be Capitol Hill’s first District 3 council representative

  1. We really need progressive women who can get things DONE in our state. Activists are great for shaking things up but the ability to reach out to those outside one’s group and make compromises which still allow for the progressive agenda to move forward – well that’s how government actually works (when it works). As an ACLU lawyer she has demonstrated making mark on the planet is more important to her than making a lot of money. Please encourage Alison Holcomb to run for District 3!!

      • ALLISON HOLCOMB IS A SCAMMER. SHE PROMISED real legalization for marijuana which is turning out to be the state’s biggest nightmare! She lied her way through the entire campaign to conjure support and now she is at her scams again. YOUTUBE all her I-502 promises and look at it now. Complete polar opposites of what she misled the voters. Fool us once shame on you. Fool us twice shame on the voters!!!

        Sawant unfortunately is the lesser of the two evils. She is the best of the worse. both shitty candidates.

      • Look at how Colorado legalized and contrast that with the cluster fuck of Washington.

        Our state has a serious puritanical streak sometimes.

    • She passed a terrible bill , and her answer to that was we will fix it later???? wow you guys do not need a Nancy Pelosi. She is a mother alright, a lazy mother f%$#@!.

  2. I agree with all that Muraco said. Holcomb sounds like she could be a great advocate for Capitol Hill/District 3 in the districted City Council.

  3. What a bunch of stupid rhetoric. Y’alls should be ashamed. The fuck is the difference between “getting things DONE” and “activism”? “Activism” is just a scare word used by conservatives for people who get things DONE (in all caps) that they don’t agree with.

    Sawant’s “too crazy”? Guess what, equality and justice is always “too crazy” for the general population and that’s why we need her. Yet somehow valuing poorly run, handout thirsty, wellfare-queen-businesses over actual human lives is not crazy.

    • Thank you for this, reading this it comes off as “Look at how white and traditional I am, I have the required 2.5 offspring and am non-threatening to you”. The last thing capitol hill needs is more bullshit pro-business/anti-labor people.

      She sees no problems or reasons to run against Sally Clark or Tim Burgess? That alone should be enough evidence as to why you should vote against her.

      • Alison lives in District 3, so to run against anyone else she would need to run at large, and that’s a tall order against two incumbents like Burgess or Clark, who have each one citywide a couple of times and have a well established base and record.

        District 3 is wide open as Sawant is more than vulnerable as she has proven to be all rhetoric, annoying, and pretty much a horrible council person. And we can see by the lack of primary votes for Jess Spears how popular her “Socialist Alternative” movement is after people see it in action.

        Holcomb is a successful progressive. Pragmatic, smart, well respected. It’s time we get some more serious people like her on council.

      • Sawant only got 20% of the vote when she ran for the same position on the state level a year or so prior to running for City Council.

        Perhaps do your homework? Oh but that would require you to know what your talking about rather than blindly following conservative democrats into the status quo.

      • It takes more than support for marijuana reform to be a progressive, and as far as I can tell, Holcomb is coming out swinging against the interests of labor.

    • reactionaries dont say activism, they say rabble rousing. its yuppie scum, the closer enemy, the new philistine (hip , ironic if anything) who need the ambiguity of “activism.” while holcomes heart and agenda might be “on the right side”……there are detsols and devils snd that smell of sulferous hell? leads back to her. has she learned, or is she just another up and coming elite?

  4. Where does it say Ms. Holcomb is anti-labor?? where’s ANY evidence? I see the oft stated dichotomy of pro-labor must mean anti-business… do you see a way where pro-labor also means pro-business? me thinks that’s a perspective that will get something done. NO ONE living on the hill in a 700 sq ft condo is anti-labor! LOL.

    • When her campaign appeal is obviously to side with business against the minimum wage (albeit hidden in subtext of calling Sawant extreme) its anti-labor.

      It is nice to see her drones flooding the board though.

      • “When her campaign appeal is obviously to side with business against the minimum wage”
        any evidence? Of course not as Ms. Holcomb was not against the $15 miminum wage. If you think she was where’s the evidence? LOL here’s the us versus them again that works so well!

      • I’m with you, Muraco. The other commenters state that she is “anti-labor” and “pro-business,” without any evidence at all to support such claims. Ms. Holcomb comes across as a sensible progressive, who would see both sides of an issue, and also her “activist” credentials are impeccable as shown by her leadership in pot legalization.

        @barbecue: What exactly do you mean by your use of the term “handout thirsty, welfare-queen businesses”? Can you give some examples of such businesses in Capitol Hill?

    • She said it herself, when she dismissed the mayor’s entire $15 minimum process for not involving enough of the interests of business, despite the fact that business had the largest portion of seats at the negotiating table.

  5. Sawant has successfully pushed the council to the left, and made a significant impact – she was massively influential in getting the minimum wage increased, and was the one who questioned whether the CEO of Seattle City Light deserved a massive pay increase; without her, his unearned massive pay raise would have undoubtably gone into effect, at our expense.

    While I think I-502 was a great victory for WA state, I don’t see any reason to support her over Sawant, who has unquestionably been the strongest addition to the council that I can remember..

  6. My mantra for the first district three council person will be “Anyone but Sawant.”

    The few times I’ve seen Sawant out and about it’s obvious that she is more worried about image and status than actually making any real change. Also, for an economics professor she sure doesn’t know how to do math.

    Can’t wait to replace her with someone with a brain and some humility. So far Alison has my vote.

    • Yes she’s so worried about image that she helped push the council to a progressive highest minimum wage in the country.

      You people are seriously deranged.

      • The $15 minimum wage would have happened with or without her. Ed Murray campaigned on it. He drove it. I barely heard her name mentioned during any of it. She is irrelevant.

  7. My big beef with Sawant is her vote against Lyft/Uber, which is incomprehensible to me, because I’d have thought she’d be against protecting immigrants from businesses like the cab companies. But I don’t mind someone shaking up the status quo. I think she’s been good for the City Council over all. That doesn’t mean I’ll automatically vote for her, but I’ve got nothing specific against her apart from the ride-for-hire misstep. I like the higher minimum wage.

    • The immigrants need to be protected from rideshare companies who operate completely illegally. I’m all for revising our current rideshare/cab laws to accommodate this innovation, but as the law stands right now they are illegal, unsafe and taking jobs away from taxi drivers who have to pay thousands of dollars getting licensed and getting their cars up to code. Uber is a $17 BILLION dollar company that is literally stealing money from hard working immigrant taxi drivers and making rich white men even richer. Seriously.

      • Maybe you should talk to some of those immigrants who have to pay exorbitant sums on the black market to rent part of a taxi license, who much prefer working for themselves through Uber or Lyft, versus being beholden to a monopolized scarce resource.

        And there are laws about licensing and insurance that can be applied to ride shares without getting rid of or capping them. And probably laws that can be loosened on cabs.

        Meanwhile, the competition is awesome for the consumer, for which taxis are an option, but Lyft and Uber are often more convenient. Seattle taxi services have been resting on their laurels for too long with no innovation.

      • Tell that to the parents of the six year old girl in San Francisco that was killed by an Uber driver and Uber basically said, tough luck, we aren’t responsible. Uber is a morally bankrupt company.

      • We can talk about safety more in depth, but I thought we were talking about protecting the drivers from being exploited by cab companies.

        Why would Uber be responsible? That’s why individual drivers are insured. I’m unsure what their contract with Uber is, but from the scant information shared here it’s impossible for me to conclude that Uber is a morally bankrupt company anymore than any other company that proclaims they have no legal liability when there are accidents. Cars are dangerous.

  8. Yeah, using the word “extreme” to describe Sawant along with pointing out her husband is in the bar and restaurant business definitely sounds like a dogwhistle meant to signal she’s against the $15 minimum wage. Perhaps that wasn’t her intent, but there it is. Also, only one quote about the “preservation of economic diversity” on Capitol Hill? That issue is red hot right now, given the pressures of affordable housing and the increasing demand in the area.

    People have complained about the lack of action on the Council for years, but now that Sawant is making waves those same people are uncomfortable and upset? Seattle is facing a lot of serious issues due to years of inaction and the stagnant, “calm”, “let’s reach consensus even if it takes 15 years” nature of our local government. And barbecue is right above: social changes have never come about by the affected populace asking politely. Never, ever. In fact, Holcomb should be intimately familiar with that idea from championing marijuana legalization; without the vocal, angry, persistent, and sometimes “crazy” activists (those who don’t look the white, middle class, 2.5 kids, safe, and non-threatening part) – I-502 was nothing but a pipe dream (no pun intended).

    Lastly, I’m disappointed that those who hope to become our leaders would rather shy away from working with those they deem difficult or challenging. Capitol Hill is home to an extremely diverse population with complex issues needing complicated solutions. If she can’t handle working with Sawant, it shows she’s really not up for listening to or working with those who elected her. And that means she may not be right for the district overall. Bottom line? She’s challenging Sawant because she thinks she’s an easy target and that her campaign wouldn’t be strong enough to unseat Burgess or Clark – which is a shame.

  9. Hasn’t heard a convincing argument to challenge Sally Clark? It’s interesting how much vitriol is coming out for Sawant when there are councilmembers like Clark who have as much spine as an ameoba. Remember when Clark wouldn’t come out for persecuted gay people in Russia? Remember when she voted to allow businesses to pay people less because they are disabled? Look at these people’s records!

  10. “Remember when Clark wouldn’t come out for persecuted gay people in Russia?” Please! It had do do with the fact that it had zero to do with city business, let alone would have precisely zero effect on Russian policies. I’m not a huge Sally Clark fan, but its not for meaningless things like this. This is precisely the difference noted above between an activist and getting things done – exemplified by Sawant using City Council meetings to rant about Gaza instead of things she can control and was elected to work on

  11. Alison Holcomb is a liar, and only is concerned with herself. Last year, she looked me in the eye and told me she would assist me with the medical cannabis initiative to save it. After our first meeting, several calls and visits to the office resulted in no response. While she continued to work behind the scenes in closed-door meetings with the LCB and others.

    She is also not the author of 502, the Drug Policy Alliance wrote it. Plus if she truly supported reform and the end of Prohibition, she never would’ve endorsed it. Sawant has my vote, and I will work to make sure she keeps her seat.

    Ms. Holcomb may run for whatever office she thinks she could win, even so the public knows the truth.

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