A new way of electing the city’s legislative branch brought new leaders to City Hall Monday. There will be two Latinas, a majority of women, and four people of color on the new Seattle City Council.
“Socialism is rising.” That’s how Kshama Sawant set the tone for her first term representing the new District 3. Members of the new district-based Council gathered for their first meting Monday to take a ceremonial oath of office and make their first speeches in their new positions. As expected, the Council also unanimously elected District 4’s Bruce Harrell as their new president.
During her speech, Sawant laid out an ambitious agenda for the coming year, including working towards rent control, building thousands of City-owned apartment units, rooting out police brutality, putting Black Lives Matter into practice, and fair scheduling legislation. To pay for many of those initiatives, Sawant said Seattle must pass an income tax on the rich.
“We cannot wait around for the state to act, or be held back by an antiquated, 1930s Washington State Supreme Court decision,” she said. “Seattle can and must pass a millionaire’s tax.”
Sawant’s oath of office was administered by a home health worker and security guard for the Port of Seattle who were both active in organizing for tenants rights.
Following the Council president vote, Harrell thanked outgoing president and current at-large member Tim Burgess for his work and said he was encouraged by the addition of two women of color. “The city needs to be lead by people who know what it means to be without power,” he said.
Monday was the first opportunity for three Council newcomers to address the city in their new positions. At-large Council member Lorena Gonzalez assumed her seat in November.
Council member Debora Juarez powered through losing her voice to talk about how her background has a member of the Blackfeet Nation will influence her leadership style. “As we learn in Indian Country, you should live with the people you represent.”
District 4’s Rob Johnson said he was happy to be known as the wonky candidate in the election and handed out University of Washington mugs to his colleagues as a symbol of his home district. Former Council member Nick Licata administered the oath of office for his longtime staffer, Council member Lisa Herbold.
Returning Council members Mike O’Brien and Sally Bagshaw were also sworn in on Monday.