Hate crimes, superblocks, and yes, bike chariots: Sawant and Orion ‘face to face’ at Broadway Performance Hall

(Image: Alex Garland for CHS)

“What have you done to support or engage with the LGBTQ community?”

If there was anything the Greater Seattle Business Association — aka “Washington State’s LGBTQ and allied business chamber” — wanted to know from all City Council candidates during last night’s GSBA-hosted “Face To Face” candidate forum at the Broadway Performance Hall on Capitol Hill, this was it.

Every time a duo of competing candidates stepped onto the stage for their 25-minute “tête-à-tête,” they’d face that same question.

So by the time the District 3 candidates Kshama Sawant and Egan Orion settled into the padded blue chairs on stage, about an hour into the forum, both probably knew what they were going to say.

“What we’ve done with Pridefest is built it to a point where it’s this bright shining light that casts its light out into small communities around Western Washington and the state,” said Orion about his work as executive director of Pridefest, the yearly celebrations at Seattle Center and on Capitol Hill and its work with and fundraising for nonprofits.

“There are kids out there who don’t know what it’s like to truly be themselves. And so when they see that light, they know that there’s one place that they can go all year round in order to truly feel themselves. I believe that the work that we’ve done at PrideFest saves lives.”

Seattle City Council member Sawant focused on some of her budget wins, including securing funds for LGBTQ seniors and the LGBTQ health center at Nova High School in the Central District in the budget. She quickly connected the latter back to her core campaign issues.

 

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“It has also painfully highlighted the chronic underfunding for public school education overall, especially the needs of LGBTQ young people (…) because of the inability and unwillingness of elected officials at every level to tax big business and bring forward progressive taxation to fund these services fully,” she said.

The forum, which focused on City Council candidates from the four districts “below the ship canal,” was an opportunity for both Sawant and Orion to tout work on issues they’ve tried to highlight in their campaigns: support for small, minority- and LGBTQ+-owned businesses, as well as LGBTQ+ issues.

Among those issues: the rise in hate crime reports, particularly on Capitol Hill. Sawant and Orion had very different ideas on how to tackle the problem.

Sawant approached it from an intersectional lens, noting that while the spike in hate crimes was partly due to “the emboldening of right-wing forces to Trump’s election,” statistics show “that when inequality spikes, crimes of various kinds also spikes.” The only “serious” way to address LGBTQ rights and priorities, she argued, would be to tackle economic, racial and gender inequality with policies such as rent control and progressive taxation to fund publicly-owned social housing.

Meanwhile, Orion zoomed in on the nightlife scene of Capitol Hill. He proposed (following, he said, an idea from the Office Of Economic Development) to concentrate people getting out of the bars at 2 AM on a well-lit parking lot with restaurants and security staff. It would be a place to wait for rideshares. He wants to add bike chariots to that mix to move people from the front steps of queer spaces to either the lot or public transit access points.

Orion later proposed, to a question about what would look different in four years if he were elected, “gender-neutral bathrooms in all public spaces” (Seattle’s All-Gender Restroom Ordinance from 2016 bans gender-specific single-occupant restrooms in city facilities and public places), as well as creating more capacity for LGBTQ-owned, people of color-owned businesses.

“There’s lots of different ways we can do that. We can support nonprofits like Ventures, which support low-income entrepreneurs and puts them through training and then connects them with microloans,” he said, noting that Business Improvement Areas are another way to “serve the community.”

Orion also made a point of thanking Sawant for her LGBTQ advocacy, “particularly for the trans community.”

While tensions have, at times, run high during this campaign season, the atmosphere of the half-filled auditorium was somewhat subdued.

That briefly changed a little over an hour in, after Sawant mentioned she hoped the city would go in “a progressive direction and not in the direction the Chamber of Commerce and Amazon and the big corporations are going by trying to buy this election.” Her supporters applauded while one disagreeing audience member hissed loudly in the direction of the incumbent.

Sawant later circled back to the influence of corporate PACs in the election. “Many of these donors are not just big business billionaires. They are also people who have donated to the Republicans who were against marriage equality. So we have to be very careful.”

In the primary, Orion was boosted by more than $156,000 in independent expenditures from the pro-business Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce’s political action committee Civic Alliance for a Sound Economy, the biggest outside spending in the city. Amazon contributed $250,000 to CASE and Vulcan gave $155,000, according to filings with the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission (SEEC).

Sawant critics, meanwhile, point out her Socialist Alternative fundraising machine which boosted her campaign coffers with hundreds of thousands of dollars thanks to hundreds of supporters in Seattle and from across the country.

While questions for candidates from other districts at the forum focused on citywide issues such as the Seattle Police Department and the consent decree, safe injection sites, and the head tax, moderators Brady Piñero Walkinshaw (CEO of Grist Media and former 43rd District Representative) and Capitol Hill developer Liz Dunn of the Cloud Room and Chophouse Row kept the D3 discussion firmly planted in D3 and recent CHS coverage with a final question about … Barcelona superblocks and citywide council member Teresa Mosqueda’s intentions of bringing one to Capitol Hill.

“The proposal as applied to Seattle would close vital commercial streets,” Dunn, who was ostensibly not a fan, said in the prelude to her question. No proposal for closing streets has been made.

Here too, the candidates’ views diverged. Sawant was generally supportive of the idea but noted that she would want to see genuine input from small business owners and that she wanted to figure out whether there’s a way to accomplish it without “negatively impacting our local small businesses.”

Orion didn’t love it. “At the end of the day, there’s a lot of great ideas that we have as a city, but we just don’t have the infrastructure in order to implement those ideas, like around congestion pricing, like with the idea that you were discussing right now,” he said. “We are not to the point yet where we can institute an idea like this. I think we should dream big, but understand the limitations of what our system has.”

Whether a Capitol Hill superblock will become a campaign issue for D3 remains to be seen, but perhaps it’ll come up again during one of the other forums this month. A D3-centric debate organized by Seattle City Club is up next, at Town Hall on September 26th.

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73 thoughts on “Hate crimes, superblocks, and yes, bike chariots: Sawant and Orion ‘face to face’ at Broadway Performance Hall

    • Running on a platform of being the gay candidate will check most of the boxes for his fake progressive followers. I could care less about his sexual identity, he is an empty vessel on policy and will be voting for Sawant.

  1. I voted for Bowers in the primary, and will vote for Orion in the general, but I honestly don’t think he has a chance. I would like to think the well educated people of D3 would understand that businesses and corporations are not inherently evil (though they absolutely need to be held in check), and that while I think the proposed end results of a socialist society are mostly all things we would all want for our community, socialist societies have a horrible track record of actually bringing those promises to fruit.

  2. Orion is so fake and loves Amazon and Vulcan supports developers and could care less about the black community and the Gentrification happening right here..He will never get my vote my friends & family’s vote.. He supports uncle ikes on 23rd and union that should tell you what type of council member he would be… I will canvas against him.

  3. This is a problematic race.

    You have an incumbent with ideals but a rather dour and charm free personality and a challenger with tons of charisma but really no policies in place other than vague pronouncements.

  4. I honestly don’t really “support” either candidate that much. I do find it unsettling though that there is so much vitriol these days around “capitalism”. I recommend would recommend watching “The Pursuit” on Netflix. I personally believe that the more freedom that each and every individual has to make their own choices as to what they believe is in their best interest society is better for it. Any time there is a constraint on personal freedom to choose (whether that big from large monopolistic private corporations or government) then the masses suffer. Smaller and limited government yield increased quality of life for the masses (provided the government keeps private interests from becoming their own monopolies). What we have in the US today is growing governmental organizations increasingly teaming up with large corporations to create even more monopolies. Democrats and Republicans alike are pretty much lock step on these issues.

    This country does however have a history of providing more individual freedom and more rights to property ownership, which is why we continue to see individuals from around the world emigrate here to have a better quality of life (which is great).

    Most of India’s industry was state run up until the 1950’s and they had crushing starvation level poverty in that country. Since then they have gradually relaxed this and allowed for individuals to start their own businesses and have increased property rights. The result has been a dramatic increase in wealth for the masses and dramatic decreases in poverty.

    Free markets = free people

    Consumerism is a problem. Capitalism is not.

    • There’s vitriol around capitalism because it doesn’t fucking work. It relies on cheap labor overseas so you can complain online about socialists being bad. You should really get up to speed on basic Marxism before even coming to the table.

      Capitalism is unethical. It destroys the planet. It creates waste. It speeds up poverty. Look at Hong Kong, it’s the most hypercapitalist area in the world. It keeps poor people in cages at a record rate. That’s where this country is headed if we don’t start changing policy to help the poor and eat the rich.

      • Stop being so aggressive. Listen to the freakonomics podcast about rent control and educate yourself a little bit. Rent control will help a few people but end up screwing most people.

  5. Socialism is a failed social-economic model on a planetary scale. China and India abandoned it 20+ years ago and have lifted hundreds of millions out of crushing poverty. Every socialism lingers is horror – North Korea, Cuba, Venezuela, etc.

    Capitalism has it flaws and it needs to be controlled, but it has been enormously successful in raising living standards and maintaining freedom

    • You realize that America has to run on the backs of China and cheap labor in a lot of Asia in order to sustain, right?

      All those countries are totalitarian or dictatorships, not true socialism. Cuba is communism.

      God why am I replying to people who don’t even know basic remedial politics.

      Venezuela had a US-BACKED COUP for christ’s sakes. Learn your history.

      • Alrighty then…. name a country where ‘true socialism’ or communism has worked and not turned into a totalitarian state or a dictatorship. Oh… yeah… can’t… (and no… the Norwegian countries don’t count – they are still capitalist – with free markets and private property)

        Social safety nets are fine. We can certainly do more. Education and health care are important for everyone to have, but some utopia where everyone shares everything, they are all happy and no one is corrupt is a fairy tale that never comes true and not believing in it does not make you conservative.

        Lets get a little real here. This is not a conservative city. There are few people here that wouldn’t be considered to be very progressive elsewhere. Marxism is the far extreme of left. Not being a Marxist does not make you right wing any more than just not being a white nationalist makes you left wing. So throwing around ‘conservative’ like some sort of insult to those of us who aren’t glued as far left as is possible to get simply makes you look silly and desperate.

        And yes, I heartily agree with DS. It’s kind of sickening how poorly your brand of progressivism treats the mentally ill and addicted…. it’s more akin to libertarianism than anything else – that it’s their ‘decision’ to live that way and we shouldn’t interfere, but instead enable them to continue killing themselves… Hey at least thing are hopefully looking up. Maybe now that there’s been a settlement with Perdue Pharma we can at least start getting more treatment funded and in place. Next we just need the public will to get people into it, willingly or not.

      • Thank you Tom. We also provide health care to some through Medicare and Medicaid, as well as perpetual income through social security. These are obviously socialist policies that benefit many residents of our country. But we are not a socialist country, and neither are the countries you referenced. Many people on this discussion group are advocating a much broader socialistic approach, including the elimination of all private property (which I would call communism). I think Sawant and her party are in favor of this more radical approach. Tweeking a capitalist system with a reasonable dose of socialism to adjust for it’s excesses? That I can support. Following Sawant to pure socialism, which I would call communism, no thank you.

      • @Glen:

        I believe the term you are looking for is social democracy. To quote Wikipedia:

        Originating within the socialist movement, social democracy has embraced a mixed economy with a market that includes substantial state intervention in the form of income redistribution, regulation, and a welfare state.

        The US has Social Democracy Light™. Enough to ensure the bare minimum needed to have a functioning population and work force. Our biggest problem is that our income distribution policies are horrifically flawed.

  6. I don’t even live in their district, but I gave to Egan’s campaign simply because UNLIKE Sawant, he knows how to work across the aisle and not be inflammatory to constituents, businesses, and locals alike. I also personally know Egan and know he would be a much better match for the district than her.

    A few weeks ago on the hill, some Sawant follower stepped in front of me to try to force me to sign some stupid signature sheet of hers. I told him where he could shove her campaign clipboard.

    • Yesterday I got a phone call from someone doing political polling in Seattle. Before she got started I told her I don’t live in Seattle anymore, having just moved in July, so my opinion didn’t really matter anymore, and it was pointless for me to answer her questions. Then, without naming any names, I added “but if that woman wins again, I feel sorry for Seattle”.
      Then the conversation went like this:
      POLLSTER: Who are you talking about, this [Kshama Sawant] person? (mangled the pronunciation pretty badly)
      ME: yes. Are you not in Seattle?
      POLLSTER: no, I’m not in Seattle. What did she *do*? EVERYONE I’ve talked to today hates her…..

      Now, I doubt *everyone* she’d talked to hates Sawant, but sounds like the majority she’d talked to DO. So Sawant supporters, you just go on gulping down all that kool aid and thinking everyone does the same. You may be in for a big surprise.

    • Tyler: Nope, none of that happened. Try writing more convincing fiction. It might be a little more believable if you use less hyperbole in your creative writing.

      Jim: Since you don’t live in Seattle anymore maybe focus your vitriol and rage toward your own local politics.

      • I don’t have vitriol and rage. That would be you Sawant supporters. Notice you don’t see Orion supporters flying off the handle and losing their nut the way Savant supporters do? “Glass houses” and all that.

      • Yes, it did happen. I work in property management. I had just finished a showing on Summit Avenue and the Sawant devotee was on the corner near the Starbucks on Olive Way trying to stop and talk to random people, including myself.

        They literally stepped in front of me and shoved the clipboard out at me asking me to ‘support Sawant’. I didn’t ask, nor did I want their attention or to have anything to do with them.

        Once I realized their reason for accosting me, I told them what to do with the clipboard.

        I was there, I know what happened and I don’t need you to validate for me Sasha as you were not there.

  7. Wow! Haven’t seen the Sawant trolls out like this on CHS in a long time. I love that they are so nervous! Can’t wait for her to lose and then maybe we can get someone in office that actually cares about D3 residents.

  8. Living in the Central District is not a right. It is a privilege.

    I’ve been here 20 years. Was barely scraping by to pay rent/utilities in 1999, and now own a single family house. Rather than put my hand out for the City to give me something for nothing, I decided to put my head down and work because it was either than or move out of Seattle and to a more affordable area. Certainly not trying to brag or patting myself on the back, but it is so infuriating to hear Sawant talk (yell into a megaphone) about how evil business and real estate developers are, and how we need rent control? I have a friend in SF who pays about $1,200/month for an apartment that could rent for $4,000/month because he’s enjoyed rent control for 20 years. Oh by the way, he makes about $500K per year. Is that what we want here in Seattle?

    The reason new construction apartment rents are high in the CD is not because developers are greedy. It is because:

    a) The price they pay to acquire the land (often from longtime CD residents who rightfully so want to profit as much as possible) is very expensive.

    b) The entitlement process is long and costly.

    c) The cost of construction is exorbitantly expensive.

    d) because someone is willing to pay the high rent. Many people, for that matter.

    Seattle is a world class city, like it or not. Growth and Density is going to happen, like it or not. Sawant’s policies are unrealistic and she’s doing more harm than good.

  9. No way you’ve been here for 20 years.

    Living in the CD is and should be a RIGHT for black people who were RED LINED in.

    Can’t just tell us where to live then kick us out 30 years later because now you transplants like the area. Nope. Doesn’t work that way.

    • Can’t just tell us where to live then kick us out 30 years later because now you transplants like the area. Nope. Doesn’t work that way. I agree 💯 Whole heartedly……The C.D will always and forever belong to the black folks who were reclined.. Go away Gentifier ..Y’all Are nothing but transplants here in the Central District…. By any means necessary we will be here.

      • That’s not reality in 2019, sorry. I can definitely understand the emotion I find some of the new residents annoying as fuck too but no one is redlined anymore and people can buy wherever they can afford/want to. Stamping your feet and yelling about how you personally think it SHOULD be is ridiculous.

      • Stop drinking the Kool aid man… It’s basically redlining 2019 version . They just change the name of it .. Gentrification We have prime property and they wanna push all the people of color out of the central… I am very woke know exactly w what’s going on….New name the policymakers are calling it.. Ethnic Cleansing is what they the policyholders are doing….The Durkan administration is worthless.

      • There is no “they”. There’s no conspiracy to kick anyone out. No one can kick you out if you don’t sell it. There is an economic shift here due to younger, wealthier people that want live in city. In the end, it’s just math.

  10. It would have been great if the candidates had had to ask answer about the open anti-Semitism in that district which Sawant refused to condemn and to note the difference between how quickly the same politicians are to directly condemned similar actions towards other minorities.

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