As Seattle looks to rein in PAC cash, here’s how District 3 money stacks up

And then there were two.

With only Seattle City Council member Kshama Sawant and Broadway Business Improvement Area head Egan Orion remaining after the city’s most expensive Primary battle, the race for District 3 money ramps up — even as another city council member is ready to introduce legislation to try to slow the escalating cost of getting elected in Seattle.

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 during the primary, the biggest outside spending in the city. Amazon has contributed $250,000 to CASE and Vulcan has given $155,000, according to filings with the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission (SEEC). Some say this money lifted him over the line over other qualified candidates, including Seattle Public Schools Board member Zachary DeWolf.

“I think that Egan has the business community to thank for him getting through, absolutely,” a veteran Seattle political consultant said, adding that “the outside groups were able to move the needles where they needed to go roughly to boost Egan where his direct campaign couldn’t do it.”

At the same time, citywide Council member Lorena González has recently drafted legislation that would limit how much contributors could give to PACs and place more stringent regulations on foreign money in Seattle politics. Continue reading

Orion’s D3 drag wins ‘best dressed’ but faces rough crowd at City Council candidate talent show

Egan Orion as Shegan (Image: @gramsofgnats)

Ten of the 14 remaining Seattle City Council candidates — including one District 3 candidate done up in drag for the night — faced some of their most progressive constituents in a fun but heated at times pageant Wednesday night.

District 3 incumbent Kshama Sawant, Scott’s competitor in D4 Alex Pedersen, as well as both of North Seattle’s District 5 competitors, council member Debora Juarez and Ann Davidson Slatter, did not participate.

Don’t get your hopes up that the socialist D3 incumbent was rejecting the evening’s frat talent show theatrics or stepping away from the alternative biweekly that endorsed her in the primary. Sawant’s campaign tells CHS the candidate was unable to attend due to “a personal scheduling conflict.”

On stage at NeumosDistrict 4’s Shaun Scott “won” the contest, narrowly eking out District 2’s Tammy Morales, who was voted the most spirited contestant, to win the pageant hosted by The Washington Bus and The Stranger at the Capitol Hill music venue.

The event, comprised of a mostly cringe-worthy talent portion, and policy questions, often turned hostile with heckling of less left-leaning candidates. Continue reading

With vision for ‘African American communities and spaces of the future,’ Africatown Plaza will be next to take shape in the Central District

The coming Africatown Plaza at Midtown

23rd and Union’s Africatown mural (Image: Africatown)

Community members met this week for an all-day design symposium at Washington Hall in the Central District to plan “African American communities and spaces of the future” around the Puget Sound.

The event follows a major development in the Central District with the opening of the Liberty Bank Building and comes as the early design process for Africatown Plaza at Midtown, another fully affordable development around the 23rd and Union core, is about to begin.

“Overall, working to make sure that we still have a heart and soul and a place of unity and community,” the Africatown Community Land Trust’s K. Wyking Garrett said Saturday, before giving a shout out to last weekend’s Umoja Fest Parade, a Central Area staple since the 1940s. He wants Africatown, however, to be more than just these major celebrations, but places “where we can experience Black culture, Black music, Black culinary genius from throughout the diaspora.” Continue reading

Capitol Hill Housing unveils plans for eight-story ‘LGBTQ-Affirming Affordable Senior Housing’ development on Broadway

UPDATE: An early project rendering (Image: Environmental Works)

An early conceptual rendering of The Eldridge (Image: Capitol Hill Housing)

Architects and Capitol Hill Housing representatives have showcased plans for an eight-story affordable housing project specifically for LGBTQ+ elders on Broadway between Pike and Pine that will include at least 100 units at a mix of income levels rising above the preserved facade of an auto row-era Seattle landmark.

The project was originally planned to be located on their property at 14th and Union, but the location was shifted to Broadway partly due to influence from the city, according to Chris Persons, CEO of Capitol Hill Housing, the nonprofit developer at the center of the effort. He says the new spot is “much more in the center of the LGBTQ+ community on Capitol Hill.”

“This building is going to really make a mark,” Freya Johnson, project architect at Environmental Works, said Wednesday night during a community meeting at The Summit on Pike. “It’ll be a symbol that we belong here, that this is our Hill.”

One attendee said later: “In my lifetime, I didn’t think I’d see this.” Continue reading

A few final barbs — and a few laughs — in last-push District 3 Primary candidates forum

(Image: Mount Baker Community Club)

Four of the six District 3 candidates offered one of the funniest and, at times, consensus-filled forums of the lengthy primary season on Friday night at the Mount Baker Community Club, representing a neighborhood area that straddles D3’s south and D2.

Incumbent Seattle City Council member Kshama Sawant dropped out of the event at the last minute due to illness and Seattle Public Schools Board member Zachary DeWolf could not take part due to a prior engagement.

The event provided the four remaining candidates with a large audience — one of the biggest of the forum season — to make their case before the top-two August 6 primary. While the election is just days away, many voters have yet to return the ballots. As of Friday afternoon, 13,187 ballots have been returned out of nearly 73,000 registered voters. In the 2015 Seattle City Council Primary, District 3 hit 36% turnout.

Meanwhile, early returns illustrate ongoing trends: older voters are much more likely to actually vote:

The candidates were quick to call out what they see as dysfunction on the current council, specifically criticizing Sawant at various times throughout the forum.

“They are not doing, and Kshama Sawant, our incumbent, especially, basic management duties of their job,” pot entrepreneur Logan Bowers said in his opening statement. Both Broadway Business Improvement Area head Egan Orion and neighborhood activist Pat Murakami directly disparaged the incumbent in their first remarks, as well.  Continue reading

Capitol Hill’s *other* train — City says First Hill Streetcar ridership continues to grow

Seattle saw a sizable increase in ridership for its streetcar lines in 2018 thanks to a 31% uptick on the First Hill Streetcar line, according to a new report submitted by the city’s Department of Transportation.

“2018 was a very positive year overall for streetcar operations,” SDOT Director Sam Zimbabwe said at a Seattle City Council committee this week.

System-wide ridership went up by 18% in 2018 and indications show another increase in early 2019 over the same period last year. All of that jump came from the First Hill line, a 2.5 mile route that connects major medical facilities, Seattle Central College, Seattle University, and mixed income communities to the King Street transportation hub.

The line, which first opened in January 2016, has seen ridership increase over each of its first three years. It also went up by nearly a quarter in the first three months of this year. Chris Eilerman, SDOT’s streetcar and transit corridors manager, added Tuesday that increases continued through at least May.

“The First Hill line continues to grow,” Eilerman said. “So far, the numbers are encouraging through the early part of 2019.” Continue reading

43rd District state lawmakers recap the 2019 legislative session — gun safety, LGBTQ, and housing affordability

The Washington State Legislature’s LGBTQ Caucus includes Macri and Pedersen from the 43rd — from left, Sen. Claire Wilson (D-Auburn), Sen. Jamie Pedersen (D-Seattle), Rep. Beth Doglio (D-Olympia), Rep. Nicole Macri (D-Seattle), Sen. Marko Liias (D-Lynnwood), Rep. Laurie Jinkins (D-Tacoma), Sen. Emily Randall (D-Bremerton), Rep. Christine Kilduff (D-University Place).

Several hundred new laws went into effect in Washington this week. Since the end of the 2019 session in Olympia, the 43rd District lawmakers, all Democrats, have been touting their achievements in a year in which they passed a statewide budget and wielded hefty majorities in each chamber.

The 43rd District includes Downtown Seattle, Capitol Hill, First Hill, Madison Park, and South Lake Union, and boasts three powerful lawmakers in Olympia. Sen. Jamie Pedersen chairs his chamber’s Law and Justice Committee. Rep. Nicole Macri, who continues the tradition of more than 30 years of the seat being held by an openly gay person, is vice chair of the Health Care and Wellness Committee and has been an outspoken proponent of reform in the housing sector since being elected in 2016. And this year marked Rep. Frank Chopp’s last session as Speaker of the House, a position he had held alone since 2002.

Pedersen has highlighted such disparate work as the Legislature’s move to keep firearms out of the hands of people who have a history of violent acts, which he co-sponsored, to the creation of a state LGBTQ commission and increase energy efficiency in buildings and appliances.

But in an interview, Pedersen, who lives on Capitol Hill, said the biggest accomplishment personally was a measure to, after years of stalled efforts, reform condo liability laws that allowed condo owners to easily sue builders over minor defects in construction and deterred developers from building the middle-income housing units that gave first-time homebuyers a cheaper alternative to a single-family house and gave empty nesters a smaller ownership option. Continue reading

Sawant brings her City Council committee to CD for meeting on embattled 12th Ave restaurant, gentrification

Council member Kshama Sawant was in the Central District on Monday as the city council committee she chairs discussed gentrification in her district while a local business sits on the frontlines of displacement.

At the center of the fight recently has been Saba, an Ethiopian restaurant on 12th Ave that has served the neighborhood for nearly 20 years. Saba is emblematic of broader change many longtime residents in the Central District see in which small businesses have increasingly been displaced. Organizer KL Shannon, who says she grew up in the area, said that she can’t think of one black-owned business anymore in the Central District due to rapid development.

“We want the kind of development that would allow small businesses of every origin to thrive here and for working families, regardless of income, to find affordable housing in our city because we go to work everyday and we make our cities run,” Sawant said. “We have the right to our city.” Continue reading

Still undecided? Here’s a reason to vote — or not — for each District 3 candidate

Organizations have made their endorsements, big cash has been doled out to some candidates, and oodles of Democracy Vouchers have been collected, all culminating in the voters finally having their official say, and moving two candidates forward to the November General Election.

With ballots for the August 6 top-two primary election mailed out to Seattleites and drop boxes open, here’s a look at each of the District 3 candidate’s biggest strengths and weaknesses to help if you’re still undecided in the race.

Sawant

Council member Kshama Sawant

Biggest strength: Name recognition/passionate support

As voters get their ballots in D3, chances are the name that will jump out to many voters is Sawant’s given her position not only as a current councilmember, but as one of the most notable politicians in Seattle. This is partly due to the fact that she is the only socialist on the council, which, in turn, has allowed her to earn both thousands of dollars and many eager supporters. As CHS reported Wednesday, Sawant’s campaign boasts the biggest team of staffers and volunteers, which has surely helped with doorbelling across the district. And as endorsement meetings have shown in multiple legislative districts, her supporters can organize well on her behalf to block other candidates. Continue reading

Mayor comes to Capitol Hill to launch $50M affordable ‘Housing Seattle Now’ plan

Mayor Jenny Durkan announced Wednesday two early-stage steps for more affordable housing in Seattle. One would allow the city to take advantage of a new state law allowing municipalities to use sales tax revenue to fund affordable housing. Another would renew and improve the city’s current multifamily tax exemption (MFTE) program to limit rent increases.

Durkan made these announcements in a speech in Capitol Hill’s 12th Ave Arts, which includes 88 affordable apartments developed by Capitol Hill Housing (CHH).

“We need more affordable housing in every part of this city and we need it as quickly as we can get it,” she said.

CHH’s CEO Chris Persons, introducing Durkan, stressed the urgent need for cheaper housing in Seattle and money for it, saying the organization has about 1,500 units in the pipeline but it doesn’t have the funding necessary to build them.

Included in those is a plan to create an LGBTQ-focused affordable senior housing project on Broadway.

According to the mayor’s office, the MFTE program, which provides affordable rent currently to more than 4,400 low- and middle-income households in Seattle, is expected to aid 1,300 new such homes by 2022, but without renewal, it would expire at the end of this year. Continue reading