About Margo Vansynghel

Margo Vansynghel is a journalist and photographer based in Seattle. She covers news, human interest, business, art and lifestyle for newspapers and magazines and makes documentary photography series.

On the List | Homeless pets pop-up, Seattle Queer Film Festival, freestyle frisbee world championships, Capitol Hill Art Walk at (tiny!) new gallery Elbo Room

A pop-up dedicated to pets and people experiencing homelessness visits Cal Anderson Thursday (Image: Center for One Health Research)

October is not just a good month for creepiness and rain, it’s also an ideal time to wrap yourself in some softer varieties of music, including choral music during the Seattle Sings Choral Festival, running October 10 through 12, and acoustic music during the 6th annual Seattle Acoustic Festival this Saturday. Find more for acoustic aficionados, frisbee fans, and burger buffs below. And don’t forget — the weekend brings the first of three this fall without light rail service between Capitol Hill and SoDo.

WEDNESDAY, Oct. 9: No, your timing’s not off, it’s just Lit Crawl arriving early this year. The festival doesn’t start until later this month, but this week, the literary Capitol Hill event launches early with a kickoff and fundraising party slash open mic. The event will have music, food, and drinks and feature readings by some of Seattle’s “beloved literati,” Richard Chiem, Ching-In Chen, and Ari Rosenschein.

“The evening will also have plenty of opportunities to support Lit Crawl’s artists and ensure we can keep Seattle’s booziest literary night going for as long as it can,” organizers write. “Come prepared to give.” Capitol Cider, 6 PM – 8 PM 

Through Oct. 14: Some would say the burgers of Li’l Woody’s are perhaps already fast food, but this month, the local burger purveyor celebrates Fast Food Month by recreating one fast food classic every week, inspired by Wendy’s, Taco Bell, McDonald’s and co. Don’t miss this weekend’s Sourdough Woody, a Jack in the Box-inspired burger with Hill’s bacon, garlic mayo, grass-fed beef, Swiss cheese, and ketchup. It comes with curly fries. Li’l Woodys Continue reading

Di$trict 3: Independent expenditures now total more than $1M and favor Orion. Plus: Dale Chihuly, Scott Lindsay, Lyft and Seattle Fire Fighters join the fray

With ballots landing in mailboxes in just a couple of weeks and the November 5 General Election just a month away, campaigns for City Council are heating up — and so is the independent spending from Political Action Committees, which has soared to unprecedented heights.

For the final weeks of the run for the District 3 seat, CHS will keep you updated on the dollars with regular updates dedicated to looking at campaign finances. We’ll report where campaign money — whether from PACs or the candidates’ campaign coffers — comes from, and how it is spent.

With over $1 million raised in total and the two candidates headed to the general election with hundreds of thousands of dollars in their campaign coffers, the District 3 race keeps its top spot as the most expensive in the city. Incumbent Kshama Sawant has raised a total of $374,108; challenger Egan Orion tallied $296,728. 

Some notable recent Orion backers include the famed glass artist Dale Chihuly and his wife who donated $500 each, and Scott Lindsay, a former adviser to Ed Murray and father of the “Seattle is Dying” trope.  Continue reading

On the List | Creepy Capitol Hill history, Taco Day, Blessing of the Animals at Saint Mark’s

Start October off right by showing up for some good causes this Wednesday. A rally for reproductive justice at Westlake Park doubles as a commemoration of Rosie Jimenez. In 1977, the 27-year-old single mother and college student became the first person to die after the Hyde Amendment banned the use of Medicaid for abortions.

At Dino’s Tomato Pie, also on Wednesday, join a “dance party to combat homelessness” with all donations going to advocacy, education, and organizing through the Coalition on Homelessness. Find more things to do this Wednesday and throughout the week here below, or on the CHS Calendar.

THURSDAY, Oct 3: “As close as it is to Broadway’s bustle, Cafe Solstice sits on a surprisingly quiet and green corner at 10th and Thomas,” CHS wrote back in 2014 when Café Solstice arrived (again) on Capitol Hill. Broadway and the neighborhood have changed since then, but Solstice still feels like a quiet corner. Expect more hustle and bustle this Thursday during the inaugural Night Market at Café Solstice. Vendors will bring handcrafted ceramics, drawings, and illustrations, zines, Dew Drop desserts and photography from West Smith. Café Solstice, 5.30 – 9.30 PM  Continue reading

‘Emergency fundraising’ — Velocity Dance Center’s future on the Hill up in the air

(Image: Velocity Dance Center)

“Seattle’s home for dance” is in trouble. The 23-year old Velocity Dance Center says it needs emergency funds to avoid ending its year in the red and in uncertainty of whether it can keep its 12th Avenue space. Velocity says rising rents and increasing costs of operating in Seattle have made its current financial model unsustainable.

“It is an emergency,” said Catherine Nueva España, Velocity’s executive director.

During a “Community Forum” in the main performance studio of the center’s 12th Ave space on Tuesday, Velocity’s leadership answered questions from fifteen or so supporters. They also tried to galvanize them to rally support for its “Save Our Studio” campaign.

“We’re trying to raise $120,000 by the end of the year so that we can afford to stay in our space and to stabilize moving forward,” Colleen Borst, Velocity’s development director, told CHS.  Continue reading

After falling short in run for City Council, Zachary DeWolf still has plans for the school board (plus, a children’s book)

The evening after this summer’s primary election for City Council, at a public forum on the appointment of a new representative on the Seattle School Board for South Seattle, it was back to business for Zachary DeWolf.

The Primary candidate and Seattle School Board representative hadn’t given himself much time to think about the results, which were disappointing. He received 12.54% of the votes on election night, not enough to make it onto the November ballot.

“I probably didn’t get enough time to really kind of sit down with the whole experience of it,” DeWolf says today. “By and large, I can say I’m really grateful to have done it. There’s probably a whole list of 10 or 15 things I could do differently, (…) strategy stuff.”

DeWolf had announced he was running for City Council in April, a little over a year into his four-year term on the school board. Though he chiseled away a substantial chunk of labor support from Sawant’s base and was seen as one of the frontrunners, the Seattle Education Association (the city’s public school teachers union) endorsed Ami Nguyen and Kshama Sawant in District 3. It also didn’t help that local blogger and education advocate Melissa Westbrook wrote a searing editorial dis-endorsing DeWolf on Seattle Schools Community Forum, calling out his “lackluster record and lack of community meetings.”

In a recent phone call, DeWolf didn’t really feel like revisiting the issue.

“I’m not going to respond to a blogger [who] clearly doesn’t understand my work and my record,” DeWolf said. “What this comes down to is who I serve: the students and the families in my district.”

DeWolf brought up the example of the student Luna, a trans student who had asked that Seattle Public Schools fix its databases so that all correctly identified the gender and names of trans and gender-diverse students. DeWolf said the issue is now fixed because of her advocacy and his pushing for it. Continue reading

Three weeks before ballots drop, tensions rise as Sawant and Orion square off in Town Hall debate

“Please do not clap, do not cheer, and certainly do not boo.”

Such was the request from Seattle CityClub, the organizer of last night’s City Council candidate debate for District 3 at a packed Town Hall on First Hill.

It turned out an impossible ask, as supporters applauded and cheered when incumbent Kshama Sawant was welcomed to the stage, and fans of challenger Egan Orion seemingly tried to surpass the decibel levels just moments later.

Applause returned soon when Sawant hit the ground running when she called Orion a “poster child for big business” and took aim at the Amazon and Vulcan-backed Political Action Committees’ expenditures on Orion’s behalf, just moments after he made his first pitch.

Orion had said he would be equipped to serve in public office because he had served his “community” with his work at PrideFest and brought “a collaborative style of leadership” to the table.

“Unity and collaboration and coalitions with whom?” Sawant asked. “We know what corporations like Amazon and chamber of commerce are trying to do. They are trying to flip City Hall to the right.”

The comment set the tone for the rest of the debate — and potentially the rest of the campaign through November 5th — with jabs on both sides, either followed by applause or finger-snapping, one thing the organizers had not explicitly discouraged.  Continue reading

On the List | Seattle Zero Landfill upcycling, Orion vs. Sawant at Town Hall, Tasveer South Asian Film Festival

The famed Salon at the Frye Art Museum looks very different since this weekend. The hall is now devoted to portraits of women in a new exhibit titled Unsettling Femininity, which hopes to question the way portraiture, and the viewer looks at women.

Keep the theme of strong women and female complexity going this week with “Blood Water Paint,” a play tracing the life of Baroque painter Artemisia Gentileschi at 12th Avenue Arts, and “We Go Mad” at 18th & Union, a puppetry play about a woman who uncovers her family’s secrets.

Northwest Film Forum’s 22nd annual Local Sightings Film Festival runs through Sunday, and this weekend’s your chance to see some stellar local documentaries and a showcase of Indigenous films. For more cinematic art, read on to learn what to see at Tasveer, the South Asian film festival, plus find more things to do on the list below and the CHS calendar.

WEDNESDAY, Sep 25: Local writer Kate Berwanger organizes some of the city’s and Capitol Hill’s most exciting literary events, and now the poet/literary impresario has added a writing workshop to that list. During Gasoline: A Guided Writing Session for Women + Queer Writers, Berwanger will guide women, non-binary and queer writers through a series of writing prompts “in the style of a guided meditation.” Scream Seattle, 7 – 9 PM  Continue reading

Everything you always wanted to know about Sawant’s rent control bid but were afraid to ask

Sawant’s check boxes from 2017 could add another check in 2020 — though “TAX THE RICH” needs more work

Monday night, the Seattle City Council’s Renter’s Rights Committee, chaired by District 3 representative Kshama Sawant, will discuss draft legislation for rent control at City Hall during a public hearing. It’s a cornerstone moment in the final months of her term and in her race to retain her seat in November.

Sawant’s draft legislation follows her six-year-old call for rent control, a 2015 City Council resolution supporting the repeal of a State-wide rent control ban, plus an April letter from the Seattle’s Renters’ Commission urging the council and Mayor Jenny Durkan to pass a rent control ordinance in Seattle.

In the letter, the commission’s co-chairs noted that “the unpredictability and rate of rent increases in the past decade has caused a massive burden on renters which has led to both homelessness and displacement of Seattleites.”

So, what does rent control mean to Sawant?

It’s an umbrella term that can mean different things depending on specific rules and regulations. Overall, rent control, in some cases also called rent stabilization, means limiting rent increases. This can happen in various ways: it can be tied to inflation, the cap can apply only per tenancy or beyond the duration of a tenancy, and come with or without restrictions on evictions. Some include only buildings of a certain age and exempt new buildings.

Here are a few more questions about the whole thing — and as many answers as we have heading into Monday night’s session.

What does Sawant propose? Sawant’s office remained tight-lipped about the details of the draft legislation ahead of the committee meeting on Monday. What is clear: rent increases would be tied to inflation (around 2% or 3% per year), and the legislation will be “free of corporate loopholes.”  Continue reading

On the List | Climate Strike at Cal Anderson, Park(ing) Day 2019, St. Demetrios Greek Festival

On Friday, Capitol Hill’s Cal Anderson Park will be the heart and the start of the Seattle Climate Strike this Friday, organized in conjunction with “2,500 strikes planned globally and over 650 in the US alone.” The Seattle strike will begin at 9 AM in Cal Anderson with a climate activism festival in the park. For more climate action, head over to Town Hall next Tuesday, where author Naomi Klein will make a “(Burning) Case for a Green New Deal.” Find more things to do on the list below and the CHS calendar.

WEDNESDAY, Sep 18: Need help with a landlord issue? Want to help organize for better protections for renters in Seattle? The Tenant Organizing Collective of the Seattle Chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America meets monthly at Broadway’s All Pilgrims “to teach each other concrete, effective organizing skills to build power at home.” All Pilgrims, 7 PM

THURSDAY, Sep 19 – THURSDAY, Oct 3: In art history, “woman” is often a category of its own. Take Artemisia Gentileschi, described as “one of the best-known women artists of the 17th century.”  Ever heard Peter Paul Rubens described as one of the best-known male artists of that time? Yeah. Anyway, the Italian Baroque artist’s life and career is now fodder for a play, “Blood Water Paint.” The play is based on the book of the same name and traces Gentileschi’s life and legacy as a painter of acclaim and “feminist hero” who successfully pressed charges against her rapist. 12th Avenue Arts  Continue reading

A movement leader and community leader want the D3 seat for City Council — Here’s how they got there

On the surface, there is nothing particularly remarkable about the YouTube video. The clip from November 29, 2011, hasn’t been viewed much more than 2,900 times. Like many other ‘flash mob’ videos from the era, the camera slightly shakes as five dancers, surrounded by Black Friday shoppers at Westlake Center and Mall, swells to nine and then to over 20 in a rehearsed group choreography to John Mayer’s “Waiting on the World To Change,” and Jessie J’s “Price Tag.”

If anything about the video stands out, it’s the chant “Occupy Seattle!” heard from the performers. What’s most remarkable however is what the video does not show: it captures one of the few times the worlds of Kshama Sawant and Egan Orion’s overlapped before this years’ election. Now both are vying for the same seat on the city council.

Orion, who provided production support to the Occupy Seattle Flash Mob (according to the YouTube video), was a “Flash Mob King” then, producing hundreds-strong ephemeral public dance performances in Seattle and across the country.

Though she was not involved with the video, at the time, Sawant, teaching economics at Seattle Central College, had emerged as one of the most prominent voices and organizers to emerge from Occupy Seattle, an offshoot of the Occupy Wall Street protests against economic inequality.

Eight years on, the worlds of Orion and Sawant collide again. Both are running to represent District 3, which spans a wide area including Lake Washington-adjacent neighborhoods such as Madison Park, renter-heavy Capitol Hill, and the Central District, and part of the ID, on a City Council that will likely see historic turnover with seven of nine seats up for election. Sawant, who has served on the council for six years, is one of three council members up for reelection.

The city has changed immensely in the past eight years. Four — really, five —  mayors, a new democracy voucher program, a declaration of a homelessness state of emergency, accelerated gentrification and displacement, a repealed employee hours or “head” tax and the appearance of “Seattle Is Dying” later, the fault lines — between visions of what Seattle has (or should) become — have hardened.

Sawant, of course, is a socialist. Orion is billed as the more business-friendly candidate. Sawant’s somewhat uncomfortable talking about her personal life. Orion, when we meet him in Volunteer Park, offers up intimate details political candidates usually don’t disclose to a reporter. (Failures and heartbreak. A tequila-fueled spat in the streets of Mazatlán, Mexico. The name of the person he lost his virginity to.)

Born to two teachers in Auburn, Orion grew up a few blocks from Green River Community College, where he was one of the few kids who took part in its theater productions. As a closeted “theater gay” in “very white, very middle class” Auburn during the AIDS crisis, theater was a reprieve from bullying and a way to express himself outside of the confines of school. In high school, Orion ran Students Against Driving Drunk and led his school’s chapter of Students Opposed to Apartheid. For the MLK Day assembly, he invited then-mayor Norm Rice to his school and set up a U2 “Sunday Bloody Sunday” slideshow with music.  Continue reading