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With a pledge to be more than the anti-Sawant, longtime Central District resident Banks wants to lead new District 3

banks

(Image: Avi Loud via Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle)

The pitch: Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle chief executive officer Pamela Banks presents herself as a homegrown, handshaking alternative to city council District 3 incumbent Kshama Sawant. Where Sawant grandstands, she’ll coordinate; where Sawant lambastes, she’ll collaborate. The fourth candidate to register in District 3, Banks describes herself as a progressive technician who can fine-tune the gears of city machinery, and she says her three decades working for the city and three years at the helm of the Urban League make her the candidate who can get things done.

And she’ll return phone calls.

“In order to be an effective city council person in a district system, you have to be accessible,” Banks told CHS.

“Accessible” is not a word she’d use to describe Sawant, who Banks says was the only council member she wasn’t able to meet with as CEO of the Urban League, a historic black advocacy group. Banks isn’t alone: The Stranger’s Anna Minard wrote back in November about Sawant’s two-week wait time for interviews. CHS has also had trouble getting in touch with Sawant’s camp in the past.

Banks said while she briefly met Sawant face-to-face at two different public events, they’ve yet to have a conversation. “I don’t know her, I don’t know how different we are,” she said. But while she may not know her competition, she does feel that she knows her district. “I’ve lived here [in the CD] for 20+ years, I’ve lived in Seattle for 37 years,” she said. “I have a different frame because I live here and I’ve been embedded in this community.”

west-and-pam

Dr. Cornell West with Banks at an event in November (Image: Urban League)

Not the anti-Sawant
But Banks doesn’t want to be shoehorned as an anti-Sawant candidate. She’s running on a four-tier platform: income inequality, affordable housing, education, and public safety, all of which she puts under the umbrella of “quality of life” issues.

“We have the $15 minimum wage,” she said, and she “gives credit” to Sawant for turning the heat up on that issue last year, “but what do we do to create jobs and support small businesses in order for them to pay that living wage?”

The rocky bottom of Seattle’s wage and housing woes is, of course, burgeoning homelessness, which Banks ascribes to poverty and lack of education. Banks described the problem like this:

Yesterday I watched the state come and clean off Yesler, the Yesler overpass…[State workers were] cleaning [homeless people] out. People were packing their stuff and moving. When I came back later that evening, the people were back. So we’re spending resources moving people that are turning around and moving back.

Banks pointed to the 1811 Eastside building, which houses and provides services to alcohol addicts, as an example of a solution. “We have documented how many millions of dollars it saves on medical care, people going to Harborview…I ’ve asked several people: If we know it works, why did we just build one and stop?”

For residents slightly higher on the income ladder, Banks said she would work to lower property taxes in order to lower the cost of living and slow gentrification. She doesn’t consider rent control (AKA “rent stabilization”) viable as long as it’s prohibited by the state.

On police reform, Banks said it “absolutely” has to happen. Police violence against black Americans, she said, isn’t “new, it’s just been exposed” through social media and camera phones. “So through that exposure, we’re able to force reform.”

She thinks Mayor Ed Murray’s appointment of Chief Kathleen O’Toole is a step in the right direction — “In order for reform to happen, it had to come from the top. It could not come from the bottom” — and said that continuous staffing at different precincts could be one step toward getting residents and their local cops to know each other.

Candidate Morgan Beach also decries "grandstanding."

On her website, candidate Morgan Beach also decries “grandstanding.”

Policy specifics aside, the District 3 election might well turn into a referendum on Sawant’s presence in the community and accessibility — not so much a four-way race as Sawant vs. everyone else. The councilor is a polarizing figure with popularity measures that show her with some of the strongest levels likes and dislikes in city hall, but her signature issues — the $15 minimum wage, corporate taxes, police brutality, and rent control — are not necessarily local.

On his website, candidate Rod Hearne also pitches his 'accessibility.'

On his website, candidate Rod Hearne like Banks pitches his “accessibility.”

“You go out, get arrested in SeaTac — but does that help us in Seattle?” Banks asked. Sawant is a lone ranger on policy, Banks added, and “You can’t do anything alone in this city.” When asked if Sawant could pull the entire council to the left and create elbow room for progressives like Mike O’Brien, Banks said that that’s fine for a citywide position but deadly for a district.

“If she’s a district person,” Banks said, “and she’s creating that elbow room, and we need something to happen in our district, and she can’t pull the votes to make it happen — what happens to us?”

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25 thoughts on “With a pledge to be more than the anti-Sawant, longtime Central District resident Banks wants to lead new District 3

  1. I really want to get excited about this candidacy but I’m having a few challenges here.

    First, yes, 1811 Eastlake is a great idea! So great, in fact, that it would be crazy to build just one and stop. That’s why we’ve built literally thousands of these units. In fact, DESC alone has nearly a thousand similar units, which even a cursory glance at their website will tell you. And they are not the only agency doing this work.

    Also, lowering property taxes. How will we get the revenue we need to pay for services if we lower property taxes? Do we raise taxes elsewhere, and if so which ones? If not, what services do we cut? If through efficiencies, where?

    • Hey whatthewhat,

      Thanks for pointing out that there are lots of housing-with-services projects in Seattle. Banks’ “just build one” comment was referring to the fact that 1811 Eastside specifically targets alcohol addicts without requiring sobriety. It’s my fault for not making this clear; I’m going to talk to my editor about adding a clarification. Again, thanks.

      • 1811 is a DESC project, and did specifically target the highest users of police and ER services in town to seed the project- however whatthewhat is correct, DESC does have other housing projects that are harm reduction, housing first models, and so does Plymouth Housing Group (of 12 properties in its portfolio, only 1 is a recovery-based building with sobriety required, the rest are harm reduction model). All great projects, by the way!

        Many people may have seen the clickbait articles floating around in the past year- “Utah ended homelessness, see how!’ and it’s pretty much the housing first model. So yeah, great, let’s keep it up, but it isn’t as though this model is secret or under-utilized in Seattle (as a housing advocate myself, I’m a fan of more more more, though!).

      • Thanks for this, Casey. I can tell you’re trying to be a good reporter who is fair to his interviewees. But I just can’t think of a way in which it’s meaningfully accurate to say that we built one building like 1811 Eastlake and then stopped. Glasses gives some good additional info, so I won’t belabor the point.

        I’d love to see homelessness become a key issue in our district city council race. I care way more about that than a bunch of posturing around who’s about class warfare or who’s district bona fides are the most bona fide of all.

        Hopefully Banks will brush up on local implementations of housing first (DESC and Plymouth are great places to start!), and Sawant will learn a little bit more about vacancy rates in our existing youth shelters, and from there we can go on to have a great discussion.

  2. I want a representative who takes bold, principleds stands and fights fiercely against injustice, not one who mostly goes with the flow, placating the public but conducting real business on the telephone with campaign funders and in back-room deal-making with other legislators.

    More open government, less politicing, please.

  3. Funny, because, this sounds like a rather identical platform to what Sawant has been championing. And, Banks acknowledges Sawant’s successes and criticizes her lack of “hand shaking” and building consensus, yet not one example of where this supposed fault stymied one of her major policy proposal. From everything I’ve seen and understood in her legislating, Sawant has stood for the working class and backed initiatives that aligned to that, versus placating corporations and Seattle’s ultra rich. The real problem that these challengers are conveniently glossing over in all of their “grandstanding”—there’s no political will from the democrats to stand up for ordinary people at whatever cost. Shaking hands isn’t going to solve that shit.

    So, I mean, all I get from this is truly “anti-Sawant.” These promises of being accessible to all is really just a specious attack/argument—if either of these challengers were elected, they’d also be faced with time constraints during their day. Without a doubt, we’d all still feel a little hurt upon calling their offices and getting an appointment schedule two weeks out. This is such a petty, and I’d go out on a limb and call it gendered, attack by the establishment (a planned across the board strategy by all three challengers).

    This is sad.

    • What really gets my goat, is that the candidates are 9/10 the same, but running against one another? Why doesn’t banks run for one of the open seats? largely because her campaign is solely based on being not-Sawant, in which, good luck. Sawant is loved in this district because of her “grandstanding”. I’d love to elect another city councilwoman who stands up for the poor and working class like Sawant does.

      I’ll take being arrested in Sea-tac over CEO corporate liazons on tax payer dimes any day of the week.

      • Very true. A leader willing to stand by their convictions, platform and constituency is ready to put themselves and their reputation out there and risk arrest. That’s how I viewed that action.

      • Sawant is “loved” in the district? Maybe by a few, but not by many. As has been pointed out here on CHS, she may be in trouble by deciding to run in our district (instead of city-wide), because there are several neighborhoods other than Capitol Hill in the district, and these are much less likely to support her.

  4. “Accessible” is interesting. Sure they should be accessible. But “accessible” can mean open for business to lobbyists wanting special favors, and even going to sit on the Chamber of Commerce’s lap at their annual retreat.

    Also, it’s funny that so many different candidates are trying to go up against Sawant. If they are so much more collaborative than Sawant, maybe they should have worked it out first and formed a coalition behind one candidate.

    Maybe the consultants expect that power donors will be forced to fund multiple campaigns, so as not to miss the winner?

    • Developers, organizations like the International Franchise Association, corporations, Seattle’s ultra rich, and the small business bourgeoisie is undoubtedly threatened by an awakening working class and a leader who stands to support the working class and those at the margin. This is their reaction: run and fund three candidates with varying identity politics to appeal to and divide different groups of voters in the city.

      • Why so defensive? Yes, man, I know small business owners. I’m touching on a distinction: There’s a difference between Tom Douglas and a one room record store. Figure it out.

    • “Accessible” is interesting indeed. Funny that I have been able to get personal, thoughtful, timely responses from Sawant’s office. Maybe it’s b/c I am not a lobbyist wanting a special favor but because I am just a regular old working class person. Of course her diplomatic “style” is getting attacked b/c she’s not interested in politics as usual and making things easier for the ruling class. They never talk about how effective she has been in getting things done however. She has my vote then and now.

  5. This candidate is both from and invested in the community. Sawant is a college professor from the eastside with one or two agenda topics. Representing a district means everything from minority issues to getting new streetlights installed. Municipal politics is a reality that goes well over Sawant’s head. Class war based visions of a hipster utopia aside, the rest of us in Seattle should be able to expect balance and accessibility. And again, as I have said before, the black community sees right through Sawant. The distance she shows is apparent and people are aware of it.

    • Who is seeking a “class war based vision of a hipster utopia?” How does being a hipster have anything to do with striving for economic equality? How/why are you seeking “balance” and better streetlights when there’s a plethora of injustice in our city’s systems? From the way we favor large business/billionaire interests, to SPD’s biased policing, to a broken criminal justice system that disproportionately impacts local communities of color? Oh, and thanks for speaking for Seattle’s black community. I’ll seek your oracle next time I need opinions from an entire race of people in the city.

    • I didn’t realize that living first in an apartment in capitol hill followed by buying a house in Leschi counts as the Eastside.

      I would like to know which muinicipal policy fights you think Sawant was on the wrong side of or was inattentive toward?

  6. THE URBAN LEAGUE IS NOT AND HAS NEVER BEEN “BLACK”??? THE URBAN LEAGUE IS A FRONT FOR WHITE CORPORATE MONEY AND THEIR EXECUTIVE DIRECTORS / PRESIDENTS HAVE BEEN EXPOSED AND PROSECUTED IN MANY CITYS (JAMES “GUNSLINGER” KELLY / SEATTLE SCHOOLS SMALL BUSINESS SCANDAL / “URBAN LEAGUE VILLAGE” ANTI-BLACK YOUTH SABOTAGE OF BLACK YOUTH ORIENTED AFRICAN AMERICAN HERITAGE MUSEUM AND CULTURAL CENTER??? IN SEATTLE “ED PRATT” WAS ELIMINATED FOR GETTING IN THE WAY OF THE ” BLACK POWER MOVEMENT” WITH HIS WEAK SELL OUT “CIVIL RIGHTS” GOVERNMENT BEGGING THAT HAS LED TO THE DEADLY POLICE AND “BLACK ON BLACK” KILLINGS AND “CIA IMPORTED” DRUG CRIMES AND RESULTING CULTURAL CHAOS / GENTRIFICATION).
    PAMELA BANKS IS A PUPPET AND PROVEN SELL OUT IN THE MOLD OF “ED PRATT AND GUN CRIMINAL JAMES “GUNSLINGER” KELLY??? YES, I FEAR FOR HER SAFETY???
    Omari Tahir-Garrett,2015 DECLARED CANDIDATE FOR SEATTLE CITY COUNCIL CITY WIDE POSITION AND PRESIDENT OF AFRICAN AMERICAN HERITAGE MUSEUM AND CULTURAL CENTER AT THE OLD COLMAN SCHOOL SITE / AFRICATOWN SEATTLE.

    • You forgot to add “Blacks” like Judge Monica Benton who, it seems, is also an “Uncle Tom.” Apparently, to succeed as a “black” person, you must learn how to say “Yes, Massa!” and like it. How do you like it, Monica???

      I cannot fathom bowing down to the white corporate elite to get ahead. If that’s what it takes, you might as well still be shackled. No thanks.

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