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In race to catch Sawant, Banks kicks off Council District 3 campaign on Capitol Hill

Banks wants to catch Sawant, sure, but first she'll need to jump over challenger Rod Hearne (Image: CHS)

Banks wants to catch Sawant, sure, but first she’ll need to jump over challenger Rod Hearne (Image: CHS)

Surrounded by current and former Seattle elected officials at Capitol Hill’s Sole Repair event space, Pamela Banks formally launched her campaign Monday evening for City Council District 3.

The longtime Central District resident and CEO of the Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle told the packed room she would bring “progressive leadership in District 3 that is inclusive.”

Banks didn’t mention any specific policies she would champion in the district, which includes Capitol Hill. She did say finding solutions to the rising cost of living in the Central Area would be one of her top priorities. “It’s unacceptable that rents keep rising while wages remain stagnant,” she said.

Screen Shot 2015-04-28 at 11.34.14 AMExpected District 3 frontrunner City Council member Kshama Sawant has also made affordability her top issue in the campaign and is promoting rent control and stabilization as the way to get it done. Banks told CHS she was skeptical of Sawant’s plan.

“If (rent control) passed, it would only be one tool. It’s not the only solution,” she said. “Rent control didn’t work in San Francisco and New York, so why would it work here?”

It’s no secret that Sawant’s presence on the council has been a thorn in the side of some of her colleagues. At least three are supporting Banks ahead of the November election. Council members Bruce Harrell and Tim Burgess were in attendance at Monday’s event, and Council member Sally Bagshaw sent a letter of support.

“A lot of these city council wannabes all say the same things,” said Harrell , who had just come out of a contentious City Council meeting to fill Sally Clark’s recently vacated seat. “We don’t need to kick anyone down, we need to build up.”

Richard Conlin, who lost his council seat to Sawant in 2013, was also in attendance to support Banks. “I’ve known her for 15 years and she’s deeply committed to making her community work,” he said. Ron Sims gave the evening’s closing remarks. The former King County Executive and Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development touted Banks’ long history working in the Central Area.

Even with some institutional backing, Banks will have her work cut out for her against Sawant’s name recognition and army of activist supporters. “It’s going to be a fight, I’m not naive to that,” Banks said.

Banks was the third woman to enter the District 3 race when she announced her candidacy in March. Women’s rights advocate Morgan Beach announced her candidacy in January. A week earlier, LGBTQ advocate Rod Hearne entered the race as the first candidate to announce he would take on Sawant in the Capitol Hill-centered district.

Hearne kicked his campaign off last week at 10th Ave’s Jensen Studios but — clearly — his campaign is still working out a few kinks. Somebody forgot to invite CHS. The campaign for rocker John Roderick’s bid for one of the two at-large seats on the Council will also have a Capitol Hill start. His kick-off party is Wednesday at Fred Wildlife Refuge.

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19 thoughts on “In race to catch Sawant, Banks kicks off Council District 3 campaign on Capitol Hill

  1. San Francisco does not have rent control, strictly speaking. It has a rather weak form of rent stabilization in which rent increases are limited during a tenancy, but can go up an unlimited amount when units turn over (vacancy decontrol). There are also a dozen or so loopholes in the law that allow landlords to empty a unit fairly easily.

    New York also does not have rent control, except for a relative handful of units that have been continuously occupied since 1973 thus benefiting mostly the elderly poor (yes, unfortunately there are a very few rich free-riders who seem to get all the press attention on this issue, but they are far from typical). Most other pre-1973 units in buildings of six units or more come under a rent stabilization/vacancy decontrol law similar to SF’s. New construction since 1973 has been exempt from both, as are buildings with fewer than six units.

    Rent control works when intelligently designed to allow a fair return on investment while discouraging ownership by the type of landlord who to tries to maximize profit through tenant abuse and maintenance neglect. That said, the political window for rent control will most likely remain closed until the state legislature has a veto-proof, progressive Democratic majority, which is not likely to happen soon. What we need right now is massive apartment construction in the public and non-profit sectors to address the demand side and keep all rents reasonable.

    • Please let me know what US city has implemented Rent Control successfully. I’ve only seen it hurt tenants and housing while conveying institutional powers to landlords willing to game the system. More than interested in creating a fairer rental housing situation, but not interested in being the nation’s guinea pig when housing is involved.

      • It hasn’t been tried many places in the U.S., which is why it should not be dismissed out of hand simply because two cities have had mixed results with highly compromised versions of it. But I can say from personal experience that it did work quite well in Berkeley to keep most rents reasonable from WWII until the late 1990s, when control of city hall shifted from the old New Left to a more recently arrived neoliberal faction who made major landlord-friendly changes.

      • Berkeley is an odd example. The inventory (quality) of units in that city is disgusting. It doesn’t allow for any population growth in the city because its so difficult to build any new units. Thus all the expansion of population in the East Bay goes further East. Suburban sprawl is a an interesting affect that nobody offers up as a consequence.

      • Marcia, rent control has actually been tried in over 140 places in the US. So there’s plenty of real life experience. It’s also one of the single most studied issues in all of economics. There is no mystery. And the results haven’t been mixed as much as they’ve been consistently bad. Sawant is selling snake oil, pure and simple. Great for her campaign, bad for Seattle renters.

        Here’s a link to a local transit blog article that lays out the local case pretty well:

  2. Rent control or stabilization is no good when the landlords/owners won’t give you the option of going month-to-month at the end of your lease, instead making you sign a new lease (or an “extension”), which circumvents any caps on increases. 23% this time, and in 6 months, there’ll be another one, or I move from where I’ve lived 8 years.

    • Wow, that’s an even weaker form of “rent control” than NYC’s and SF’s. In those cities rent increases from lease to lease with the same tenant are restricted, in buildings that come under the law.

    • who are you to be able to tell a property owner what they can and can’t charge. If your so concerned about rent increases move to a more affordable city. You can move south 5 miles and pay half of what your paying. I want to live in the heart of London, but its expensive and I can’t. Should I assume they should subsidize my rent to so I can live exactly how I want to?

      • To be fair, Dag said they have lived there for 8 years. Totally uprooting your life after almost a decade is more than just an inconvenience, especially if you’re moving to a totally different city, as you suggested. I’m in favor of rent control if it will allow longtime residents to stay without an increase in rent. A city of connected neighbors with strong community ties > a city of rich people who up the rents for everyone else

      • That’s a matter of opinion. If someone wants to live in the same place for a long time they should be prepared to buy a home. If not renting is exactly what its intended to be, a temporary place to live. Are we going to start telling restaurants and grocery stores what they should charge for their goods? Should we start telling sellers of single family homes what they can sell their home for? Where does it stop? Maybe we should tell an artist what they can sell a piece of art for. We want to make sure everyone can get art don’t we? Seriously….this is ridiculous and an abuse of a land owner or building owners rights.

      • Excuse me, but your class bias is showing. Renting for most of the world’s inhabitants is a permanent, life-long situation, not a temporary one. Rent regulations address the inherent power imbalance between landlords and tenants in areas where jobs are (relatively) plentiful and land is (relatively) scarce. Food, cultural commodities, etc., are not directly comparable in any way.

  3. Price ceilings and floors do not work. It’s treating a symptom, not a problem.

    Prices are going up because more people want to live in Seattle. So build more housing, or build housing elsewhere with good transit access to Capitol Hill for those who cannot afford to live there.

    But some people want a quick fix that doesn’t require critical thinking.

    What we really need are people fighting the NIMBYs and zoning laws that are causing us to only build 6 stories on top of a light rail station in the densest part of the city, when we could build 16.

    • That last statement I agree with. People who live in dense urban centers simply have to come to a greater acceptance that the view from their windows is likely to change, probably sooner rather than later, in ways they might not like. It can’t be helped. Cities as limited by geography as Seattle have to build up, not out.

  4. @tf A rather curious comment, since homeowners are the beneficiaries of the single biggest taxpayer subsidy there is: the mortgage interest deduction. Renters subsidize owners in the U.S., not the other way around

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