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‘Tax the rich’ — Sawant’s District 3 campaign goes global with push for Seattle rent control

(Image: Alex Garland with permission to CHS)

(Image: Alex Garland with permission to CHS)

In Seattle’s largest City Council campaign rally and fundraiser of the 2015 campaign, hundreds of supporters of incumbent and District 3 candidate Kshama Sawant packed into 8th and Seneca’s Town Hall Saturday evening. A slate of speakers, some traveling from as far as Ireland and Greece, pumped up the crowd for nearly two hours in anticipation of Sawant taking the stage.

“What is taking place in this room is called a revolution,” said author and TruthDig columnist Chris Hedges. Hedges later said, “If we lose this one we lose everything, and it begins tonight with you in this room with Kshama Sawant.”

The City Council campaign rally was not only unusual for its size, but for its sweeping themes that extended far beyond the boundaries of Capitol Hill and the handful of other District 3 neighborhoods. Speakers extolled the importance of spreading Sawant’s Socialist Alternative party ideals globally and the crucial role her reelection would play in that effort.

Sawant continues to push rent control as a top issue in her campaign despite the statewide ban on such policies. On Monday, Sawant and City Council member Nick Licata introduced a resolution stating the council’s support for rolling back the ban.

“Our city is being turned into a playground for the super wealthy,” Sawant said Saturday night.

Also speaking at the campaign rally, State Sen. Pramila Jayapal vowed to work to lift the state ban on rent control, which is key for Sawant to make good on her pledge to pass rent control in Seattle.

“People demanded action with one voice on the housing crisis,” Sawant said. “They demanded rent control to make Seattle affordable.”

“We must nationalize these victories … demand living wages and union rights across the country.”

The rally was preceded by a similar event in New York City, where Sawant took home around $9,000 in campaign contributions, according to her staff. The trip didn’t go unnoticed by opponent Pamela Banks, who chided Sawant for traveling to NYC instead of attending a Friday City Council meeting about the mayor’s proposed transportation levy.

Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein told the crowd that Seattle was leading the way on third party progressive politics. “We must nationalize these victories … demand living wages and union rights across the country,” she said.

When Sawant finally took the stage, she called on a campaign of mass involvement against the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and the Washington Restaurant Association. She also said Capitol Hill’s LGBTQ and artist communities “have been under siege from this developer/development agenda.”

Sawant took time to strongly rebuke Mayor Ed Murray for, among other things, proposing a bill to keep election events outside of City Hall. The bill, which was recently shot down by the city’s ethics commission, attempted to ban events like Sawant’s recent affordable housing forum in City Hall which Murray considered to be a thinly veiled campaign rally.

“Corporate politicians … need to be constantly reminded of the constitutional rights of the rest of us,” Sawant said.

In a nod to the city’s new minimum wage law — Sawant’s top accomplishment during her first term on City Council — tickets for the rally and fundraiser went for $15. Rally goers who could afford it were also asked to donate the full amount for a couple and individual, $1,400 and $700 respectively. Volunteer sign-up sheets were distributed throughout crowd by Sawant’s campaign legions, many wearing red t-shirts with “I’m voting for the socialist” printed on the back.

Sawant’s opponents in the race include Banks, Morgan Beach, Lee Carter, and Rod Hearne. All five candidates are confirmed to be at Monday night’s Madison Valley/Madison Park candidate forum. The event starts at 7 PM at the Bush School’s 34th and E Harrison campus.

See CHS’s District 3 coverage here.

CHS Notes:

  • Emcee Danni Askini, executive director of the Gender Justice League, said Sawant was the only council candidate to attend her organization’s first events.
  • Askini said the effort to reelect Sawant will be won “at the doors.”
  • David Rolf, president of SEIU 775, said people in 100 years will not remember the names of organizers, politicians, or celebrities who fought for social justice. “They’re going to remember whether a handful of courageous souls in the upper left corner of this country had the courage to stand up for the American dream when it was at its greatest level of risk.”
  • Abdi Mohamed, an East African community organizer, said he met Sawant when hardly anyone in the city could pronounce her name. “Now she’s a household name,” he said.
  • “(Sawant) understood that building new jails is the perpetuation of a racist prison industrial complex,” said community organizer Dustin Washington.
  • Washington said Sawant’s election would send a message to “the racist, capitalist power structure.”
  • People do not want more of the “spineless Democratic and Republican candidates, said Stein.
  • Christos Giovanopoulos, a member of Greece’s ruling Syriza party, called on solidarity for socialist groups across the globe. “We cannot win without you, you cannot win without us. We are in a common struggle,” he said.
  • Ruth Coppinger, a Socialist Party member of the Irish Parliament, told crowd how U.S. corporations avoid paying massive amounts of taxes in Ireland.
  • Coppinger said many in Europe would be floored to find out that a socialists were winning elections in the U.S.
  • “If you have Visine in your purse right now, tell me you can contribute $420 to Kshama Sawant,” said IBEW union member Nicole Grant while conducting the evening’s donation ask.
  • Despite being a policy analyst for Seattle’s Urban League, the organization Banks used to run, Sheley Secrest said Sawant was catching grief “for carrying our voices to City Council.”
  • Talking about her recent affordable housing town hall, Sawant said “City Hall was filled with ordinary people in a way it hasn’t in a long time.”
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44 thoughts on “‘Tax the rich’ — Sawant’s District 3 campaign goes global with push for Seattle rent control

  1. Can someone show me where Sawant explains why and how her version of rent control won’t screw up like so many other cities have?
    -Why, if they cant raise income (rents), property owners won’t just cut back on expenses (repairs and maintenance)?
    -How, with the giant incentives to never move out, we wont see the number of apartments listed for rent plummet to nearly zero?
    -What would prevent owners from charging $5000-$10,000 move in fees like Tokyo did?
    -Why owners wouldn’t make tenants responsible for all the costs of repairs, taxes and insurance (Triple Net leasing)?
    -Why any investor/developer in their right mind would ever build another apartment building in Seattle again?

    Any while she’s at it, why doesn’t Sawant advocate a freeze on the increase in the cost of food at Safeway? Or gas at the pump? or utilities? Why just housing?

  2. Her message is really harmful as it demonizes human beings — many of whom are hard working, self-made and philanthropic — if Ms. Sawant’s war-like battle-cries gain traction. It’s especially unfortunately (and short-sighted) for those small and medium business owners who have created needed jobs for others.

    We need to shift discussion away from people to all the corporate tax breaks and other incentives in order to fund social quality of life — especially since the impact of corporate workforces create real strain on our social and physical infrastructure.

    • Please cite remarks from the rally’s takeaways that suggest any kind of “dehumanizing” of people. And, I call complete and utter bullshit on your claim A) that Seattle is a hotbed of hardworking, self-made, philanthropic small/medium businesspeople, and B) all the folks behind these self-made success stories are getting the shaft under her “battle cry.”

      If you, or anyone else, seriously think they’ve “made it” all on their own, and that the common worker, and anyone else in the city for that matter, needs to kowtow to you, oh great job creator! then seriously… you’re the problem, not Sawant.

      • Steve, can’t t you disagree with someone respectfully? His comments were reasonably made, if you disagree with him, say so, but don’t call “bullshit,” put words in his mouth, and label him the problem. In so doing, you only make his point.

      • You’re funny. How am I making his point? My comments are my own, not Sawant’s or anyone else’s.

        Besides, why should I, or anyone else, respect someone who’s intent is to disinform by spreading hype, misinformation and baseless rhetoric? Who fails to provide any evidence or accurate analysis to back up his “opinion.”

        I’m pretty sure I inferred a general summary of the points in his comment: “Her message is really harmful as it demonizes human beings — many of whom are hard working, self-made and philanthropic — if Ms. Sawant’s war-like battle-cries gain traction.”

        If you think I need to respect that, sorry man… Nope.

  3. Discussion is already and seemingly constantly shifted away from the whole “tax the rich” concept. One person and one movement representing may people, are trying to bring voice to reforming the tax system in a way that middle and lower class people aren’t paying disproportionately, and you immediately want to shift it away from even talking about it. Well, you’ve already failed because people are talking about it. And if taxing the rich demonizes human beings, then I suppose taxing the poor and the middle class demonizes the poor and the middle class.

    Difference is rich people (self-made or Paris Hllton) can survive being taxed more. They really really can.

    As for looking at corporate tax breaks, that should be done too, but not at the exclusion of looking at tax rates on individuals.

    It’s a conversation that needs to happen. And it’s not time to shift discussion away from anything.

    • So the so-called wealthy people are a problem, or is it the system? Pick your battles a bit more thoughtfully.

      This campaign makes such sweeping generalizations and assumptions about people and circumstances that the solutions are just as simplistic and short-sighted as that of the radical right agenda — no different really.

      Ultimately both the far left and the far right are fueled by fear, branded enemies and emotion.

      • You’re the one saying I need to “pick my battles” however I believe the tax system should be looked at as a whole, and that includes tax rates on the wealthy, middle class and poor, as well as corporate tax structure. In your post, you said corporate tax breaks should be looked at. I agree with that, but not to the exclusion of looking at taxes on individuals and families. I am not fueled by fear, branded enemies and emotion. I am fueled by hope, a sense of justice, intellectual curiousity, openness to other points of view, and a desire for change and fairness.

        Don’t put words in my mouth or label me.

  4. First of all, anyone who thinks Seattle is a “playground for the super-wealthy” has never lived in a city where there really *are* super-wealthy people. Seattle is not one of them. New York and San Francisco are, and I’ve lived in both, and saw how rent control results in decreased development to meet the housing shortage. If rents are going up in Seattle, and they are, the answer is to build more housing, not discourage it. It’s Econ 101, folks.

    • Yours is a voice of reality…thanks! When I hear Sawant say things like our city is a “playground for the super wealthy,” I just have to laugh. Gross exaggeration is not a very effective way to try and make a point.

      Her divisive, boiler-plate rhetoric is getting really old. She’s preaching to a small choir, and I hope the upcoming election will be the last we will hear from her. However, I doubt she will stop grandstanding….she enjoys the limelight.

      • Bob, you’re a terrible voice for the city as the comfort you enjoy seems to blind you from the real struggles that people are facing.

        From the mayor’s own HALA committee:
        The average rent for a new one-bedroom unit last year — $1,780 — was unaffordable for an elementary-school teacher, according to HALA Committee data.

        Do you find it perfectly acceptable for property owners to raise their rents 30-100%? Everyone deserves a piece of the pie?

      • If the city’s zoning and permitting rules are making it infeasibly difficult to develop new property at a rate that keeps up with population growth, why is that the fault of property owners?

        Property owners raise rents when there are more people looking for a place to live than there are places for them to live. The alternative is to leave the prices the same and have long, long waiting lists. At least rising rental prices create an incentive for developers to try to push through the zoning obstacles and build more housing, but a wholesale citywide upzone would be a better solution.

      • No, I don’t think those kind of rent increases are acceptable…don’t know how you inferred that from what I said. But I and many others don’t think rent control is the answer, and there have been many comments on this blog explaining why this is so. I live next door to an older apartment building which is owned by an elderly, our-of-state couple, and they have kept the rents significantly below market rate for years….I really respect that, and wish more landlords would follow their example.

        Since you think that my comments are a “terrible voice,” my suggestion would be to stop reading what I have to say. As another commenter said, your responses are often very disrespectful, and I would add “holier-than-thou.”

      • 3rdEye – we cool. I’ll relax.

        Bob, so, if you’re not okay with those types of increases, which are happening right now and have been for some time, where are all these affordable units being built to supposedly help manage the current crisis of skyrocketing rents?

        Without some type of rent control/stabilization, what can be done to solve the immediate problem of economic eviction (we both live here, and I’m sure we both have friends and loved ones being impacted by these rising rents)? Are you okay with these people being forced to pick up their lives, move outside the city, further away from their jobs and lives?

      • Well maybe her definition of super wealthy is different than yours, however it’s clearly a playground for the wealthy (super or not). Plus $35/hour would be super wealthy compared to someone making $15/hour, mmmkay? If you think Seattle isn’t more and more about haves and have nots, then obviously you’re one of the haves and have zero empathy.

      • It is possible to disagree with your characterization of the city as more and more about the haves and have nots without having zero empathy.

  5. I don’t want an unfair tax on the rich anymore than I want one on the poor or my middle class self. I want a fair tax system. Being rich is not a crime. The only people that support blindly taxing the rich because “they can survive” have no hope that they’ll ever make real cash.

  6. Are there runoffs in the city council if no one in a district wins 50%? I can see that happening here due to the amount of people running.

    • The primary election I August will winnow the candidates to the top two vote getters for each seat. The general election in November will decide the winner.

  7. If a “corporate” candidate went and raised money from “corporate politics” supporters in New York (for example, from hedge fund managers), or if a council member used her or his office for a rally supporting the “corporate agenda”, would our local leftists call that “free speech”? Today, “free speech” seem to mean to both leftists and right wingers, “free speech for speech that I agree with.” When we hear that council member offices and city resources are used to support a political rally, just remember, these resources can also be used to support rallies for causes that you don’t like.

    Seattle’s ethics commission seems to have ruled that it would be unethical not to allow such activity, because free-speech rights are part of ethics, apparently. So when city resources are used to support a rally supporting our police or opposing more regulation of police, or a rally for those who want more tax money spent to subsidize billionaire’s sports complexes, will we see Savant and her supporters supporting it as free speech? My guess is not, but anything is possible, I suppose.

    • Yes, it’s a two way street, and I haven’t seen one proposal from the city’s “leftists” saying that non-progressives shouldn’t have equal access/right to that expression. That was the mayor’s form of fascism.

      The ethics commission has come down on the right side of the matter.

  8. Yikes. I hope she never becomes rich herself (like a lot of politicians) lest she suffers from her own policies should they pass.

  9. Sawant’s campaign really need to have a better system when it comes to tracking who’s door they’ve knocked on. I’ve had three people and multiple fliers in the last couple weeks. I get it. You want my vote. Loud and clear. And no, I won’t put a sign in my yard.

  10. I doubt Kshama Sawant cares much, if anything, about District 3 level issues. She is campaigning on national issues but running to represent a neighborhood. We deserve better than that. Let her run in a presidential election as a socialist candidate, but let us have someone who cares about the issues facing our district. What she is doing is totally disingenuous.

    • This is EXACTLY why I’m voting against her. I don’t agree with her politics at all but she could literally care less about the neighborhood she’s trying to represent. She should move to DC to push this socialist crap.

  11. Does anyone here think that Kshama Sawant has even the slightest interest in district three level issues? It is not fair to any of us in district three for her to try to hijack our neighborhood for her campaign. She is deceitful, divisive, and dangerous. We deserve someone who cares about our district and the issues relevant to It. Let’s vote her out of office!

  12. Kshama Sawant should run for national office as a Socialist candidate. She has no interest in representing the citizens of our district. She is using us and this office to push her divisive agenda. Let’s get rid of her!