UPDATE 10/6/2015: You can watch the debate here:
Original report: The first and only scheduled City Council District 3 debate was more barbed and more focused on neighborhood issues than past forums, but candidates also stuck to well-honed talking points in what is now the home stretch of the race.
City Council member Kshama Sawant and Seattle Urban League CEO Pamela Banks squared off in the hour-long debate at Seattle University Sunday night. Erica C. Barnett of The C is for Crank moderated along with three community panelists. The debate was broadcast live by the Seattle Channel — a recording of the forum is expected to be available for view later this week.
Banks also launched a new line of criticism against Sawant Sunday night, going after her Council attendance record. According to Banks, Sawant has a track record of missing committee meetings including the energy committee, which she chairs.
“You can’t represent the people without doing the work in government,” Banks said.
As in previous forums, Sawant quickly established herself as the more energetic and polished speaker — though it didn’t help that Banks was literally losing her voice as the debate progressed. Banks did prove she could draw a crowd capable of rivaling Sawant’s reliable sea of red. Wearing purple “PB” shirts, the Banks supporters in the crowd matched the Sawant side cheer for cheer.
18 things CHS heard at the D3 debate:
- “I believe in unity,” said Sawant, adding that she rejected Seattle divided by “stunning” financial inequity.
- Banks: “My opponent only listens to people who think she is great.”
- Career Bridge, a jobs program launched by the Urban League under Banks, was brought up multiple times in the evening. Sawant said she wanted to bolster the program; Banks said she tried to meet with Sawant about it last year, but could never get an appointment.
- Before hiring more police officers, Sawant called for an audit of the Seattle Police Department to see how resources are being deployed.
- Banks: “I’ve been working on Black Lives Matter all my life.”
- Lamenting the loss of small businesses along 23rd and Jackson, including her dry cleaner, Banks called for the creation of a City small business commission.
- Sawant cited the LGBTQ town hall she organized on Capitol Hill as one example of work she’s done in trans community.
- Banks called for creating an ombudsman position in the Office of Civil Rights to work on LGBTQ issues.
- Just like city’s use bonding capability to build stadium, Sawant said Seattle should do the same to create “tens of thousands” of units of affordable housing. Banks said it’s unrealistic.
- Banks said she supported “housing first” policies for homeless, like those that have been used in Salt Lake City, but didn’t specify how it should be paid for.
- Sawant said one sensible feature of a rent control law could be that landlords who have pending building violations would be prevented from raising their rents. Banks has repeatedly criticized Sawant for making rent control out to be a panacea.
- Sawant said a strong Tenant Bill of Rights could help people with past convictions find housing and that there should be a path towards debt relief after time served.
- Sawant: “The real problem we are facing in this city is revenues to fully fund social services.”
- Both candidates say they approve municipal broadband. Banks said District 3 has the worst broadband in the city. Sawant said she is working to fund a pilot program.
- Sawant cast doubt over her opponent’s pro small business talk, saying its often used to mask big business giveaways.
- “We as a society have failed those young people,” Sawant said in discussing gun violence in the district. “They feel the police are an occupying force.”
- In dicussing her vote against a zoning change to allow for a new King County youth dentenion center, Sawant said the county should be able to dedicate an equal amount of resources to youth jobs.
- Banks: “We cannot continue to put all modes of transportation on the same street.”
Some refreshing new ground was covered during the debate. Danielle Askini, founder of the Gender Justice League, asked how the candidates would address LGBTQ homelessness on Capitol Hill. Sawant said vowed to fight for a millionaires tax to fully fund social services and work to create an LGBTQ youth shelter on Capitol Hill.
When asked how she would work to meet the unique housing needs of transgender people, Banks said the “1811 House” project for alcoholics in Eastlake should serve as a model and drew comparisons to work being done for other communities — a comparison that didn’t play well on social media following the debate.
What's worse – the fact that council candidate Pamela Banks mispronounced "transgender" 3 times, or that she compared them to drug addicts?
— Ijeoma Oluo (@IjeomaOluo) October 5, 2015
The moderator panel also included Jazmin Williams, Founder of Rouge Lioness, and Bryan Adamson, from Seattle University School of Law. Edward Wolcher from debate co-host Town Hall read a few questions submitted from the audience.
Pike/Pine pedestrian zone and neighborhood issues
On one of the most provincial questions of the night, Banks was extremely critical of the Pike/Pine pedestrian pilot saying she thought the pedestrian pilot was interesting but that she was concerned about the way in which this August’s pilot was executed. Banks said she would defer to small businesses on issues like the pilot. Sawant took a different tack and said she had spoken with business owners who supported the pilot for its potential to increase foot traffic. She also raised the idea of creating a permanent market place for small businesses and artists along the lines of the Pike Place Market.
Sawant continued her criticisms of Banks taking donations from executives and developers, saying it shows Banks will be incapable of delivering the transformative housing policies the city needs. Banks never addressed the critique, instead she pointed out that she’s raised a significantly higher percentage of her money from within the district as compared to Sawant.
In the fundraising race, Sawant was first to reach the $300,000 donation mark with just under $326,000 raised as of Monday, according to City campaign finance records. Banks is close behind with $299,160. CHS previously wrote about the different paths the two candidates have taken to create Seattle’s richest race.
UPDATE: Monday is the deadline for online registration and address updates to be eligible to vote on the November ballot.
UPDATEx2: The Sawant campaign followed the debate Monday morning with a press release touting its candidate’s fundraising success:
Sawant Has Highest Number of Seattle and District 3 Contributors
Campaign raises $70,000 in September, $358,655 in total
Socialist city councilmember Kshama Sawant, without taking a penny in corporate money, has raised more than $70,000 in September, bringing the total money raised by the campaign to $358,655.
Sawant’s re-election campaign continues to attract small donors, with nearly 1,000 donations of less than $25. Seventy-five percent of donations to Sawant are for $100 or less, half are for $50 or less.
With more than 2,600 donors (more than double any other city council candidate) and almost 500 individual contributors from District 3 alone, Councilmember Sawant has the highest number of individual donors, from within her district and within the city of Seattle, than any other candidate running for any position in the city.
“Sawant’s fundraising success, as with the Bernie Sanders campaign, is showing it’s possible to run a serious campaign entirely powered by donations from ordinary people if you are able to inspire them with a bold pro-worker platform,” the announcement trumpets.