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Sawant and Banks throw barbs — and take a few hits — in District 3 debate

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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:

  1. “I believe in unity,” said Sawant, adding that she rejected Seattle divided by “stunning” financial inequity.
  2. Banks: “My opponent only listens to people who think she is great.”
  3. 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.
  4. Before hiring more police officers, Sawant called for an audit of the Seattle Police Department to see how resources are being deployed.
  5. Banks: “I’ve been working on Black Lives Matter all my life.”
  6. 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.
  7. Sawant cited the LGBTQ town hall she organized on Capitol Hill as one example of work she’s done in trans community.
  8. Banks called for creating an ombudsman position in the Office of Civil Rights to work on LGBTQ issues.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
  13. Sawant: “The real problem we are facing in this city is revenues to fully fund social services.”
  14. 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.
  15. Sawant cast doubt over her opponent’s pro small business talk, saying its often used to mask big business giveaways.
  16. “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.”
  17. 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.
  18. 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.

The moderator panel also included Jazmin Williams, Founder of Rouge Lioness, and Bryan Adamson, from Seattle University School of LawEdward 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.

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33 thoughts on “Sawant and Banks throw barbs — and take a few hits — in District 3 debate

  1. Sorry Kshama, people who have a place to live commit crimes too. Housing and crime are separate issues. Crime has different root causes and is not necessarily tied to socioeconomic stuff. (although it certainly can be) Banks is about ten thousand times more in the real world but she needs to practice being a more confident and assertive public speaker. Her opponent is assertive but is an idiot.

    • I disagree. There are instances where housing issues and crime issues are related. Homeless people are more vulnerable to street crime for one thing. Consider “home invasion” to people who are in housing as related to the effectively constant “home invasion” on homeless people who don’t even have a door. They are just exposed to the elements and people. No locks.

  2. “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.”

    That’s a great soundbite, but how exactly is this going to be implemented? A higher sales tax on Maseratis and Ferraris? Is this just for Capitol Hill millionaires, or citywide, or statewide? Because amending the state constitution, which it would require, isn’t really the work of a district rep. Maybe it’s to create a Seattle tax? What’s a “millionaire” now? Is it income over a million? Over $250K? 150K?

    • Vague changes in state law, which will be achieved by vague activism on the ground, will create a vague policy to achieve vague goals. CM Sawant in a nutshell.

      • It’s true that change requires more than a soundbite. But a soundbite on something doesn’t mean there is no plan and doesn’t mean change won’t actually be possible (despite resistance). See change in minimum wage for instance.

        If you dismissed all political leaders because they have soundbites, there is nobody left.

      • Minimum wage is a city issue. Adding any sort of income tax requires a modification of the state’s constitution.

        While normally I’d admire someone’s chutzpah for taking on a state issue from their district seat, it looks to me like it’s more soundbite, less specific plan. I mean, if the plan is, “We got $15, we’ll get a rich person tax,” that’s a kind of a plan, I guess. Not a very specific one, though.

  3. “Sawant cast doubt over her opponent’s pro small business talk, saying its often used to mask big business giveaways.”

    Any *specifics* to go with that indictment? Or just incendiary rhetoric pandering to the base? This seems like a charge that begs for details– if it’s true, that is.

    • Perhaps there were details at the event. This was taken as a soundbite from the event. Try watching the debate recording to find out versus assuming.

    • Well, if Banks *had* any policy proposals on her website besides around safety&police work, maybe you could defend her small business proposals.
      Sadly Banks, like most politicians, won’t put out a a serious policy proposal because then she could get scrutinized. Most politicians would rather just say “Black Lives Matter” or “promote small businesses” and let the audience fill in the gaps.

      In terms of Seattle politics, many of us noticed that the $15 minimum wage was fought by Subway and McDonald’s franchisee owners saying that they were small businesses, so I would presume that is where Sawant is coming from.

  4. Banks disappointed me when she questioned Move Seattle to make it more “responsive” to neighborhoods when that totally misunderstands what Move Seattle is trying to do. Move Seattle intentionally funds projects that will garner state and federal dollars making a $900M investment almost double in value.

    CM Sawant was in on the Move Seattle discussion, so she understands that. I was also pleasantly surprised that she didn’t falsely claim that property tax is regressive like her fellow CM Licata.

    • I don’t know about you, but as a middle-income wage earner living in a very modest home just off the CD, whose property taxes have gone up almost $1000 in the last couple of years (when wages sure haven’t), property taxes sure seem regressive to me. You can scream “look how much your house value has gone up!”, but what good does that do me if I don’t want to move? It cracks me up to see Sawant supporters characterizing Banks supporters as ‘fat cats’ or practically 1%-ers, when we’re mostly people who have voted incredibly liberally our entire voting lives. Listening to their gibberish we might as well all be f**king Trump supporters.

      • No, it’s not perfectly progressive. But Howard Shultz owns more house than you, and you own more house than a fast food worker. It’s very, very progressive.

        And sorry, but if you want me or anyone else to QQ for you, you’re going to have to find reason that isn’t “I’ve made too much money in real estate”.

      • The point is, most middle-income people who own their homes and aren’t house-flippers, property developers, or landlords haven’t “made” ANY money on their homes, until they’re eventually forced out of them because they can’t afford the taxes. Some states have homestead exemptions for an owner-occupied house. WA doesn’t. If we had a homestead exemption, it might be “progressive”– but being forced to sell your home and move because you can’t afford the taxes anymore isn’t what I’d call “progressive.

      • You’re QQing about your increasing net worth, then you want to not pay your fair share for people who are actually struggling. Stop skirting your obligation to society.

        Also, check out what Prop 13 did and is doing to California’s governments and society, which is a policy that keeps property tax steady at a rate when the homeowner bought the property – all CA governments are cash strapped (though maybe that’s what you want in a society!)

      • I didn’t say I didn’t want to pay my fair share; and stop putting stupid words in my mouth–I didn’t say we should adopt the same silliness that CA did with Prop13. California also has an income tax, which is what WA really needs. And why is rent control for people in $1800/mo+ apartments a great idea, but homeowners should have no limits whatsoever on their property taxes?

      • And BTW, a homestead exemption doesn’t have to mean your tax is “frozen” like California did– only that you get a flat $$ exemption allowance off the assessed value. It gives an owner-occupied slight break, not a “frozen” tax or free ride.

      • Are you under the impression that your snarky, patronizing side of this conversation is bringing anyone over to your side of the debate?

        Because, no.

      • max and zach can go play in the corner with their toy society kit while the rest of us try to live in the real world.

  5. As a Sawant supporter, I appreciated Banks’ advocacy and her deep connection to the issues of the community — until her closing statement. There, she decided to reel off many (somewhat ad hominem) attacks that Sawant had no opportunity to respond to. I think the attacks should be addressed. In fact, Sawant attacked Banks for her corporate donors, but in the debate itself. But to sneak them all into the closing statement seemed calculated and cowardly.

  6. Didn’t read anything about the RV’s I see in the park every morning, campers everywhere, burglaries, robberies, potholes. Subsidized housing for transgender people is absurd. How about housing for kids with Aspberger’s then? I find the income bashing offensive. Most of the wealthy people on Capitol Hill work hard for their money, are mostly very liberal and donate to good causes. Everyone I know here votes yes on every tax/levy proposed. Bashing them is not the solution. In fact, when was the last time this district voted down a new tax? I won’t vote for either one of these women. I think they’re both unfit for city council.

    • Let’s have a debate between this commenter who wrote “Subsidized housing for transgender people is absurd.” and the Gender Justice League.

    • Hey Bob — I’ll have to look into whether we misunderstood or there were some kind of technical difficulties. The online stream was available.

  7. Sawant struggled on soundbites and was obviously caught off guard by Banks who came prepared to do battle. Banks is a candidate who has been grinding for years; working front lines and getting her hands dirty in an attempt to save lives in out low income neighbhorhoods. Sawant claims to be “for the people”, but which people? She is the Councilmember in the District most plagued by gun violence and murder of minority teens: Yet she does not attend remembrance ceremonies, work with anti-violence campaigns in the area, or give time to “the people” in her area. We’ve got to elect Banks if we want to see real change. Could you imagine the vibrant community that we could have with Banks and Harrell representing the CD & RV? Let’s do it!

    • She pretty much lost any chance I’d ever take her seriously when she told Boeing employees they should throw out the management and take over the Boeing factories. Try reading the Socialist Alternative website if you need to hear more.