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Sawant calls small business summit to organize against ‘big business interests’

Sawant joined Capitol Hill nightlife owner Dave Meinert in October to announce a commercial rent control plan. (Image: CHS)

Capitol Hill nightlife owner Dave Meinert backed Sawant’s commercial rent control plan in October. (Image: CHS)

Business advocate is not a term often associated with District 3’s socialist City Council representative, but that could be changing. Following up on her vocal support for 23rd Ave businesses struggling to weather destabilizing road construction, City Council member Kshama Sawant will be hosting a small business summit Wednesday night at the Eritrean Community Center.

“Just as working people in our city need to organize to win social and economic justice, small businesses also have to come together to have their voices heard by a political establishment that primarily serves the interests of big business,” Sawant said in a statement. “Businesses owned by women, people of color, immigrants, and the LGBTQ community especially face a constant struggle to survive.”

The agenda appears to be open to whatever small business owners think will help them fight against the interests of “the wealthy and big developers.” Sawant laid out a few ideas to get things started:

  • Commercial rent control
  • Portable retirement accounts for employees
  • Expanded late-night transit
  • Expanded social services for the homeless
  • Municipal bank & low-interest loans
  • Small business priority for commercial leasing
  • A Seattle small business task force

Sawant has criticized large corporations for eroding small business but her fight for $15 had a chilling effect on many local, small biz owners. That relationship began to thaw in October when she announced plans to pursue commercial rent control for small businesses in Seattle.

The successful protest against 23rd Ave road construction was not a quite a “small business versus big developer” issue, but Sawant was encouraged by neighborhood owners uniting around a cause. A Sawant staffer said she wants to keep the momentum going by applying the strategies used to unite workers around $15 an hour to small businesses struggling against displacement.

Among her first steps will be organizing a Seattle small business task force, the Sawant rep said. For business owners interested in getting involved, Wednesday night’s meeting will probably be a good start.

The task force will likely be the jumping off point for moving ahead with a commercial rent control plan. Sawant recently told CHS her staff is engaged in ongoing conversations around City Hall and the business community about the proposal. So far, Sawant has not put forward any details on how it could work. The legality of such a ordinance would certainly come into question as rent control is currently banned in the state. Sawant says its likely that the law only applies to residential rent.

Meanwhile, after spending years fighting for Capitol Hill small businesses at City Hall, Michael Wells has landed a job working on the inside. The former director of the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce has started work for Seattle’s Office of Economic Development as a business advocate. “It’s going to be a little bit of a strange transition,” said Wells, a longtime book merchant on Capitol Hill before his years leading the chamber.

Wells will be working with small business owners across the city to help them utilize OED’s programs, including connecting owners with lenders, business coaches, and relocation assistance.

The Progressive Small Business Summit will be held Wednesday, March 30th at 7pm, at the Eritrean Community Center, 1528 Valentine Place South.

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20 thoughts on “Sawant calls small business summit to organize against ‘big business interests’

  1. As somebody that works for a “Big Greedy Developer” I find it hilarious when people like Sawant rile up the masses to “stick it” to me and my colleagues.

    The vast majority of money invested in big real estate deals originates from life insurance and pension funds. In other words, this is money from the common man. So that higher return that somebody is able to make through real estate (to justify the increased risk that comes along with it) is mostly benefitting the teachers union or other retirees.

    Also, to think that by passing regulations developers will take a cut in pay is ridiculous. If you want to take away my upside in a business deal then I expect compensation for when things don’t go well.

    What will actually happen in such a situation of “commercial rent control” or whatever other ill-advised scheme Sawant comes up with is that prices will have to be increased elsewhere to compensate for the associated loss. So in other words, business owners might have a small win but somebody else takes the bite (and guess what, it will not be the developer).

    Sawant lives in a fantasy world where housing builds itself and it is evil to profit from one’s labor. I only hope people will wake up to this idiocy before we wreck our economy.

    • Sawant is little more than a demagogue. All style and zero (rational) substance. While at opposite ends of the political spectrum, she and Trump are two sides of the same coin.

    • Obviously you’re not from here and you haven’t received your groupthink rulebook yet, so here’s rule #1: Seattle is a magical place where unintended consequences don’t exist.

    • Since the city of Seattle requires developers to put retail in most building I feel the idea of Commercial Rent Control is needed, but the city needs to make up the difference or give the developer some sort of incentive.

      Commercial Rent Control units should have a small base + percentage of sales lease. This way you don’t get a restaurant doing 1mm year in sales and in turn paying $2,000 mo rent.

      This seems like a lot of paper work, but this will help get some smaller crafty businesses in prime real estate.

  2. When will she go away? I can’t stand her. She’s combative, loud, and brash. She is nothing but a troublemaker and really needs to chill.

  3. I think that Michael Wells, now at OED, will do alot more practical things for small businesses than Sawant ever will…..she is good at holding “summits” and “town meetings,” mainly to call attention to herself, but these things don’t really result in any real help for business.

  4. I’m sure that the businesses that are in favor of commercial rent control will also be in favor of price fixing. I mean, if their rent is fixed and subsidized by us, it’s only fair that prices don’t rise.

    • Amen to that.

      I would also like anybody receiving our tax funds for private home purchases (see the proposed housing levy) to allow my guests to stay at their place when they are in town. It is after all partially owned and funded by me and my fellow tax payers.

  5. “Businesses owned by women, people of color, immigrants, and the LGBTQ community especially face a constant struggle to survive.”

    Does she have a source for this, that they face a higher struggle? It could also just be, “Businesses … face a constant struggle to survive.” Most small businesses fail, regardless who owns them.

  6. I don’t know why folks are so upset about this. It sounds to me like she is hoping to get small business owners together to talk about their struggles and brainstorm ways to band together to help their cause. While I don’t particularly like the phrasing of “fighting against the interests of the ‘wealthy and big developers,'” I don’t see anything wrong with small business owners supporting each other and trying to have equal voices in the process. It is no secret that the Chamber of Commerce is not exactly friendly to small businesses, nor is our state’s tax code, so if there is a way to level the playing field a little bit and she is willing to facilitate conversations among folks who need it and listen to their struggles, why is that so bad?

    • But supporting small businesses would mean lowering taxes as they are often taxed at the highest tax brackets (ie treated like personal income). The Sawantites would rebel against any instance of lowering taxes for “the 1%” even when this means that small businesses cannot compete with larger ones.

      At the end of the day her entire philosophy (and that of many people in today’s age) is that incentives do not matter and all problems are due to free enterprise that she wants to regulate away.

      Adam Smith knew that unbridled capitalism leads to an inevitable collapse. However, on the other side of that coin, we have already experimented with socialism and unless we are willing to forego many of the luxuries that we currently enjoy (such as affordable consumer goods, food, etc.), then that is also not a viable strategy.

      Everything gets paid for somehow. There is no such thing as “free”. We can take everything from the rich and the “1%” but perhaps crushing the entrepreneurial spirit that defines the USA is not the best idea. Maybe we will end up killing the golden goose that provides us with a standard of living that far exceeds the vast majority of others in the world and throughout history.

  7. I get so tired of this special status granted to “small” business vs. corporations. I’ve worked for both and my experience is that small businesses are FAR more likely to violate workers rights, wage and labor laws. The laws should be identical for all businesses regardless of the size.

    If your small business can’t make it work without paying poverty wages or exploiting your workers and paying market rate rent, then you need to find a different business plan.

  8. This is the typical grandstanding of Sawant and other city council members. They all cry out that they are working for the people of Seattle while they are in the back pocket of developers, real estate investors, and activist groups. Their only thought is how to get re-elected and push their agenda, and they need big money to do that. It is disingenuous and pretty disgusting.

  9. My family has a small business in Seattle. While rent is challenging, the bureaucracy and taxes from the city is what really gets us. If she wants to make life easier for small business than the city should streamline the hoops that business need to jump through. Most small businesses can’t afford to hire someone to just do government’s required paperwork.

    • Really? I’ve worked at many small businesses and anyone who thinks the paperwork is that difficult needs to go back to high school and maybe rethink whether or not they want to be business owners. It’s not rocket science, seriously.