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With Seattle City Hall the target, Oliver fills Washington Hall in mayoral campaign kickoff

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With a platform based around equity, the fight against displacement, and the fight for social justice — plus a boost from left firebrand Kshama SawantNikkita Oliver kicked off her campaign to unseat Mayor Ed Murray from Seattle’s City Hall by filling the Central District’s Washington Hall beyond capacity Sunday afternoon.

“We need a mayor who has the courage to point out the obscenity of having two of the world’s richest people in our area when we have so many homeless,” Sawant said, warming the crowd up for the candidate’s speech.

For what it’s worth, neither of those extremely rich people are among the dozens who have already given to Murray’s reelection campaign. But while Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates aren’t on the contributor list, Murray has already tallied more than $300,000 in contributions at this point in the race. The Capitol Hill resident launched his campaign with a big head start last summer in a party at big time political PR executive Roger Nyhus’s home near Volunteer Park.

For her part, Oliver was also trying to raise cash Sunday. Vowing not to accept “corporate donations,” the candidate called on supporters to hit the $25,000 mark in an online funding campaign with a $100,000 goal. The total sat just below $15,000 as of 9 PM Sunday.

With a campaign based around housing, education, and ending the “school-to-prison pipeline,” Oliver currently stands as the most serious challenger to Murray. Safe streets advocate Andres Salomon has also entered the race. Oliver, 31, was admitted to the state bar in 2015 and works for Creative Justice, “an arts-based alternative to incarceration,” according to Crosscut.

During her speech, Oliver took on the topic of affordable housing, an area the activist frustrated some in pro-development circles with following recent comments supporting a moratorium on new construction. Sunday, she didn’t shy away from targeting developers. “If we truly desire to be a proactive city that is challenging the economic apartheid we are seeing, we will fight back affirmatively and aggressively and we will fight for rent control,” she said. Seattle, “can do this,” Oliver said, “by making sure affordable housing moves in lockstep with development. We will stop giving developers a free ride.”

On Oliver’s site, the campaign says its candidate supports a requirement “that 25% of all new up-zoned developments be affordable.” Oliver says Murray’s HALA plan will result in affordability “requirements as low as 3% and as high as 6%” in new upzoned units.

More important to many who gathered Sunday, Oliver’s unveiled platform calls for a laundry list of key social justice issues for Seattle activists:

  • No new youth jail: Under Nikkita’s leadership, the City will invest in creating research-based, developmentally- and age-appropriate approaches to administering justice for children involved in the criminal legal system with the goal of eliminating youth detention in Seattle.
  • Restorative justiceNikkita and the Peoples Party will work with the Seattle City Attorney’s Office and Seattle Municipal Court to develop an effective restorative justice initiative which responds to the multifaceted and nuanced needs of those impacted by harm and the criminal legal system in Seattle.
  • PoliceNikkita and the Peoples Party will pursue a more robust version of the legislation currently before the Seattle City Council, which will include: 1) forming a permanent and politically independent Community Policing Commission (CPC); 2) granting the CPC certain enumerated powers to drive reform rather than merely offering recommendations; 3) requiring the Mayor and the SPD Chief to accept public comment and to provide a written rationale justifying any refusal to institute non-binding CPC recommendations; 4) establishing politically independent civilian oversight of the Office of Police Accountability (OPA); 5) hiring a mix of civilian and sworn OPA investigators, ensuring that impacted communities are represented within the office; 6) developing an independent Office of Inspector General with authority over SPD policies, procedures, and operations, tasked with auditing and community outreach.
  • SchoolsNikkita will seek to immediately end the practice of withholding City levy dollars to schools based on test scores. City funds would be distributed to schools, in consultation with Seattle Public Schools, based on need.
  • HomelessnessNikkita would ensure that people living unsheltered have access to shelters that recognize their individual circumstances, allow them daytime access and a place to store their belongings, and make them feel welcome.
  • Public Housing: We will push SHA to reduce the expected percentage of housing dollars spent per a household to 20 percent of their monthly income for rent and utilities. Additionally, the goal will be to establish self-governance plans and tenant boards which encourage self-determination, personal agency and the development of community based social service initiatives that best serve the needs of the residents in each SHA community.
  • Displacement: We must specifically counteract displacement of these historic communities We can do this by 1) substantially reducing or freezing property taxes to protect long-time residents; 2) protecting senior homeowners; 3) dramatically increase funding for existing senior home repair programs; and 4) create a stabilization voucher for long-time residents of low-income communities.

The campaign says Oliver also supports changing the way the city taxes its citizens and companies that do business here. “Nikkita will work with stakeholders to create progressive tax structures and luxury taxes on corporations in order to ensure that all Seattleites who need and want housing have equitable access to affordable housing options,” they write.

Oliver, mounting her campaign as an independent with the newly formed Seattle Peoples Party, appears to be gearing up for a grassroots and social media driven fight that might remind some of Sawant and her Socialist Alternative Party’s work on the minimum wage. That strategy includes plenty of fierce talk and, often, the willingness to engage aggressively with critics. “If you have to, publicly call me out, because that’s the right thing to do,” Oliver said Sunday.

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13 thoughts on “With Seattle City Hall the target, Oliver fills Washington Hall in mayoral campaign kickoff

  1. I never thought a candidate could make Ed Murray look compelling.

    Rent control and mandatory 25% inclusive housing? (Why not just ban new housing construction entirely?)

  2. I was at this event and it was incredible. Oliver has integrity, experience (lawyer, educator, community organizer), and a bold vision. The pictures don’t completely capture it, but it was filled to capacity with many later arrivals going to watch the livestream elsewhere. Surrounded by the right people (policy minded, experienced, etc.), she will do our city proud. Murray has grandstanded about homelessness with nothing to show and I look forward to a new mayor who will walk the walk.

    • She does not have experience as a lawyer. She’s admitted to the bar but doesn’t practice. She’s been quoted as saying she realized in law school that she didn’t want to practice law.

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