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‘Coffee with Kshama Sawant’ — District 3 representative holds rare community meeting

(Image: @cmkshama)

Seattle City Council member Kshama Sawant met with a standing room only crowd of constituents to discuss issues ranging from affordable housing and gentrification to low internet speeds and privacy at Squirrel Chops, a coffeeshop in Seattle’s Central District, Saturday morning.

“There’s a lot of issues facing us as a district with skyrocketing rents and hypergentrification and we’ve certainly seen the increase in gun violence,” Squirrel Chops co-owner Shirley Henderson said while introducing council member Sawant. “A lot of that is tied to our economic reality and the shifts that are happening.”

Sawant, who came with her husband and dog, opened the event by highlighting her struggles for $15 per hour minimum wage and Friday’s King County Superior Court ruling that upheld a Seattle law that capped move-in fees for renters. She also noted the broad struggles ahead in terms of achieving economic equality and racial justice.

“We are all getting screwed together,” Sawant said. “Ultimately, whether you’re talking about city politics or state level, we’re going to have to build movements to win any of these things.”

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The agenda-less community gathering was a rarity for Sawant who has maintained a national and sometimes global focus despite her position as the District 3 representative. In 2016 as she began her term as the D3 rep, CHS looked at the Socialist Alternative firebrand’s alternative leadership approach to hyperlocal government. During her election night victory party in 2015, Sawant gave a rousing speech but included no mention of District 3. When asked why, she said separating the issues facing District 3 from broader social struggles was a false dichotomy. “If you look at the issues that are the most urgent issues in District 3 … it’s the problem with the affordable housing crisis, the problem we have with traffic gridlock and the need for world class mass transit,” she told CHS at the time. “What stronger referendum are you going to find on what the people of District 3 want than the election itself?”

Sawant used social media to spread word of Saturday’s coffee gathering to her followers

The gathering at Squirrel Chops comes as Sawant’s current highest profile cause is saving 1st Ave’s Showbox, a music venue far from her D3 turf but a political opportunity and cause she seems fully dedicated to despite a $40 million lawsuit against the city. A victory — even temporary — would be useful. Sawant and Seattle progressives were dealt a painful blow in June with the whiplash turnabout on the employee hours tax on Seattle’s largest companies. Sawant vowed to continue the fight to “tax Amazon” but the battle cry hasn’t been followed by any real action. 2019 will bring the end of Sawant’s term and a possibly brutal fight for reelection.

Saturday, of course, was also an opportunity for criticism and complaints. One attendee was upset with the fact that so much of the Central District is zoned for single-family housing when that land could be used for affordable housing units in a city in the midst of an affordability crisis. Sawant responded by speaking at length on the issue of affordable housing, and the employee hours tax.

“The main issue is there is simply not enough funds and that’s the mathematical problem with having a regressive tax system,” Sawant said.  “We have to fight to tax big business” to open up money for affordable housing in Seattle.

Sawant also called for rent control.

A recent wave of gun violence and the murder of a man on 25th Ave S was not a main topic of discussion. One woman in the crowd noted that there need to be more cameras to catch perpetrators, but the council member pushed back on this by citing the importance of privacy.

The event was attended by a group diverse in both age and race. A long discussion broke out on the prospects of African-Americans in a neighborhood long considered a center of Black culture and community in Seattle.

“When I think of my mother, who does not know how to use her cell phone, but she’s never lived in any other neighborhood but the CD until she was gentrified out three years ago, she’s not going to be here,” one African-American woman said. “I want to know what you’re trying to do because I have to speak for her.”

Another audience member called on the council member and her colleagues to hire more people of color on their staffs as four of Sawant’s white staffers were in attendance.

A woman told the story of her child who has trouble receiving an online education because of poor internet speeds in their home. In the past, the family often had to get hotspots from the library to have adequate internet accessibility.

“I had to pay the next door neighbor because I can’t afford high speed internet to let us use the internet for their school computer,” she said. “I pay a hell of a lot of taxes.”

During the meeting, Sawant called for municipal broadband provided by the local government.

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34 thoughts on “‘Coffee with Kshama Sawant’ — District 3 representative holds rare community meeting

  1. She needs to focus on her D3 constituents and help them. I sent her 3 emails asking for help for and issue I had with the city. No reply. Does not even ack that I exist. Instead she worries about the showbox which is not even in D3. She is like all the others, only cares about making a name for themselves instead of helping us small people out there. A wolf in sheeps clothing.

    • Nonsense “John”, why didn’t you attend the meeting and state your views? Are you “a sheep in sheep’s clothing”? :)

      Kshama Sawant and Socialist Alternative are genuine socialists.
      We care for our class, the 99 Per Cent — in Seattle District 3 and everywhere else.
      Heck, we even care for your (currently) sorry ass!

      • Nope. Didn’t know there was a meeting. And some of us also work. Don’t assume that we all can just drop our lives to attend that meeting.

        I don’t care if your a dem, repub, or socialist, help the people u represent.

  2. Might as well mention that Shirley Henderson, the capitalist owner of “Squirrel Chops” and purveyor of very expensive haircuts, is a member of “socialist alternative”. So unless refreshments were free, this was a (not so) subtle way for Kshama to enrich one of her acolytes. (And I wonder if “Squirrel Chops” received any city money for “hosting” this.)

    As to the lack of “people of color” on Sawant’s staff, why, they’re all “socialist alternative” activists! That excuses everything. She uses her office staffing as a welfare program for her fans; none of them have any real experience in government, or relevant education.

    And I imagine that Rosa Luxembourg, in her place in the socialist firmament, really appreciates that Kshama named her dog after her.

  3. One last: If “hypergentrification” is such a concern to Sawant and Ms. Henderson, why doesn’t “Squirrel Chops” relocate to, say, Magnolia (so hated by righteous Seattle radicals).

    The loudly proclaimed concern of yuppie gentrifiers, once they’ve got theirs, for the very people they’ve displaced, would be touching if it wasn’t so hypocritical and pathetic.

  4. I suspect that Sawant is becoming aware that her support has dwindled significantly in District 3, as exemplified by all the anti-Sawant comments on this blog. So, she is looking ahead to the election a little over one year from now, and all of a sudden pretending to care about issues in her district. Don’t be fooled.

    • I agree Bob. What we need though is a viable candidate to run against her. Someone should be stepping up now and starting a campaign against her. There is plenty of disdain for her as well as numerous current examples of her lack of concern for our district. I imagine fundraising right now would be a breeze. I know I’d donate to a good challenger.

  5. I live in the 3rd, as do many of you. I am completely horrified by the non sensical and inflammatory BS that Sawant creates on a near-daily basis. She is the opposite of quality, competent government. . She is an incendiary rhetorical bomb-thrower, and not a particularly competent one once you get beyond her standard platitudes. She is out to further her own brand, whether that helps Seattle or not is immaterial. I would strongly suggest D3 vote for someone else next time around.

  6. After I watched Tom Douglas do an add for the $15/hr minimum wage, I couldn’t believe that he would buy into something that would so completely screw servers and the entire restaurant industry. He was just playing ball with the business hostile idiots on city council. Then Kshamalamadingdong criticized him for being a strong opponent of the wage increase. She is a shill and a socialist blow hard who opens her big mouth before doing any research. And the taxpayers have to foot her legal and printing bills. They should all be replaced. We cannot afford socialism. We cannot afford to have Sawant in city council.

  7. I’m in her district and never received notice of the “Event” maybe that’s because I will NEVER vote for her.

    According to Sawant, the Govt fixes everything with tax money. How has that gone for us to date? Under her watch more homeless to give her friends something to do and a trolley that wont fit the tracks to name a few of the many government blunders under her watch

    • Ha! I’ve lived here for more than 15 years and love my neighborhood. I was really proud of Councilmember Sawant at first, but not the last few years. Some of these comments are really something else, but I think the disillusionment is real.

      I think voters want pragmatic solutions to real problems in our district. I thought $15 Now was a pragmatic solution. With some reservations, I still think so.

      Sorry, you’re stuck with this voter! I’m hoping the Councilmember becomes more grounded in district/city level concerns or we replace her with someone who is.

    • No, Tom, YOU move. There are a lot more of us than there are of you. You all just have bigger mouths, and it’s caused you to get a distorted view of how much support she has. Also, City Councilperson isn’t a position a lot of people (up till now) got too excited about. It takes a maniac like Sawant (and some of the others on the Clowncil) to wake some of those people up to just how much damage a nut job like she can do. Well, they’re awake now.

      • “There are a lot more of us than there are of you.”

        That’s what Hillary voters thought in 2016. Nothing is certain until the results are in.

      • Yeah, it sure was. In fact, there WERE 3 million more Hillary votes. But unlike tRump, Savant won’t have the Russians to help her cheat; and we’re all a lot more wise to her this time around.

      • I am sure you and others were “wise to her” the first time. There were just more of us. Maybe this time will be different or maybe not.

    • Why don’t you move to Ephrata… you can rent an apartment there for $550-$600…

      I’ll bet the rest of the cost of living there is way lower too, not to mention that there appears to be no lack at all of availability.

      • It is cheap for good reasons. Far right cesspool with no good jobs and no entertainment. Seattle area, though not as liberal as I want, is still the best option in WA.

      • Thank you for confirming exactly what I thought….

        You somehow think you are entitled to live here because now this is a “cool” neighborhood eh?

        Do you demand that the other patrons in a packed restaurant add a chair or two to their table to fit you in as well – and oh by the way, your meal needs to be less expensive than theirs too….

      • With your line of thinking, should the poor in America move to another country because it is becoming too unaffordable to live here? Nobody is “entitled” to live in America, right?

      • You are the one pushing people out of this here….. I already live here, have for more than 20 years, long before it was considered to be any sort of premium neighborhood and people like you decided you must have it… I have plenty of neighbors who’ve been here far long than me, yet you think we should move to Ephrata or Bellevue because you think we don’t deserve our own homes.

        Why don’t you move to Ephrata and instead of complaining that it doesn’t have what you want and how it’s not nice enough, you work to make it a better place?

  8. And, in today’s news, yet more evidence that Sawant will grandstand about pretty much anything to get her name in the press. The SPS, which overestimated this year’s enrollment, is moving teachers between schools to balance student/teacher ratios. Sawant, who apparently thinks she knows as much about managing Seattle’s school system as she does about running Boeing, Amazon, and the global economy (which in reality means: nothing) is advocating a student walkout to protest the SPS reassignment of a couple of teachers.

    (BTW: why does a self-proclaimed feminist use her ex-husband’s last name?)

  9. This’ll be my last comment on this story (I swear).

    So there was “standing room only” at this event, eh? If you removed Sawant’s husband, dog, four staffmembers, and any socialist alternative members who don’t live in District 3, how many people other than Kshama would have been in the room? She has a long history of making her events seem greater than they really were, from bunching people up for photo shots, to packing Cith Council meetings with people who don’t even live in Seattle (Ginger Jentzen, anyone?).

  10. Sawant is a demagogue and a bully, nothing more. Not only does she care nothing for the people of the central district, she also cares nothing for the poor and disadvantaged people she claims to be representing. The only thing she cares about is advancing her “movement”, which has accomplished nothing other than getting her more fame, wealth and power.

    That is why, instead of announcing this public event a week or two in advance, she sent the advance announcement just to her inner circle of hard-core supporters and sycophants, and then put out a cheap little tweet the night before just to stave off criticism.

    That is why she packs the halls of city council with her supporters, who wave signs with her name and slogans printed on them and lead chants conducted by her as she mugs for the cameras and pretends that this aggressive theatre act represents the “voice of the people.”

    That is why she encourages her mob to attack and denegrate Seattle business and individuals who refuse to cowtow to her demands. She is a first-rate blackmailer and bully.

    Sawant has cost this city tens of millions of dollars in lawsuits over her publicity stunts and hasn’t done jack shit for the 3rd District. Her primary impact on this city has been through advocating outlandish legislation like making it illegal to remove tents and wanting to double the head tax proposal. It is long past time for Sawant to go and the people of the 3rd, including you, dear reader, reading this right now, need to be a lot louder and angrier than they are. Your silence is deafening and allows her small group of very loud, obnoxious voices to control the dialogue.