Covering an election as if it were a horse race is frowned upon when it comes to journalism ethics. It puts the focus on things like polling data and popularity — not policy. So, how about a Solowheel race?
It’s true. Logan Bowers rides an “electric unicycle” — he Solowheeled to our meeting with the candidate around the holidays at 15th Ave E’s Victrola. But while he was rolling across Capitol Hill, he was thinking about housing — housing policy.
“I think the thing to remember is that we had a huge win when we got $15 an hour minimum wage, but all of the gains from that wage — or nearly all of them have been eaten up by rent,” Bowers said. “So folks aren’t better off if we can’t control the price of housing.”
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Like the incumbent in the 2019 race for the District 3 seat on the Seattle City Council, Bowers says he worries Seattle is falling toward a future of haves and have nots. But he believes the lever for repairing the situation are leases and mortgages. “We don’t have enough homes for the number of people who want to live here.”
The first-time candidate’s housing first message seems to have resonated. He announced this week that he was the first District 3 candidate to qualify for Seattle’s Democracy Voucher program and second City Council candidate in the city overall. The bar for qualification is relatively low — a candidate must collect 150 signatures and 150 donations of $10 or more and at least half of the signatures and donations must come from District 3.
But the early victory is important to Bowers. He and other D3 candidates have criticized Kshama Sawant’s decision to not participate in the program after the Socialist Alternative candidate said her campaign believes the fundraising limits it imposes will be too limiting in the face of coming “corporate” spending on behalf of her opponents.
Under the program, total spending on a participating campaign is limited to $150,000. But if a candidate raises more or Political Action Committees start writing big checks to push a candidate above the limit, all bets are off and the cap can be lifted.
The Democracy Voucher “first” also gave Bowers bragging rights over fellow competitor Beto Yarce. Yarce’s campaign has also submitted its signatures but hasn’t officially qualified for the program, yet, according to the city.
Meanwhile, Bowers is also claiming another early victory in the
horse Solowheel race for D3, announcing his campaign has raised more than $21,000 in its first full month. “We met our fundraising goal entirely from individuals,” Bowers said in the announcement. “Going forward, I am excited to finance the campaign through the Democracy Voucher program, which means my campaign will be powered by voters and constituents, not special interests or political parties.”
The city’s official reporting only runs through the end of January so it’s more difficult to handicap this race but Bowers is claiming the total is three times his nearest competitor. You can look at the roster of Bowers supporters here.
Sawant has said her campaign is gearing up for a race that could again end up the city’s most expensive and might this time end up as a $1 million battle.
It will also be a crowded fight. In addition to Bowers, Sawant, and Yarce, Beacon Hill neighborhood activist, small business owner, and past City Hall candidate Pat Murakami is in the race. You can also add two more to the list —
First Hill Yesler Terrace public defender Ami Nguyen and Capitol Hill LGBTQAI activist Asukaa Jaxx.
That makes six. The D3 gang joins a motley crew of some 39 official candidates for the seven district-based seats on the council that are all up for grabs this year. And it’s only February, some six months from the August primary. Get ready for a wild ride in Seattle politics.
As far as candidate categories go, Bowers falls into the entrepreneur/first-time candidate camp. The former Amazon software development manager runs Fremont and Redmond pot retailer Hashtag along with his wife Jerina Pillert. The couple rents a home near the Stevens Elementary neighborhood.
Bowers says he is running on a platform of addressing skyrocketing housing prices “by legalizing more affordable housing types,” and addressing Seattle’s homelessness crisis “by properly funding and managing shelter services.”
“He also wants to tackle climate change by reducing auto dependence in the city and increase the walkability of Seattle’s neighborhoods,” the campaign materials read.
Bowers put it this way in December. He doesn’t want to eliminate the concept of single family zoning but he also thinks Seattle is setting up a false bargain with Mandatory Housing Affordability and a strategy focused on dense “urban villages” pocketed in restricted areas across the city.
“The city has effectively made affordable housing illegal by focusing on Urban Villages strategies,” Bowers said. “There’s only two choices — luxury apartments are legal to build and luxury homes… and everything else is illegal.”
Instead, Bowers said he would fight zoning restrictions and champion a Seattle wave of duplexes, triplexes, and “small unit” buildings.
“Under current construction technology, there’s no such thing as a low cost large apartment building with steel frame construction,” he says. “Underground excavation always leads to a high cost of building.”
“Low cost construction comes from wood-frame construction techniques. So if you want something affordable, it needs to be wood-framed construction, which is a duplex or triplex or a small unit building.”
“It doesn’t take a rocket scientist, Bowers said, “to figure out if you outlaw all the low cost construction techniques, you don’t end up with any low cost housing.”
When he talked with CHS after announcing his candidacy, Bowers was building out a fully rounded platform. He’ll need one to take on Sawant, champion of the $15 minimum wage, and the small army of other D3 competitors. But for Bowers, it’s clear that the race will be about housing first.
“If the wage increases get eroded by rents, then no one’s better off,” Bowers said.
You can learn more at votelogan.org.