At public safety candidates forum, Orion makes call to ‘stabilize’ force, Sawant makes statement by passing on Seattle Police Officer Guild event

(Image: @brandikruse)

In mid-May, just six weeks after announcing his bid for the Seattle City Council, Egan Orion moderated a panel on summer safety for the now-defunct Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce. A big topic of discussion that day was the understaffing of the Seattle Police Department.

SPD East Precinct commander Capt. Bryan Grenon noted at the meeting that the department was down several officers on all watches and that in his 28 years on the force, they’ve never had officers to spare.

So Orion came into Wednesday’s candidate forum hosted by the Seattle Police Officers Guild to prove his mettle on one of the biggest issues plaguing the city and the district. And what was the first issue he brought up in his opening statement?

“We’re losing police officers faster than we can hire them on the SPD,” Orion said. “Public safety is an essential part of our every day lives, of course.”

Kshama Sawant, Orion’s competitor and the most vocal Seattle Police critic on the current council, chose to make her statement by not attending Wednesday’s forum that included at least one candidate from all seven council seats up for election next month.

“Far too often, the conversation on police accountability has had to start at the grassroots level in the wake of tragic events, with the political establishment rushing to catch up, and the SPOG standing in opposition,” Sawant said in a statement. “I stand with the Movement for Black Lives, which has called for independently elected community oversight boards with full powers over police departments.” Continue reading

In debate over arts and culture in Seattle, District 3 candidates again paint ‘tax the corporations’ vs. ‘pro-business’ contrasts

Homelessness and housing. Gentrification and displacement. Transportation and the climate. Equity and minority rights. Crime and police accountability. Education and the city’s schools. The final weeks of the race for District 3’s seat on the Seattle City Council are filled with topical forums dedicated to specific problems — and opportunities — for the city.

There are so many issues for candidates to discuss ahead of next month’s general election arts, culture, and heritage programming could be easily overlooked. At a Monday night forum at Town Hall, incumbent Kshama Sawant and her challenger Egan Orion got to discuss their approaches to preserving and enhancing the arts community in District 3, a cultural hub for the city. Continue reading

‘It’s rooted in the 1970s-era conception of environmentalism’ — Seattle looks to rein in state policy used to push back on big projects and developments

(Image: CHS)

To rise above Capitol Hill, the Bullitt Center, the world’s first super-green “living” office building, faced a nearly unbelievable fight. Owners of a neighboring building used the State’s Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) to fight against the structure’s vital solar array and, even more audaciously, tried to force the net zero waste building to provide more parking. They lost — but not before lengthy, costly delays.

There is another story.

Redeveloping Magnolia’s Fort Lawton was first floated in 2005 and the possibility remained a tension point in the community for over a decade as the Seattle City Council voted unanimously to move forward on a major affordable housing project at the old Army Reserve Center site earlier this year.

Slowed by lawsuits and the Great Recession more than a decade ago, the project was met with opposition from some saying that green space needed to be preserved over housing and others talking about the effects of bringing low-income housing to the affluent neighborhood.

Magnolia activist Elizabeth Campbell and others were first able to halt the project in 2009 with a legal challenge against the City of Seattle claiming there were several technical violations of the law in the plan. Both the King County Superior Court and the state Court of Appeals took Campbell’s side.

When the city came back with a similar plan two years ago, Campbell and the Discovery Park Community Alliance were back to sue once again.

“This is the way to tackle the City. You need a lawyer and a litigation plan – you need to go guerrilla,” Campbell told the Magnolia Voice in 2017. “To me it’s like a war. You use the tools you have available. This city knows they can ignore the people because no one will come after them legally. I’m for taking a hard stand with the city.”

While the Fort Lawton redevelopment is finally moving forward, its saga is one of many examples cited by advocates of a new measure moving through the Seattle City Council to reform the use of SEPA in Seattle that aims to minimize these sorts of long and winding appeals that delay what they see as much-needed development.

UPDATE 4:55 PM: The council has approved the legislation 8-0.

“When our collective house is on fire, having a reasonable timeline for when someone contests our right to build affordable and climate-friendly housing is really a problem,” said Alice Lockhart of 350 Seattle, a climate-justice organization. Continue reading

Sawant and Orion trade blows on housing and homelessness in Real Change debate

District 3 representative Kshama Sawant repeatedly attacked her Seattle City Council member challenger Egan Orion on housing and homelessness in an online debate, accusing him of using the same tactics as people who are “peddling Republican talking points.”

“He believes that the solution to the housing affordability crisis is to build more market housing,” Sawant said at an online forum on Facebook Tuesday night. The Broadway Business Improvement Area administrator quickly responded that this isn’t what he believes.

The local rent control champion also claimed that he used questionable numbers on rent increases in the city to back up his argument, arguing that he was trying to “minimize the deep affordability crisis we are facing by quoting spurious statistics like rents only went up by 1% last year.” Continue reading

20% inflation vs. a 69% rise in Seattle rents: Sawant’s rent control legislation unveiled

Between 2010 and 2018 average rent in the Seattle area rose 69% while inflation in the same region rose just over 20%.

This is a statistic that came up time and again Monday night at City Hall as Seattle City Council member Kshama Sawant released a draft of her controversial rent control proposal that would tie increased rents to the rate of inflation.

“That’s unjust,” Rev. Angela Ying, senior pastor at Bethany United Church of Christ, said at a press conference before the hearing after citing the stat. “That is just plain unjust.”

The unveiling came at a council committee meeting her office has been planning for months as the incumbent’s bid for reelection has made rent control a rallying cry. No other committee members or city council members attended the Monday night special session.

Continue reading

District 3 candidates face off on Seattle’s mental health issues — sort of

Seattle City Council member Kshama Sawant and seven other council candidates from across the city met Tuesday night to discuss mental health and its connections to housing, the criminal justice system, and other issues.

Several candidates did not participate, including District 3 challenger Egan Orion, who told CHS in a text message, “I never saw an invite for it.” The forum was hosted by the local chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness at the 2100 Building in South Seattle. Forum organizers had told CHS both D3 candidates were expected to attend.

UPDATE 9/5/19: Not to make a mountain out of a molehill on this but it’s taken us a few days to clear up what happened with candidate Orion’s invitation to the forum. NAMI representatives want it made clear they definitely invited the candidate and that his campaign had responded:

His claim that he was “never notified” of this forum is something we must take seriously at NAMI Seattle. As a 501(c)(3) nonpartisan organization, NAMI Seattle is required to provide equal access to all candidates regarding invitations and access to any forum materials. Failure to do so can risk our nonprofit status, and we performed our due diligence to comply by calling and emailing all candidates in all districts.

Orion’s campaign manager Olga Laskin provided a statement today acknowledging that any mix-up was the campaign’s issue:

We had some confusion on the campaign side with scheduling for this event. We apologize for the confusion and did not mean to imply any bias on the part of NAMI. We appreciate NAMI’s effort in organizing this event and regret that Egan was unable to attend.

Original report: Sawant focused often on her usual call to tax big business; in this case, to fund programs related to mental health issues and building a social movement.

“If you vote for progressive council members and you become part of the movement, then we can bring a massive expansion of permanent supportive housing that can be funded by taxing big business, but for that we need political will on the council,” she said. Sawant often pointed to the dichotomy in many of the races between candidates with ideas similar to her and more moderate contestants, like Orion, who has been endorsed by the business-friendly Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of CommerceContinue reading

As Seattle looks to rein in PAC cash, here’s how District 3 money stacks up

And then there were two.

With only Seattle City Council member Kshama Sawant and Broadway Business Improvement Area head Egan Orion remaining after the city’s most expensive Primary battle, the race for District 3 money ramps up — even as another city council member is ready to introduce legislation to try to slow the escalating cost of getting elected in Seattle.

Orion was boosted by more than $156,000 in independent expenditures from the pro-business Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce’s political action committee Civic Alliance for a Sound Economy during the primary, the biggest outside spending in the city. Amazon has contributed $250,000 to CASE and Vulcan has given $155,000, according to filings with the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission (SEEC). Some say this money lifted him over the line over other qualified candidates, including Seattle Public Schools Board member Zachary DeWolf.

“I think that Egan has the business community to thank for him getting through, absolutely,” a veteran Seattle political consultant said, adding that “the outside groups were able to move the needles where they needed to go roughly to boost Egan where his direct campaign couldn’t do it.”

At the same time, citywide Council member Lorena González has recently drafted legislation that would limit how much contributors could give to PACs and place more stringent regulations on foreign money in Seattle politics. Continue reading

Orion’s D3 drag wins ‘best dressed’ but faces rough crowd at City Council candidate talent show

Egan Orion as Shegan (Image: @gramsofgnats)

Ten of the 14 remaining Seattle City Council candidates — including one District 3 candidate done up in drag for the night — faced some of their most progressive constituents in a fun but heated at times pageant Wednesday night.

District 3 incumbent Kshama Sawant, Scott’s competitor in D4 Alex Pedersen, as well as both of North Seattle’s District 5 competitors, council member Debora Juarez and Ann Davidson Slatter, did not participate.

Don’t get your hopes up that the socialist D3 incumbent was rejecting the evening’s frat talent show theatrics or stepping away from the alternative biweekly that endorsed her in the primary. Sawant’s campaign tells CHS the candidate was unable to attend due to “a personal scheduling conflict.”

On stage at NeumosDistrict 4’s Shaun Scott “won” the contest, narrowly eking out District 2’s Tammy Morales, who was voted the most spirited contestant, to win the pageant hosted by The Washington Bus and The Stranger at the Capitol Hill music venue.

The event, comprised of a mostly cringe-worthy talent portion, and policy questions, often turned hostile with heckling of less left-leaning candidates. Continue reading

With vision for ‘African American communities and spaces of the future,’ Africatown Plaza will be next to take shape in the Central District

The coming Africatown Plaza at Midtown

23rd and Union’s Africatown mural (Image: Africatown)

Community members met this week for an all-day design symposium at Washington Hall in the Central District to plan “African American communities and spaces of the future” around the Puget Sound.

The event follows a major development in the Central District with the opening of the Liberty Bank Building and comes as the early design process for Africatown Plaza at Midtown, another fully affordable development around the 23rd and Union core, is about to begin.

“Overall, working to make sure that we still have a heart and soul and a place of unity and community,” the Africatown Community Land Trust’s K. Wyking Garrett said Saturday, before giving a shout out to last weekend’s Umoja Fest Parade, a Central Area staple since the 1940s. He wants Africatown, however, to be more than just these major celebrations, but places “where we can experience Black culture, Black music, Black culinary genius from throughout the diaspora.” Continue reading

Capitol Hill Housing unveils plans for eight-story ‘LGBTQ-Affirming Affordable Senior Housing’ development on Broadway

UPDATE: An early project rendering (Image: Environmental Works)

An early conceptual rendering of The Eldridge (Image: Capitol Hill Housing)

Architects and Capitol Hill Housing representatives have showcased plans for an eight-story affordable housing project specifically for LGBTQ+ elders on Broadway between Pike and Pine that will include at least 100 units at a mix of income levels rising above the preserved facade of an auto row-era Seattle landmark.

The project was originally planned to be located on their property at 14th and Union, but the location was shifted to Broadway partly due to influence from the city, according to Chris Persons, CEO of Capitol Hill Housing, the nonprofit developer at the center of the effort. He says the new spot is “much more in the center of the LGBTQ+ community on Capitol Hill.”

“This building is going to really make a mark,” Freya Johnson, project architect at Environmental Works, said Wednesday night during a community meeting at The Summit on Pike. “It’ll be a symbol that we belong here, that this is our Hill.”

One attendee said later: “In my lifetime, I didn’t think I’d see this.” Continue reading