City Council approves Seattle bike share’s public takeover

Seattle’s bike share network will come under City of Seattle ownership with an eye on expansion as City Council members voted 7-2 Monday to save the indebted system.

After tacking on amendments to improve bike lane infrastructure downtown and ensure that bike sharing reaches low income neighborhoods, City Council members approved a plan for the City to takeover Pronto with a $1.4 million investment while reserving another $3.6 million for future expansion of the system next year under a new operator contract.

Council member Mike O’Brien, who ushered the buyout plan through the transportation committee last month, said the system was worth saving as thousands of riders were already relying on it as a mode of transportation.

The vote comes after months of debate on what to do with the insolvent bike share system owned by the nonprofit Puget Sound Bike Share. While the $5 million was already earmarked for Pronto last year, the systems financial shortcomings weren’t known outside the bowels of City Hall. The system would have ceased operations on March 31st without the city investment.

By spending $1.4 million, Seattle will immediately acquire 26 stations from Pronto as well as all remaining hard assets. The City already owns 28 stations after purchasing them with a federal grant. The City would also seek out a new operating contract as Pronto’s current contract with the company Motivate ends at the end of 2016. Motivate could still submit a bid to continue running the service. Continue reading

Seattle City Council sorting out how to connect to new districts

Council member Sawant at her swearing-in ceremony earlier this month

Council member Sawant at her swearing-in ceremony earlier this month

As the new City Council settles in at City Hall, its seven district representatives are also starting to think about how to get out into their new constituent neighborhoods. During the campaign, candidates floated ideas like opening district offices, attending community council meetings, and holding coffee shop drop-in sessions.

In District 3, City Council member Kshama Sawant has one scheduled public appearance within the district’s bounds so far in the coming months. On Wednesday, Sawant will be participating in a panel discussion about jobs and equal employment issues held by the Multimedia Resources and Training Institute at the 2100 Building near 23rd Ave S and Rainier Ave S. A Sawant staffer told CHS there were no updates yet on plans for open office hours around the district, which includes Capitol Hill and the Central District. Continue reading

District 3 neighborhoods sharply divided on Sawant and Banks going into November election

Screen-Shot-2013-09-28-at-1.48.42-PMWe’ll have wait to see if Seattle’s new district-based City Council will become gridlocked in ward politics, but the competing interests within the districts themselves, especially in District 3, could prove to be an even more influential dynamic.

Following last week’s primary election, it’s clear there are some deep divisions between District 3 neighborhoods over socialist City Council member Kshama Sawant and Democrat Pamela Banks.

Political consultant Benjamin Anderstone dug into the the raw election data for Crosscut to see how Sawant and Banks faired at the neighborhood level. Not surprising, Sawant dominated Capitol Hill and the Central District, but she was clobbered by Banks in the more affluent precincts along Lake Washington.

(Sawant) did well this time around in urban Capitol Hill (61 percent) and the Central District (64 percent). Support is much thinner on the ground in the affluent neighborhoods of Madison Park and Washington Park, where Sawant placed third with 16 percent each. At the Broadmoor Golf Club, Seattle’s only Republican precinct, she polled at only 6 percent.

Sawant’s main opponent, Pamela Banks, unsurprisingly fared best in these neighborhoods – 60 percent at Madison Park and 63 percent at Washington Park. These are unequivocal results. Primary results suggest Sawant could be on track for a strong showing, but it certainly won’t be a unanimous one.

Sawant has picked up two points in the district-wide ballot count since the first drop on August 4th, extending her lead to 52% of the vote to Banks’ 34%. Some were anticipating a bigger showing from Sawant. In 2013 she won 58% of the vote in District 3 precincts and did even better on Capitol Hill. Then-incumbent Richard Conlin has backed Banks, along with six other sitting City Council members. Continue reading

Report: Seattle campaign cash disproportionately flows from ‘rich whites’ on Capitol Hill’s eastern slopes

Screen Shot 2015-07-23 at 12.19.53 PMJust 1.5% of Seattle residents gave to political campaigns in 2013, and much of that money came from residents of predominantly wealthy, white areas on Capitol Hill and Lake Washington’s shores.

In its recent report, Sightline Institute mapped campaign giving in Seattle and found neighborhoods like Madison Park, Madrona, and Leschi to be among the most prominent “big money” zones in the city. The Seattle researchers also found one of the largest, high density areas of political giving fell squarely on Capitol Hill.

“The disparity in political giving between poorer neighborhoods home to more people of color and wealthy, white neighborhoods is stark,” said the report’s author, Sightline executive director Alan Durning.

To level the playing field, the report’s authors are backing Seattle’s Honest Elections Initiative. In addition to reducing the maximum donation amount from $700 to $500, I-122 would institute an opt-in system of public campaign financing funded through a small property tax levy. The program would give voters $100 “democracy vouchers” that they would then give to candidates to fund their campaigns.

Sightline’s report showed the Capitol Hill-centered Council District 3 to be the biggest geographical source of major campaign giving in local elections, followed by parts of downtown and Upper Queen Anne. Half of total donation dollars in 2013 came from just 1,683 contributors, or 0.3 percent of the city’s adults, according to the report. Not surprising, the report also found a strong correlation between political giving and homes with views.

Council District 3 recently became the most moneyed race among the nine City Council races this year. A June spike in donations to City Council member Kshama Sawant and challenger Pamela Banks helped push the total contribution amount in the race to just over $500,000, according to data from the city’s Ethics and Election Commission. Sawant’s campaign has repeatedly pointed out that her average contribution size — currently at $114 — has remained significantly lower than Banks’ $261.

UPDATE: This mapping of contributors who gave more than $500 to campaigns in 2013 gives another view of the Hill’s money influence:

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20 things CHS heard during Monday’s *hot and heated* Seattle rent control smackdown

“We don’t need trickle-down economics… We need affordable housing.”


“Rent control does nothing to create new housing. We need solutions now … There are people homeless and sleeping in their car tonight.”

Forgoing Seattle’s usual non-confrontational forum-style political events, Monday evening’s debate on rent control was a heated affair. Around 1,000 people tried to pack into a balmy Town Hall at 8th an Seneca to hear City Council members Kshama Sawant and Nick Licata argue the merits of rent control with Republican Rep. Matthew Manweller and Smart Growth Seattle director Rodger Valdez. There was a large crowd outside unable to enter the at-capacity venue.

The event ostensibly centered around four questions posted to the debaters but was mostly a relentless back-and-forth on rent control more broadly.

1. What has caused housing-affordability crisis in Seattle?
2. What have been the affects of rent control where it has been adopted? 
3. Without rent control can the market make housing affordable?
4. What will be impact of rent control on Seattle?

The answers were broad and there was, of course, no clear winner other than the idea that rent control — in some form or fashion — remains a popular ideal for Seattle residents struggling with affordability.

But it’s not the answer to lower rents, the anti side argued Monday night. “Rent control does nothing to create new housing,” Valdez said, a common refrain from the opposition. “We need solutions now … There are people homeless and sleeping in their car tonight.” Continue reading

Sawant keeps rent control debate alive after rejection by mayor’s affordability committee

A 1980 Seattle Daily Times headline captures the uncertainty surrounding rent control, even during a time when it was up for serious consideration. (Image: Seattle Public Library Archives)

A 1980 Seattle Daily Times headline captures the uncertainty surrounding rent control, even during a time when it was up for serious consideration. (Image: Seattle Public Library Archives)

20150612SeattleOverallRentTrendByBR-600x360There were 60+ recommendations included in the Mayor Ed Murray-commissioned affordable housing study released last week, but rent control wasn’t one of them.

It was mentioned in a little noticed section in the back of the report, where the Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda Committee said its members couldn’t agree on the issue:

“The HALA could not reach consensus on the issue, even despite proposed amendments and changes.”

According to Jon Grant, committee member and at-large City Council candidate, a majority of the 21-member committee did support adding a call for rent control, but there weren’t enough votes for an official recommendation. The report notes that opponents argued it would “only divert attention from other more feasible strategies that can achieve more affordable housing.”

“It was on the table from the start,” HALA co-chair Faith Li Pettis told CHS. “The HALA could not reach consensus on the issue, even despite proposed amendments and changes.”

While the committee’s deliberations on rent control were conducted in secret, the public will get an opportunity to witness some of that debate during a Monday night event at First Hill’s Town Hall.

Arguing in favor of rent control will be City Council member and District 3 candidate Kshama Sawant and her Council colleague Nick Licata. Opposing rent control will be Republican state Rep. Matthew Manweller of Ellensberg and Smart Growth Seattle director Rodger Valdez. Former City Council member Peter Steinbrueck will moderate.

Seattle Channel will be live streaming the event here.

Continue reading

City Council advances $930 million Move Seattle levy with only minor tweaks

LevyMapFINAL-400x518-400x518Mayor Ed Murray’s proposed $930 million transportation levy made it through the City Council gauntlet relatively unscathed Tuesday. While council members added a handful of amendments to the Move Seattle plan (PDF), an amendment to slice the proposed levy by a third and replace it by other funding mechanisms failed to pass.

Council committee members unanimously advanced the bill to a full council vote on June 29th, teeing it up to appear on this year’s ballot. “A unanimous vote by the Council in committee sends a great signal to Seattle residents,” Murray said in a statement.

Murray rolled out his Move Seattle plan during a Capitol Hill event in March, calling for a roster of transportation projects to make Seattle’s streets safer and more efficient by 2024 and a property tax levy to pay for it. Continue reading

Round 2 of District 3 candidate forums a more scripted tussle in Madison Valley

This week’s second Council District 3 candidate forum was more scripted than the first but Kshama Sawant and Pamela Banks still managed to get in a tussle or two.

“Rent control is not the answer, it doesn’t generate units and it creates false hopes,” Banks said about her opponent’s signature campaign issue.

“Candidates who take campaign funds from companies like Vulcan show they could not create affordable housing,” Sawant said during one of her opportunities to punch back.

Sawant has been clear about her affordable housing goals including support for rent control, linkage fees, and city-developed housing. For Banks, who has served as public relations lead for the Department of Housing and Human Services and served on the board of organizations like Capitol Hill Housing, the affordability platform is more fluid though CHS discussed issues of homelessness and the soaring cost of living in Seattle with her earlier this year.

All five candidates gathered Monday night before a Madison Park/Madison Valley crowd Monday evening. Inside The Bush School’s expansive indoor gym, residents of District 3’s northeastern neighborhoods heard candidates run through the standard gamut of questions, plus a few neighborhood specific ones.

Unlike past forums, candidates were given many questions ahead of time and the crowd was noticeably more subdued. Continue reading

In nod to Socialist Alternative Sawant, 43rd Democrats give no endorsement in District 3 race

It was a night for “non-establishment” candidates Tuesday as the 43rd District Democrats made their ritual endorsements in this year’s local elections, which included votes on six City Council races.

Democrats in the 43rd Legislative District, which includes Capitol Hill and downtown, made no endorsement in the Council District 3 race where de facto incumbent Kshama Sawant has disrupted an otherwise Democratic stronghold. The vote is a clear blow to the hopes of Sawant challengers including the Central District’s Pamela Banks, seen by many as the favorite to make it through August’s top-two primary after a raft of City Hall endorsements. The victory, of sorts, continues a string for the Socialist Alternative candidate. Sawant also brought out a swell of supporters and was the crowd favorite in last week’s District 3 candidates forum.

Other incumbents and “establishment” candidates also failed to get a nod during the event, although the vote only represents a tiny fraction of the most politically active Democrats.

As the non-Democrats in District 3, Sawant and Lee Carter were technically ineligible for an endorsement from the roughly 150 party members gathered inside the University Heights building in the U-District. Sawant supporters in the party, including King County Council member Larry Gossett, urged a “no endorsement” vote for the District 3 race as a procedural vote for Sawant. Continue reading

32+ things CHS heard during the District 3 candidates forum

IMG_9724IMG_9751There weren’t many fireworks, but the crowd sure was fired up for the first ever candidate forum for the newly created District 3 race. All five candidates seeking to represent Capitol Hill and the Central District at City Hall gathered before a standing room only crowd Tuesday night to answer questions on a wide range of topics, including crime, affordable housing, and transportation.

There was no back-and-forth or debating among the candidates — in fact, candidates clapped for each other on multiple occasions and rarely addressed one another. Occasional boos and hisses from the crowd came mostly when a candidate spoke out against rent control, a key part of City Council member Kshama Sawant’s platform.

Despite being the de-facto incumbent in the race, Sawant faced no challenges to her two year record on City Council. It would have been a tough room to do so. Sawant supporters packed the space and were told several times by moderators to hold their applause.

Organized by the 43rd District Democrats, the event was unusually energetic and well attended by both voters and media for a City Council forum. You can see a raw play-by-play by scrolling though #43SeaD3 or watch a video of the event here.

Highlights: Sawant on housing and rent control | Banks opening | Lightning round waterfront tunnel and transit levy

Most of the event, held at 19th and Madison’s Mt. Zion Baptist Church, featured questions from moderators Josh Feit of PubliCola and Erica Barnett of The C. is for Crank, and included questions submitted by the audience.

Two lightning rounds had candidates answer questions by holding up “yes” or “no” placards, or a box of frozen waffles, which gave them 10 seconds to explain their reason for waffling on the issue.

Sawant is leading the fundraising race, with nearly $82,000 raised as of May 11th. She also has the lowest average contribution size at $110 — a testament to the candidate’s grassroots approach. Pamela Banks has raised the second most in the race at $48,500, closely followed by Rod Hearne as Morgan Beach and Lee Carter trail far behind.

Another candidate forum is scheduled to take place June 8th, organized by residents of Madison Park and Madison Valley.

CHS Notes:

  • In her opening statement, Sawant touted her role in passing a $15 an hour minimum wage in Seattle, her choice to not accept a wage above an “average worker’s wage,” and refusal to take corporate donations for her campaign.
  • Hearne received no applause for touting his role in fighting for marriage equality in the state, a key accomplishment for his candidacy.
  • Calling himself an “informational candidate,” Carter said he was not seeking votes., rather he wanted to promote a return to neighborhood government and senior housing. Continue reading