The Mayor of Capitol Hill: Seattle has seen Bruce Harrell before — but not like this

Harrell has started his 2021 run for the mayor’s office with some old fashioned grocery store campaigning (Image: @kunluv)

Bruce Harrell has campaigned here before. First elected to the Seattle City Council in 2007, Harrell would go on to win two more terms and serve as council president before deciding not to run again in 2019.

But campaigning in his month-old mayoral bid for a few hours recently at the Capitol Hill Safeway on E John felt different. Across the street Williams Place is home to one of the neighborhood’s city park encampments as officials — and neighbors — wrestle with how best to provide shelter and services and clear away the camps.

“People are so hungry for, I think, straight talk, not double talk,” Harrell told CHS Tuesday. “And they are hungry for boldness and they see the level of dysfunction in city government unlike they’ve seen it before.”

Harrell, a 62-year-old raised in the Central District who briefly served as the city’s first Asian-American mayor in 2017 after Ed Murray resigned, says they see him as a “voice of reason.”

As the city has faced economic turmoil from the COVID-19 pandemic and was consumed by racial justice protests in the wake of the killing of George Floyd, the past year has taught him how fragile the city is and brought into stark relief existing issues in the city, whether it be inequality or homelessness. Continue reading

Some in Seattle want to recall Seattle School Board members — Let’s talk about how to elect them

Seattle Public School kids are headed back to the classroom — and that’s something to celebrate (Image: Seattle Public Schools)

Capitol Hill’s school board seat will have a vacancy this year, and the incumbent has some thoughts for anyone interested in running. Board member Zachary DeWolf will not be running for re-election to the seat representing District 5, which covers the bulk of Capitol Hill, the Central District, downtown and the area near the stadiums.

It’s a tumultuous time for Seattle and the city’s relationship with its public schools is part of the choppy waters. Some are hoping to recall Seattle’s each and every school board member. Let’s talk about how to elect them.

The school board has a hybrid district/at-large system for elections. Only residents of a given district may vote in the August primary, but in the November General Election, the vote is citywide. And yes, the City Council districts and the School Board districts are different. Capitol Hill is in District 3 in the City Council, but 5 in the School Board.

The Board itself is in a time of transition, but then that’s pretty typical. It’s rare for a board member, formally called a director, to serve two terms; of the seven board members, only one, Leslie Harris, is in her second term. Two of the board’s seven seats are filled by people appointed to fill out the terms of directors who resigned. Of the remaining four, three were elected in 2019.

Capitol Hill’s DeWolf was elected in 2017 with 64% of the vote. He ran for City Council in 2019 and finished fourth in the primary with 12.6%.

DeWolf cautions anyone considering running that the school board is not an easy job. Board duties would typically take up 20-25 hours per week, and board members receive an annual stipend of less than $5,000.

“This is public service,” DeWolf said. “It is not meant to be our paid job. However, it is a $1 billion organization. There’s issues that come up a lot.”

So far one person, Michelle Sarju, a longtime Central District resident, Seattle school parent, and manager at King County Public Health, has formally announced her intention to run for DeWolf’s seat, and she has earned his endorsement. Continue reading

They’re trying to recall Kshama Sawant — What happens next?

Recall Sawant representative Henry Bridger (Image: CHS)

Backers of the campaign against City Councilmember Kshama Sawant are hoping to put the recall question to District 3 voters on a special election ballot of its own, a campaign representative said at a Thursday afternoon press conference in Cal Anderson Park following Thursday’s state Supreme Court decision allowing the recall to continue.

Henry Bridger, campaign manager and chair of the Recall Sawant campaign, said the recall vote cannot appear on the August primary ballot and officials have told the campaign a special election can’t be held between the primary and the November General Election. The recall campaign backers also don’t want to appear on the General Election ballot, Bridger said.

High turnout could be a concern with general elections typically bringing out higher rates of participation. But this D3 question could be different. With the 2021 elections deciding both a hotly contested mayoral race and the two citywide seats on the Seattle City Council, there may be concern about the recall question driving heavy turnout in District 3, potentially impacting the massively important races.

“This is about her, not about electing someone,” Bridger said Thursday at the Cal Anderson press conference when asked about the strategy. Continue reading

State Supreme Court rules Sawant recall can move forward — UPDATE

(Image: Kshama Solidarity)

(Image: Kshama Solidarity)

The recall of Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant can go forward, the state Supreme Court ruled Thursday. A spring and summer of signature gathering, rallying, and campaign flyers awaits.

Organizers outlined four acts they say that warranted sending the recall to the ballot. Most of the charges were from 2020 and relate to her response to protests against police brutality and systemic racism.

The court did not uphold all of the allegations made by the recall effort, arguing that one of the acts outlined was legally insufficient.

In September, the King County Superior Court certified a recall petition against the socialist council member on the four allegations, which was simply ruling on whether the charges outlined could be grounds for removal. That court was not ruling on whether or not the allegations were true. Two allegations from the original proposed petition relating to Sawant’s involvement in protests at the East Precinct and the formation of CHOP were dropped by the recall group’s attorneys.

With the court denying Sawant’s appeal, the recall proponents will have up to 180 days to gather a little over 10,000 signatures — or 25% of the nearly 43,000 votes cast in her November 2019 race — to send the issue to the ballot.

Sawant’s political fate will now move into the hands of District 3 voters.

“The recall law in Washington State is inherently undemocratic and well-suited for politicized use against working people’s representatives, because there is no requirement that the charges even be proven true,” Sawant said in a statement following the decision. “In effect, the courts have enormous leeway to use recall elections as a mechanism to defend the ruling class and capitalist system. It is no accident that Seattle’s last elected socialist, Anna Louise Strong, was driven out of office by a recall campaign for her links to the labor movement and opposition to World War I.”

“Big biz and the right wing are furious about the impact of socialist politics and social movements in Seattle & how we have inspired working people around the country,” the campaign formed to defend Sawant against recall posted on Twitter after the decision. “They are now trying to use the courts & their deep pockets to overturn Councilmember Sawant’s 2019 re-election and the historic victories she has spearheaded.”

After facing a deficit on Election Night 2019, Sawant clawed back to defeat Broadway Business Improvement Area leader Egan Orion by around 4% — or less than 2,000 votes — and now sits as the longest serving member of the city council.

The recall effort argues Sawant misused her office and flouted coronavirus social distancing restrictions in opening City Hall to hundreds of protesters one night last June. Continue reading

Mayoral candidate Echohawk calls for ’emergency action’ to stave off sweep in ‘growing crisis around the homeless tent encampment at Miller Playfield’

(Image: CHS)

Concerns for the lives of the people living in the Miller Park encampments and worries about a sweep before next month’s planned return of in-classroom instruction at the campus’s Meany Middle School are driving Seattle mayor’s race candidate Colleen Echohawk to speak up now and call for the city to start emergency actions immediately.

“The main thing that is so frustrating, and the reason I’m running, is sweeps are so ineffective,” Echohawk tells CHS.

The executive director of the Chief Seattle Club human services agency says the situation at Miller underlines her campaign’s mission to make the city’s response to the homelessness crisis a core of the 2021 election — even if they don’t win, “we push efforts,” she said Tuesday morning.

In her statement, Echohawk called for “emergency rehousing of homeless people living in parks and public spaces that follows the JustCare model — transitioning people to a safe place to sleep while providing wrap-around services such as mental health and addiction treatment.”

Echohawk said those services along with the physically safe spaces are key.

“This is a humanitarian crisis, and it’s not working for anyone,” Echohawk said in the press release sent to media Tuesday. “It’s not working for the people in the tents. It’s not working for the neighbors living nearby. It’s not working for the people that want to use the playfield and it’s not working for the Meany community with school starting back up.”

CHS has an inquiry out to Durkan’s office about its efforts at Miller and the concerns about any impending sweep. Continue reading

The mayor of Capitol Hill: For those unhappy with Seattle’s ‘status quo,’ Jessyn Farrell says she’s the candidate for you

(Image: Jessyn for Mayor)

When Jessyn Farrell first ran for mayor in 2017, Seattle was facing many of the core issues it struggles with today: homelessness and housing affordability, public safety and policing.

But the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated these problems since Farrell, a former state lawmaker and public transit champion, finished a distant fourth in the mayoral primary four years ago. With that in mind, Farrell is making another run for the office.

“People are really suffering in so many different ways, whether it is economic hardship, racial injustice, isolation, the challenges of remote learning,” Farrell told CHS Thursday afternoon, citing her own experience as a parent. “Times are really, really hard and city leadership has really lacked the creativity and the scale around responding to these multiple crises.”

She breaks all of this down to two questions: “Is this going to be a city that people want and can afford to live in?”

Farrell, 47, represented the U-District and North Seattle in the state House from 2013 until 2017, when she resigned to focus on her first mayoral run. In high school, she was voted most likely to become a politician and went on to graduate from the University of Washington and Boston College Law School.

She was the executive director of the Transportation Choices Coalition, leading charges to fund an expanded light rail system. Since her previous run, she’s worked at Civic Ventures, the think tank headed by progressive taxation advocate Nick Hanauer.

Jenny Durkan’s announcement that she will not seek reelection after finishing her first — and only — term this year has led to a surge of candidates making moves to win the office.

The primary is still five months away and more than a dozen candidates have already filed to run for mayor, according to the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission, including Chief Seattle Club executive director Colleen Echohawk, who would be the city’s first Native mayor, city council president Lorena González, former council president Bruce Harrell, and Capitol Hill architect Andrew Grant Houston.

SEED Seattle’s interim director Lance Randall also announced his candidacy last year.

Another factor helping to power the 2021 race is the Seattle’s Democracy Voucher program which, for the first time, has been extended to include mayoral candidates. Farrell said Thursday that she is participating in the “innovative policy to keep big money out of our politics.”

In trying to delineate herself among the other candidates vying for the job, Farrell not only separated her opponents between progressive and moderate, but between insider and relative outsider, tacitly calling out González and Harrell, the early frontrunners in the race.

“There is a real hunger for problem solving and someone who has a track record of problem solving and I think that I fit that bill,” she said. “If you’re happy with the status quo, there are candidates who are currently and have been before in city government, then those are your candidates. I think though that most people are not satisfied with how things are going.”

Continue reading

It is time to spend your 2021 Seattle Democracy Vouchers

You have until November to put your Seattle Democracy Vouchers to work but you don’t want to wait that long. Candidates — especially political upstarts — need that cash as soon as possible to fund campaigns and power their way to victory.

The city’s program is unique and might feel a little complicated but look at your $100 in certificates as the potential to give the candidates you support a chance now so you can vote for them later. While the August primary is still five months off, the surge of early candidates in Seattle City Hall’s three big 2021 races has a lot to do with the power of the voucher program which is being extended to include the mayor’s race for the first time this year. Continue reading

Seattle political veteran Harrell to make 2021 run for mayor

(Image: Bruce for Seattle)

With incumbent Jenny Durkan opting to step aside and not seek reelection, a Seattle political veteran is now the most downtown chamber-tolerable frontrunner in the 2021 Seattle mayor’s race.

Former city councilmember — and one-time five-day Seattle mayor — Bruce Harrell is announcing his candidacy for the mayor’s office Tuesday in a press conference with “a small number of family and supporters” outside the Central District’s Garfield High School, the political veteran’s alma mater and part of the old school Seattle base on which his personality and career as an elected in the progressive city has been built.

“Seattle needs a mayor committed to a real recovery, rooted in uniting everyone around our progressive values,” Harrell says in a video introducing his campaign.

“Committed to building equity and opportunity for every family, I was elected to the city council where we accomplished big things, raised the minimum wage, invested in transit and affordable housing,” the candidate says. “Now after divisive politics, a racial reckoning and a terrible pandemic, I’m running for mayor to help lead Seattle forward, to come together and work together. I know we can and will fix our city.”

UPDATE: We have added Harrell’s “open letter” announcing his candidacy and early platform proposals to the end of the post.

Included in the letter is a swipe from the council veteran at #defundSPD efforts. “We need to move beyond arbitrary and divisive public safety budget debates and align the needs of our entire community with the mandate of ending bias, improving response times, and reducing crime,” Harrell’s letter states. “We need the right kind of personnel to respond—like social workers and addiction specialists when an armed officer isn’t needed or appropriate. Accountability and training—and appropriate staffing for our growing city—require resources and reforms. We can do both.”

Harrell’s political career and long ties to the city and its Black community vault the candidate into a neck and a neck race with Lorena González, the current council president and biggest name so far in the run to replace Durkan after leading the city’s legislative body through the tumultuous 2020 political battles over COVID-19 crisis and recovery and the fight to reduce spending on the Seattle Police Department. In anticipation of Harrell’s run, González’s campaign is issuing “a public call for other candidates in the race to reject corporate PAC money and corporate independent expenditure assistance.”

Chief Seattle Club executive director Colleen Echohawk has also joined the race while Capitol Hill architect Andrew Grant Houston has made waves among progressives with an urbanist and social justice focused campaign. Meanwhile, Nikkita Oliver, another community leader many hoped would consider a run for mayor, instead is making a push to join the city council.

Harrell is cut from different cloth entirely. A standout high school athlete who grew up in 1970s-era Seattle, Harrell seems to approach his take on politics with a jock’s swagger and a habit for quips and jokey asides. Continue reading

Nikkita4Nine: A leading voice from Seattle’s Black Lives Matter and #defundSPD protests, Nikkita Oliver will run for Seattle City Council

Nikkita Oliver is making a 2021 run for Seattle’s City Hall but this time the target isn’t the mayor’s office.

Pay homage to the Duwamish, Suquamish, and the tribes upon whose lands and waterways we traverse. I cannot claim this land, but here I find home. So I pay real rent. The rising tide may lift all boats, but we ain’t all got boats to catch the ride. So we fight not to get swept away by the riptides. We’ve been repairing reparations, native sovereignty and black liberation together, all the oppressed peoples, we change the situation. Letting go of all that weighs us down that we might fly beyond prisons and police. No more loved ones living on the streets, stopping all the sweeps. People over profit becomes our beliefs. Everyone’s essential, good food, clean water is always in reach. Health is wealth and everyone deserves it. When we sow better then better is what we reap. And we will write the story, how the I became we, we became free, and how it came to be this Emerald City by the sea.

(Image: Nikkita4Nine)

In a spoken word announcement, the poet, teacher, lawyer, and community activist added their voice Wednesday morning to the race for the Seattle City Council opting to do battle for the Position 9 citywide seat.

The “Nikkita4Nine” campaign is launching “with a mutual aid event in the Beacon Hill neighborhood, involving the coordinated delivery of sleeping bags, food, and other essential supplies to residents most impacted by the overlapping crises facing Seattle,” the Seattle Medium reports.

The Oliver campaign will focus on police divestment, investments in youth and families, and expanding racial and economic justice and is planning community listening posts “to come together to develop an evolving community platform that identifies the priorities and solutions of communities living and/or working in Seattle.” Continue reading

The King County election nobody has heard about — still

Let’s conserve some stuff (Image: King County)

In 2019, CHS called it the King County election nobody has heard about. In 2021, we’re pretty sure you still haven’t.

There’s an open seat again on the King County Conservation District board and the vote, unlike any other civic election you can currently participate in, happens online. You can learn more — and cast your ballot — here.

The district works “directly with private landowners to care for the land and resources” that helps “farmers and other landowners voluntarily preserve and enhance our natural resources through cost-sharing, education and technical assistance.”

Eight people are vying for the six-member board’s Position 3.

  • Kali Clark
  • Melissa Tatro
  • Wayne Gullstad
  • Brittney Bush Bollay
  • Doug Hennick
  • David Toledo
  • John Comerford
  • Natalie Reber

Happy voting.

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