Everything you always wanted to know about Sawant’s rent control bid but were afraid to ask

Sawant’s check boxes from 2017 could add another check in 2020 — though “TAX THE RICH” needs more work

Monday night, the Seattle City Council’s Renter’s Rights Committee, chaired by District 3 representative Kshama Sawant, will discuss draft legislation for rent control at City Hall during a public hearing. It’s a cornerstone moment in the final months of her term and in her race to retain her seat in November.

Sawant’s draft legislation follows her six-year-old call for rent control, a 2015 City Council resolution supporting the repeal of a State-wide rent control ban, plus an April letter from the Seattle’s Renters’ Commission urging the council and Mayor Jenny Durkan to pass a rent control ordinance in Seattle.

In the letter, the commission’s co-chairs noted that “the unpredictability and rate of rent increases in the past decade has caused a massive burden on renters which has led to both homelessness and displacement of Seattleites.”

So, what does rent control mean to Sawant?

It’s an umbrella term that can mean different things depending on specific rules and regulations. Overall, rent control, in some cases also called rent stabilization, means limiting rent increases. This can happen in various ways: it can be tied to inflation, the cap can apply only per tenancy or beyond the duration of a tenancy, and come with or without restrictions on evictions. Some include only buildings of a certain age and exempt new buildings.

Here are a few more questions about the whole thing — and as many answers as we have heading into Monday night’s session.

What does Sawant propose? Sawant’s office remained tight-lipped about the details of the draft legislation ahead of the committee meeting on Monday. What is clear: rent increases would be tied to inflation (around 2% or 3% per year), and the legislation will be “free of corporate loopholes.”  Continue reading

‘History’ — 43rd District Democrats endorse ‘non-Democrat’ Sawant

Council member Mike O’Brien speaks in support of Kshama Sawant (Image: Vote Sawant)

In 2015, support for Kshama Sawant could only come in the form of not choosing her opponents. This time around, members of the 43rd District Democrats were able to give the Socialist Alternative incumbent their full backing. Sawant won the endorsement of the influential — if a bit wonky — political group Tuesday night garnering a surprising 69% of the vote. Continue reading

A movement leader and community leader want the D3 seat for City Council — Here’s how they got there

On the surface, there is nothing particularly remarkable about the YouTube video. The clip from November 29, 2011, hasn’t been viewed much more than 2,900 times. Like many other ‘flash mob’ videos from the era, the camera slightly shakes as five dancers, surrounded by Black Friday shoppers at Westlake Center and Mall, swells to nine and then to over 20 in a rehearsed group choreography to John Mayer’s “Waiting on the World To Change,” and Jessie J’s “Price Tag.”

If anything about the video stands out, it’s the chant “Occupy Seattle!” heard from the performers. What’s most remarkable however is what the video does not show: it captures one of the few times the worlds of Kshama Sawant and Egan Orion’s overlapped before this years’ election. Now both are vying for the same seat on the city council.

Orion, who provided production support to the Occupy Seattle Flash Mob (according to the YouTube video), was a “Flash Mob King” then, producing hundreds-strong ephemeral public dance performances in Seattle and across the country.

Though she was not involved with the video, at the time, Sawant, teaching economics at Seattle Central College, had emerged as one of the most prominent voices and organizers to emerge from Occupy Seattle, an offshoot of the Occupy Wall Street protests against economic inequality.

Eight years on, the worlds of Orion and Sawant collide again. Both are running to represent District 3, which spans a wide area including Lake Washington-adjacent neighborhoods such as Madison Park, renter-heavy Capitol Hill, and the Central District, and part of the ID, on a City Council that will likely see historic turnover with seven of nine seats up for election. Sawant, who has served on the council for six years, is one of three council members up for reelection.

The city has changed immensely in the past eight years. Four — really, five —  mayors, a new democracy voucher program, a declaration of a homelessness state of emergency, accelerated gentrification and displacement, a repealed employee hours or “head” tax and the appearance of “Seattle Is Dying” later, the fault lines — between visions of what Seattle has (or should) become — have hardened.

Sawant, of course, is a socialist. Orion is billed as the more business-friendly candidate. Sawant’s somewhat uncomfortable talking about her personal life. Orion, when we meet him in Volunteer Park, offers up intimate details political candidates usually don’t disclose to a reporter. (Failures and heartbreak. A tequila-fueled spat in the streets of Mazatlán, Mexico. The name of the person he lost his virginity to.)

Born to two teachers in Auburn, Orion grew up a few blocks from Green River Community College, where he was one of the few kids who took part in its theater productions. As a closeted “theater gay” in “very white, very middle class” Auburn during the AIDS crisis, theater was a reprieve from bullying and a way to express himself outside of the confines of school. In high school, Orion ran Students Against Driving Drunk and led his school’s chapter of Students Opposed to Apartheid. For the MLK Day assembly, he invited then-mayor Norm Rice to his school and set up a U2 “Sunday Bloody Sunday” slideshow with music.  Continue reading

Hate crimes, superblocks, and yes, bike chariots: Sawant and Orion ‘face to face’ at Broadway Performance Hall

(Image: Alex Garland for CHS)

“What have you done to support or engage with the LGBTQ community?”

If there was anything the Greater Seattle Business Association — aka “Washington State’s LGBTQ and allied business chamber” — wanted to know from all City Council candidates during last night’s GSBA-hosted “Face To Face” candidate forum at the Broadway Performance Hall on Capitol Hill, this was it.

Every time a duo of competing candidates stepped onto the stage for their 25-minute “tête-à-tête,” they’d face that same question.

So by the time the District 3 candidates Kshama Sawant and Egan Orion settled into the padded blue chairs on stage, about an hour into the forum, both probably knew what they were going to say.

“What we’ve done with Pridefest is built it to a point where it’s this bright shining light that casts its light out into small communities around Western Washington and the state,” said Orion about his work as executive director of Pridefest, the yearly celebrations at Seattle Center and on Capitol Hill and its work with and fundraising for nonprofits.

“There are kids out there who don’t know what it’s like to truly be themselves. And so when they see that light, they know that there’s one place that they can go all year round in order to truly feel themselves. I believe that the work that we’ve done at PrideFest saves lives.”

Seattle City Council member Sawant focused on some of her budget wins, including securing funds for LGBTQ seniors and the LGBTQ health center at Nova High School in the Central District in the budget. She quickly connected the latter back to her core campaign issues. Continue reading

‘Upfront, principled, and reliable’ — Council colleague endorses Sawant

This is the future Socialist Alternative liberals want

You won’t find many of her comrades on the Seattle City Council supporting the often abrasive, always passionate Kshama Sawant’s run for reelection — in fact, two of them came out swinging for what turned out to be one of her longshot opponents in the primary.

But in a political team-up that surely is making the Seattle Times Editorial Board and conservative talk radio folks at KIRO giddy with excitement over the hot takes they’ll be able to bake, City Council member Mike O’Brien Monday handed the Socialist Alternative candidate his endorsement:

Councilmember Sawant has pushed Seattle politics in a progressive direction in a way that few have. While I’m not a socialist, and Kshama and I have had our share of disagreements, we’ve worked together on many issues like the $15 minimum wage, the ‘Shell NO!’ campaign against Arctic drilling, on blocking the $160 million North police precinct, and now on the Green New Deal. Kshama is a strong woman of color who stands up to big business. I refute the negative attacks on her attempting to paint her as divisive because of her courageous positions.

Continue reading

Capitol Hill Community Post | Face to Face Candidate Forum at Broadway Performance Hall

From the GSBA

We can’t wait for you to join us for the Face to Face candidate forum coming up this Tuesday, Sept. 10 at the Broadway Performance Hall on Capitol Hill. During this forum, candidates running for Seattle City Council in Districts 1, 2, 3, and 7 will take to the stage to answer crucial questions about Seattle’s future, from transportation and development, to homelessness and small business. Your vote is your voice. This free event is your opportunity to get the facts you need to decide our city’s future come election day.

REGISTER

Moderated by Brady Piñero Walkinshaw (CEO, Grist Media and former 43rd District Representative) and Liz Dunn (Principal, Dunn & Hobbes) this is a must attend candidate forum for small business owners, members of the LGBTQ community, and those who care about the future of their city. 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

Face to Face GSBA Candidate Forum

How is Seattle thriving during these boom times? Who is benefiting in our city, and who is being left behind? What will Seattle’s City Council look like in 2020? Who will be making decisions that will affect your business, the LGBTQ community, and your neighborhood?

Hear where your candidates stand at our annual Face to Face forum, featuring critical races in Seattle. Moderated by Brady Piñero Walkinshaw (CEO, Grist Media and former 43rd District Representative) and Liz Dunn (Principal, Dunn & Hobbes) this is a must attend candidate forum for small business owners, members of the LGBTQ community, and those who care about the future of their city.

FEATURED CANDIDATES (confirmed candidates in bold):
District 1Lisa HerboldPhil Tavel
District 2: Tammy MoralesMark Solomon
District 3: Egan OrionKshama Sawant
District 7Andrew LewisJim Pugel

PROGRAM:
5:00 – 6:00  |  Happy hour reception
6:00 – 7:30  |  Candidate forum program

ACCESSIBILITY
Broadway Performance Hall is centrally located at the corner of Broadway and E Pine Street, easily accessible by public transportation including Link Light Rail (Capitol Hill Station), the First Hill Streetcar (Broadway and Pine stop), and many King County Metro bus lines. Seattle Central College has a garage at 1609 Harvard Avenue across the street from the venue, and side-street parking is available in the surrounding neighborhood.

ASL interpreters provided by the Hearing, Speech, and Deaf Center will be present at this event.

 

Voter turnout is up — particularly in D3’s wealthier neighborhoods — What will that mean for Sawant and Orion in November?

In the “election surprises” category, this curious nugget of information wins first prize: in Broadmoor, the gated golf club community near Madison Park, five people voted for District 3 incumbent and Socialist Alternative member Kshama Sawant. Over 400 people in Broadmoor turned in ballots (mostly supporting third-place finisher Pat Murakami) this year. An unusually high number for the precinct.

Broadmoor is not alone. The uptick in voter turnout reflects a city- and D3-wide trend. Particularly higher-income homeowners turned out in larger numbers compared to 2015.

“The most conservative voters were more motivated for this election than they’ve been in quite some time in Seattle,” said local political consultant Crystal Fincher.

But, she added, “we’re seeing an overall energized electorate, particularly in Seattle. That’s a really, really big deal.” Fincher partly credits the city’s Democracy Voucher program.

According to local consultant Ben Anderstone, Trump and KOMO’s controversial ‘Seattle Is Dying’ documentary have something to do with it as well.

Continue 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