1. Here's a followup and footnote to last week's PubliCola Kshama Sawant endorsement.
I had been trying for weeks (both asking her council office and her campaign office) to get Sawant's position on a major infrastructure project in her district—the 23rd Avenue South redesign to widen sidewalks, prioritize buses, and ease traffic congestion and speeds by retooling the street from four to three lanes. There's been a backlash against the project and her opponent Pam Banks voiced skepticism at a recent forum.
Supporting these sorts of urban upgrades are high on the Cola endorsement policy checklist, and while we were leaning toward a Sawant endorsement otherwise (and Banks wasn't impressive on the city green agenda), urbanism is hardly Sawant's strong suit.
In fact, her knee-jerk antagonism toward developers and her populist instincts often (and ironically) align her with slow-growth, single-family zone 65 percenters. (Taxing—and demonizing—developers has been a quiet, default alliance between property owners and social justice advocates for years because it creates an easy flow of cash for affordable housing while shifting the policy away from adding supply to single family zones. Thus, the odd brand of Seattle progressives who get to clamor against sharing the land in the name of fighting evil developers.)
More to the point: Sawant's other weakness seemed to be her lack of attention to District Three issues. Rather than getting a red meat lecture about rent control, I wanted to gauge her passion on wonky hyperlocal policy. Wasn't that the point of districts?
Her silence was frustrating. It was a simple question for both a council office and a District Three candidate: Do you support the Seattle Department of Transportation project through the heart of Capitol Hill and Central Seattle? Silence.
Sawant's reticence was troubling because I've also seen her shut down a press conference when reporters started asking her questions that weren't on the press release script. For example, last July, when reporters started asking her whether she supported mayor Ed Murray's recommendation to add flexibility to single family zones (this was before he reneged), she cut her press conference on the Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda short. She told me simply and generically at the conference that of course she supported density, she was from Mumbai.
I eventually determined, at least from her voting record, that she has been a strong supporter of the 23rd Avenue redesign, and two days after PubliCola published its endorsements, Sawant's campaign staff forwarded me her official position on 23rd.
Twenty-third Avenue has long been a very important corridor for people who drive and ride transit. At the same time, it has also been a significant safety hazard and barrier for pedestrians and bicyclists. It's important for the city to continue to strive to seek the right balance between all of these needs. The city's changes from four motor vehicle lanes in most places to three have been tested in many other similar corridors. In every case, they have been found to dramatically increase safety for everyone. We'll need to continue to observe 23rd Avenue after the redesign is complete and make changes as needed.
While there have been sometimes frustrating delays resulting from these important safety upgrades, the best thing we can do to help people avoid congestion along the corridor is to expand mass transit. This can be done with projects such as the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) upgrade for the 48, transit lanes at Montlake, the Mount Baker area redesign, the Madison BRT project, and an expansion of feeder routes to these neighborhoods. Some of these projects will be funded by the Move Seattle Levy, which I strongly support. To fund the major expansion of mass transit necessary in Seattle we will need to tax the rich and big business with progressive taxes like a Millionaire's Tax, Business Head Tax, and increased Commercial Parking Tax.
Footnote: Sawant's front-and-center campaign agenda item for a millionaire's tax sounds good, but it's a bit misleading for a city council platform; it'd be a bit like running for governor of Mississippi and telling your GOP base you were going to repeal Roe vs. Wade. Meanwhile the employer head tax doesn't buy you much, and a commercial parking tax is regressive. Having said that: Good answer. We stand by the endorsement.
2. And now it's official: Mayor Murray has, in fact endorsed Debora Juarez in North Seattle's District Five race. This should end all discussion of the Murray–Christian Sinderman–"Establishment" puppet show. Juarez is running against Sinderman's candidate in the race, Reverend Sandy Brown.