Bloom Kicks Off Council Campaign with Push for More Affordable Housing

By Josh Feit June 1, 2009

As we reported last week, David Bloom, former head of the Church Council of  Greater Seattle (read: a tireless advocate for low-income people), formally kicked of his campaign for Seattle City Council on Thursday night. 


David Bloom, Legit from the Left

We've also already noted that Bloom is one of the few standout candidates in this year's crowded field of City Council hopefuls. And while candidates have come and gone over the years with a similar Dennis Kucinich agenda (I'm thinking specifically of lefty Joe Szwaja), Bloom brings humility, gravitas, and particularly, unprecedented credibility that is rare from the tofu-and-Fugazi left.

The kickoff, at an all-purpose room at the Swedish Cultural Center on Dexter, was packed with kindred spirits—people from Real Change and the Downtown Emergency Services Center and the Seattle Displacement Coalition (Bloom was a co-founder) and lefty City Council Member Nick Licata's office—who've known Bloom for years.  

Bloom was introduced by a set of longtime political allies—former Seattle City Council Member (and homeless advocate) Peter Steinbrueck; the lone Black King County Council Member (and unflappable progressive) Larry Gossett; homeless advocate and rambunctious folk singer Joe Martin; and Seattle City Council Member Nick Licata—whose heartfelt testimonies to Bloom's history of activism (Gossett talked about getting arrested with Bloom in the 70s when they were both protesting redlining by racist banks) were a refreshing break from the canned speeches you hear at other events.

Bloom himself  joked that he had planned to enjoy his retirement, he's 67, by traveling and reading and writing that novel, but  he was too "concerned" that "I have seen the great qualities we love about Seattle" (and at that he gestured to the wall of windows looking out on Queen Anne and Capitol Hill and the Olympics) "slipping away." 

Bloom's theme is that City leaders have made a series of decisions "that don't address the needs of working families in Seattle." He refers to the investments in "big ticket" "sexy"  projects—$200 million for Mercer; $5 billion for the deep bore tunnel; and the "SLUT" (South Lake Union Street Car)—taking priority over basics like sidewalks and housing. 

"That's a lot of money, but what about the basic needs of the City?" Bloom asks. "People still don't have sidewalks, and we're spending $1 billion in South Lake Union for one of the richest men in the world [Paul Allen]. We don't need to be doing this."

His platform includes this demand (which Gossett beamed was "revolutionary" and "the most progressive agenda I've seen in 35 years"): 

"Build 5,000 additional affordable housing units above and beyond the goals of the housing levy and the homelessness plan, and require that when developers tear down affordable housing in our neighborhoods, they must replace it."

Bloom says the majority of the   5,000 additional units should be affordable to people making "at most, 60 percent of the median income—and lower [40 percent of median is about $22,000 a year for a single person]" as opposed to the standard 80 percent [about $45,000 a year].

"That's a lot of percentages," Bloom jokes, but then adds seriously: "these numbers [of homeless people] are real." With the housing levy and the homelessness plan, Bloom's additional 5,000 would bring the region's affordable housing stock to about 16,000 units. 

After his speech, I asked Bloom how he planned to translate the enthusiasm from his comfy kickoff (it was a crowd of friends and ideolgical allies) to a broader audience. 

"I'll talk about the issues I've been talking about," Bloom said. "I've been talking to a lot of people, and they are disturbed and unhappy with the direction of the City. Everybody needs basic services." 

I also asked him who he would ally himself with on the Council. (During his speech he talked about "giving Nick [Licata, the lone lefty] some company."

Bloom said he's been getting encouraging feedback from newbie Council Member Bruce Harrell who "says he likes what he's hearing from me."

Harrell, whose business-y political profile and donors list matches up much better with Bloom's opponent Sally Bagshaw, tells PubliCola it's true, he's glad Bloom is running. "He's committed to folks that need a voice on the council," Harrell says. "And I think that kind of voice is necessary now as we deal with growth," Harrell says. 

However, Harrell won't go as far as endorsing Bloom saying he's waiting until after the June 5 filing deadline to see "where all the chips fall."
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