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Seattle City Council Position 4: PubliCola Picks David Bloom

By PublicolaPicks October 19, 2009

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Longtime Church Council leader and homeless advocate David Bloom would be an invaluable addition to the city council.

His righteous perspective would be a welcome counterpoint to the council’s current mega-project agenda, which is focused on big investments in neighborhoods like downtown and South Lake Union at the expense of buses in Southeast Seattle and sidewalks in North Seattle.

Bloom’s history of community-based advocacy comes with some provincial positions we don’t agree with—he didn’t support light rail, he supported a viaduct rebuild, and he can be a knee-jerk ‘No’ on development—but with a compass locked to social justice, Bloom’s instincts are a necessity for a council that leans more Whole Foods than Red Apple.

With an actual resume as a community organizer (Deputy Director at the Church Council of Greater Seattle; co-founder of the Downtown Emergency Services Center; co-founder of Common Ground; co-founder of the Seattle Displacement Coalition; co-founder of the Interfaith Task Force on Homelessness; and board member and organizer for Real Change), Bloom is the only one in this race who would come onto the council with specific legislation queued up. He wants to reprioritize the budget ($1 billion for South Lake Union?) to create 5,000 additional units of affordable housing above and beyond what’s mandated in this year’s housing levy. He also wants to pass a living wage ordinance.

Just a dreamer who won’t get anything done? Guess again. Bloom got right into this year’s political fight over the housing levy, convincing the council to change the guidelines to ensure the levy would truly serve those in need. Now, 60 percent of the new rental housing created by the levy must be affordable to people making 30 percent of the median income or less, and no more than 10 percent of the rental housing can go to those making between 60 and 80 percent of median ($51,200 for a two-person household).

These sorts of percentages and definitions may be wonky, but they have a real impact on people’s lives. And they’re the exact kind of details the council deals with all the time (the definition of “affordable” housing comes up at least once a year, and the council typically lands at 80 percent of median).

Bloom deals in reality, not just rhetoric. Turning his anti-mega-project pitch into a call for major infrastructure investments in neighborhoods, he rattles off three specific examples of streets he says are “completely deteriorating”: 35th Ave. SW in West Seattle, 15th Ave. NE in the U. District, and 24th Ave. from Montlake to Capitol Hill.

Bloom’s opponent, former King County civil division head Sally Bagshaw, is smart, experienced, and revved-up (something the listless council could use), but her positions on the big issues—yea tunnel, yea Mercer—are in lockstep with the majority of voices already at city hall. While she’s more liberal than you think (a former county prosecutor who’s for decriminalizing marijuana?), Bagshaw won’t bring any new perspectives to the council.

At our endorsement interview, Bagshaw challenged Bloom’s leadership experience, asking him if he’d ever managed a major budget. Bloom acknowledged that he’d only managed a nonprofit (with a budget between “a few hundred thousand and $1 million), but added: “In a lot of ways, Sally, it doesn’t matter. We’re not running to be managers, we’re running to be leaders.”

With years as a community organizer powering his plan to shakeup the city’s priorities, Bloom will be a true leader.

In contrast, when we asked  Bagshaw to name any specific proposals she would lead on, she demurred and talked instead about past “viaduct charrettes” and drew staff reorg charts for us on a napkin.

PubliCola picks David Bloom.
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