1. Things got a little testy at last night’s city council District Three candidates’ forum in Madison Valley in the high-ceilinged gym at the Bush School when socialist incumbent city council member Kshama Sawant exchanged jabs with her main challenger in the Central Seattle district race, Urban League CEO and longtime Central District resident Pamela Banks.
The reasonably well-attended forum (the crowd was noticeably older)—hosted by the Madison Valley and Madison Park Community Councils and moderated by Board of Parks commissioner Barbara Wright—took a combative turn when Wright asked: How will you work with your colleagues on the city council to get legislation passed?
Banks took off the gloves first. “We're [the city council] going to have to collaborate… I don't think we get there by criticizing, berating, and belittling our colleagues. You just can't do it. It won't build consensus and you can't get things done,” she said, in an obvious attack on Sawant, who routinely puts down her colleagues as corporate lackeys. (She infamously said it was "scandalous" when they appointed mayor favorite John Okamoto to city council.)
Sawant didn’t directly respond to Banks (these forums aren’t really designed to allow for immediate comebacks), but proceeded to list off legislation she sponsored that passed council with unanimous support—like the $15 minimum wage hike and her anti–Trans Pacific Partnership resolution (and I'd add her budget amendment to fund rest stop services for the homeless).
When it came time to chat about affordable housing, Banks went after Sawant's signature issue: rent control. “Rent control is not the answer because it doesn't generate units; it creates false hope.”
Sawant returned fire. “Candidates who take campaign donations from real estate corporations like Vulcan show that they can't build affordable housing nor represent our neighborhoods,” she said, after plugging rent control along with maximum linkage fees—a tax on new development—to pay for affordable housing. (Banks has received donations from two Vulcan bigwigs, $550 from Pearl Leung and $500 from Phil Fujii. To complicate Seattle's simpleton ideas of right and left in this town, though, it's worth pointing out that Fujii was deputy during former lefty mayor Mike McGinn's administration; Vulcan contributed handsomely to the pro-development former mayor.)
Sawant may have a point about the influence of big contributors on Banks, though.
At a forum in the Central District in early May, Banks said she supported the linkage fee. (It's on tape.) However, last night, a month and $42,000 later, including new money from real estate and business interests such as conservative business lobbyist Joe Quintana and infill developer Dan Duffus, Banks verged on a flip-flop. After holding up the no sign—Banks held up the waffle sign. At this point, some elderly audience members began asking, “What are linkage fees?” (Banks was also the sole no vote on a lightning-round question about a city income tax.)
This wasn’t the first time open criticisms have surfaced between the two candidates. When Sawant flew to New York City last week to attend a fundraiser—she missed a council hearing on transportation equity to do so—the Banks camp called it an example of the incumbent’s skewed priorities and lack of focus on Seattle issues. (We'll see if another consultant Christian Sinderman candidate, Lorena González, takes heat for her upcoming fundraising trip to Washington, DC, at the Latino Victory Fund event.)
Even mild-mannered retiree, long-shot "neighborhood power" candidate Lee Carter attempted to jump into the fray. He said part of the reason he's running is because of the incumbent’s “dishonesty” (though he never expanded on his charge).
Neither candidate Rob Hearne, the former executive director of Equal Rights Washington (the LGBTQ rights nonprofit that helped run the successful 2012 campaign to legalize same sex marriage), nor a fourth candidate, women’s rights advocate Morgan Beach, were part of the main action. Hearne occasionally stumbled over his words and often read from notes. For her part, Beach touted her feminist credentials, saying she would prioritize gender wage equity and would ideally chair the Gender Pay Equity Committee (along with parks).
2. Responding to criticism of "pinkwashing"—the double-reverse-backflip idea that cheering progress for gay rights in Israel covers up oppression of Palestinians—Mayor Murray tweeted a picture yesterday from his meeting with Palestinian leader Saeb Erekat; Murray's husband Michael Shiosaki is standing to the right.
Murray, who also met with a group of Palestinian students on his controversial trip (as, PubliCola first reported, it's pretty pricy), released a statement from the West Bank.
“Today I had the opportunity to meet with Mr. Erekat during a visit to Ramallah. We talked about our mutual hopes for peace and a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and our shared commitment to promoting democracy and civil rights for all. We also discussed the possibility of identifying a civic project or exchange that might be pursued in cooperation with a municipality or business in the West Bank."
I've asked the mayor's office if "civil rights" included gay rights.
3. Teachers' union president Kim Mead sent an email to state legislators yesterday reminding them of poll numbers that showed strong support for K–12 funding, including a reference to I-1351, the union's successful 2014 class-size initiative that the legislature has balked on: "Fifty-seven percent think that the legislature should provide enough funding to reduce class sizes in all grades as approved by voters."
"I urge you to consider these findings and to do everything you can in the closing days of the legislative session to meet voter expectations to improve education in our state by reducing class sizes for all grades, improving educator pay and retaining local control," Mead concluded, linking to the poll.
Republican state representative Matt Manweller (R-13, Ellensburg) emailed back:
I didn't see the poll question about how voters want to pay for it. It must have got left off the email.
Sent from my iPhone
I-1351 would add about $2 billion in costs in the current biennium.
With reporting by Josh Kelety