Seattle voters who love self-promoting, slogan-tossing, poor-performing politicians are in luck.
Not just because Donald Trump is president, but because Kshama Sawant squeaked through the primary, in pursuit of another City Council term.
Seriously, voters in Seattle District 3 should not waste their vote in the Nov. 5 general election. Sawant squanders city time and money that could be spent making actual progress.
A far better choice is Egan Orion, who organizes PrideFest and has advocated for small businesses on Capitol Hill. In addition to community experience and progressive values, Orion offers humility, reasonableness and a commitment to build unity, things sorely missing in the District 3 seat.
The latest evidence of why Sawant must go is the Showbox debacle.
When it became known last year that the venerable First Avenue music venue would be displaced by a residential tower, Sawant proposed an improper spot rezone to impede the project, then jeopardized the preservation effort by flouting rules calling for fair and unbiased council decision-making. Other council members, notably Lisa Herbold, went along, prompting a $40 million lawsuit against the city.
A judge found the city’s action illegal in June, nullifying the Sawant-sponsored measure.
Last week the city caved and settled the lawsuit. The outcome: Taxpayers are giving Showbox owner Roger Forbes — a Nevada smut tycoon who made millions objectifying women — nearly another million.
The people of Seattle are paying Forbes $915,000 to cover legal fees and costs. They also spent at least $391,000 on outside defense lawyers. Forbes agreed to drop his lawsuit and gave the city until March to find $41.4 million to buy the seismically dangerous building, before it’s offered again for development.
If Sawant, Herbold and other council members cared so much about preserving the Showbox, they shouldn’t have voted in 2017 to upzone the site. But they did, encouraging Forbes to pursue the 442-unit apartment project that would have provided at least $5 million for affordable housing. Then they botched the preservation effort with costly, poor performance.
Remember that when you see a worn-out park, missing crosswalk or other problem languishing because City Hall can’t afford to fix it. Or when officials plead poverty and seek another tax levy reducing housing affordability.
Yes, Sawant helped secure the $15 minimum wage shortly after her first term began in 2014. Since then, she’s used her position to drum up support for her political organization, testing the limits of Seattle’s ethics policy along the way. Last year, amid the city’s homeless crisis, Sawant canceled multiple meetings of the social-services committee she chaired.
Don’t just take this board’s word. Sawant’s peers in the council labor bloc, who know how she works, endorsed someone else in the primary.
Ask neighbors in District 3, which extends from Montlake to Mount Baker, including Capitol Hill. In the primary, 63% chose anyone but Sawant. In other words, about two-thirds of her constituents want her replaced.
Sawant is a “mirror image of Donald Trump — pitting the world against each other,” said one constituent, Jamie Pedersen, a Capitol Hill Democrat representing much of District 3 in the state Senate.
“She is just utterly disinterested in representing Council District 3,” Pedersen said, explaining that he gets requests for help from people who tried and failed to get a response from Sawant’s office.
While Sawant’s intensity, rhetoric and provocative slogans appeal to some, progressives should be wary.
In some political circles “Sawant” has become shorthand for knee-jerk, dysfunctional, self-aggrandizing Seattle governance. Her association makes it harder to advance progressive policy in Olympia, where legislative approval is required for any actual tax reform — or change to state law prohibiting rent control.
Sawant may bellow the loudest about taxing the rich, but her toxic brand is now doing more harm than good.
It’s time for change and unity in District 3. Voters should elect Orion if they want real progress in their district and city.