Pamela Banks, president of the Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle since 2012, announced Thursday she’ll seek the Seattle City Council’s 3rd District seat.
The 3rd District includes Capitol Hill, the Central District, Montlake and Madison Park.
Sawant, the council’s most outspoken member and a socialist, is well-known. But Banks, a longtime Central District resident, has deep roots in local politics.
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The 55-year-old Portland native spent three decades in Seattle city government after earning a communications degree from the University of Washington.
That time included a stint advising then-Mayor Greg Nickels on neighborhood and transportation issues, including the effect of light-rail construction on South Seattle.
“I’ve learned over my career that you solve more problems with a telephone than a megaphone,” Banks said in a news release.
“I have stood with union members demanding fair wages, worked with community and faith leaders on racial and social justice measures, and organized with neighborhood leaders for police response and accountability. I won’t be making rebuttals to the State of the Union. I’ll be working for the families of District 3,” she added.
The release doesn’t name Sawant, but Banks was clearly taking aim at the council member, who’s known for her speeches at rallies and who has responded on video to President Obama’s last two State of the Union addresses.
In an interview Thursday, the new candidate mentioned Sawant’s orchestrated arrest last year at a minimum-wage demonstration.
“Getting arrested in SeaTac, how is that helping our city or the residents you represent?” Banks said. “ I align with a lot of (Sawant’s) values and respect them a great deal. I think it’s a style thing.”
The council is moving to district elections for seven of its nine seats this year. Each of the districts contains about 90,000 residents — and far fewer registered voters.
“(Sawant) has more name recognition. I understand that,” Banks said. “But I believe this is going to be won on the ground.”
Hearne is the former executive director of Equal Rights Washington, a statewide LGBT political advocacy organization. Beach is a member of the Seattle Women’s Commission.
Seattle’s League, an affiliate of the National Urban League, is 84 years old and advocates for African-Americans. Banks is of African-American, Japanese-American and Chinese-American descent.
When she took over the League, it was in trouble. In 2011, state auditors implicated the nonprofit in questionable spending by Seattle Public Schools. The city ended $500,000 in annual funding for the League’s youth-violence-prevention work, citing vague invoices, and shut down support for the League’s minority-contractor center.
Staffing shrank and the League was forced to sell its Yesler Way headquarters building.
Under Banks, the League has focused on employment, housing and education.
She spoke alongside Mayor Ed Murray at a Nov. 24 news conference responding to the decision by a grand jury to not indict a police officer for fatally shooting an unarmed black man in Ferguson, Mo.