I’ve been meaning to write this for a few weeks now. And while mail-in ballots have been out long enough that some folks have undoubtedly already cast their votes, I still think it’s worth chiming in to say that I whole-heartedly support Kshama Sawant’s bid for re-election to the Seattle City Council.
This is not to say that I whole-heartedly agree with her every position and precept. And to be clear, I am in no way affiliated with her campaign (though I am personally acquainted with some folks who are). I haven’t volunteered or worked for them, and though I still intend to donate money, I have not yet done so.
But whatever our (minor) differences of opinion on policy, I find a lot to like about Councilmember Sawant, both in terms of her accomplishments and in terms of the policies she’s currently pursuing.
We’ll start with the obvious, the 15NOW campaign to raise Seattle’s minimum wage to $15/hour. It can be hard to remember, but before Kshama Sawant’s campaign for city council, this wasn’t even really a thing. Not only did she put it on the horizon, she helped build a movement and an organization that went toe-to-toe with big business, which was perfectly happy paying tens if not hundreds of thousands of people less than a living wage, and won. Yes, concessions were made. But the mandate passed, low-income Seattleites are making more money (and will continue to get raises as scheduled wage hikes go into effect), and not only is the sky not falling, the economy is booming more than ever as a result. I call that a win for everyone.
Next up, rent control, which is illegal in Washington State. This is a more controversial position, I think. But let’s face it: rents in Seattle are skyrocketing. Soon we’re going to be in a situation where working-class people simply cannot afford to live in the city. Is rent control answer? I don’t know. But something’s gotta give, and even if it turns out rent control is not the answer, it’s thanks to efforts like Kshama Sawant’s that we’re even having the conversation. Or, rather, that the interests of tenants and working folk are figuring into it.
A third reason is Councilmember Sawant’s support and advocacy for municipal broadband. Now, Seattle is luckier than most places, in that internet service provision here is a duopoly rather than a monopoly like it is most places. But in the twenty-first century, I think it makes a lot more sense to treat broadband like a utility than to leave it to the vagaries of the market. Especially in a city like Seattle that’s so tech-oriented. Faster, not-for-profit broadband? Sign me up. The only losers I see in this scenario are Comcast and Century Link, and honestly, to hell with them. Century Link is a phone company that’s rebranded I can’t remember how many times since Ma Bell was broken up (another example of something that should have been treated as a utility being left to the market, with not awesome results). And Comcast is the very definition of complacent monopoly, as anyone who’s called their customer service department (or blocked off and waited half a day for a service hookup) can tell you. I’d way rather buy my internet from an entity like Seattle City Light, which I think is a fine model for this kind of thing.
Yet another reason is Councilmember Sawant’s sponsorship of People’s Budget Town Halls, which help connect working-class folks with advocates and activists to help get their concerns recognized in the city’s budget-writing process. Not only does it educate regular citizens on the issues and particulars of the city’s budget, it gives them a voice in helping to shape it. After all, regular folks can’t afford lobbyists.
There are other policy-related things I could bring up, but I think the above offers a pretty good sampling of why I support Kshama Sawant not only for her politics but her policies. And while I could go happily on, I’d like to conclude my endorsement on a more personal note.
Kshama Sawant is the real deal, a pragmatic idealist who does what she does because she believes it’s the right thing to do. I say this not only because of publicly-available information, like how she only takes a third of her salary as a city council member, or how many times she’s been arrested on the front lines of protests.
I say it because I know that it’s true.
I’ve had the privilege of meeting Kshama Sawant a few times now. I first met her in meetings during the minimum wage debate, in which I was briefly involved as a founding member of Tips Are Wages (an organization I ended up leaving, and regret my role in building, as it was on the wrong side of the debate, which I came to understand too late). I have also had brief social interactions with her at a few events. What I learned in those meetings, and those brief social interactions, is what I said above: Kshama Sawant is the real deal. Agree with her or disagree, she does what she does because she thinks it’s the right thing to do, and because someone has to.
Why should you believe me? Maybe you won’t. Indeed I’ve only spent a couple of hours in her presence. So why should you take my assessment seriously? I’ve spent most of the last twenty years tending bar, in all kinds of situations, and one of the many skills I developed in that time is the ability to read people quickly and accurately. And my read on Kshama Sawant is that she’s completely genuine, and determined to do right by those for whom society does the least. You can take that with whatever grain of salt seems best to you.
So, in sum, I endorse Kshama Sawant because she pursues policies which I believe to be for the best, both for her constituents and for the city of Seattle, and does so because she believes it to be the right thing to do. You should vote for her.