Members of the newly-formed Seattle City Council stressed funding more affordable housing and limiting corporate campaign spending as issues on their minds at a swearing-in ceremony last week.
Councilmember Kshama Sawant (District 3) blasted Amazon and the business community for their spending to defeat her. She called for new taxes on business to build public housing. Councilmember Tammy Morales said she’s pushing for council action to ensure that businesses and wealthy residents pay higher taxes to improve affordability in District 2, which she represents. She said residents are being forced out of the city due to higher rents and property taxes.
Meanwhile, the council on Monday unanimously passed a measure to rein in political spending by “foreign-influenced” companies. The “Clean Campaigns” legislation bans any company with foreign ownership of 5% or above to contribute to city candidates or political action committees funding independent expenditure campaigns. As a result, affected companies are left only with advertising to directly support or oppose a candidate.
Councilmember Lorena Gonzalez said Seattle has an “epidemic” of corporate contributions finding their way into elections. Supporters of the legislation expect it to be challenged in court.
John Engber, Director of Washington Retail’s Retail Industry Coalition of Seattle, attended the swearing-in and talked with councilmembers Morales, Alex Pedersen, Andrew Lewis and Dan Strauss.
Pedersen, endorsed by Washington Retail, called for more effective, efficient government rather than raising taxes. Councilmember Lisa Herbold, re-elected in November, said her District 1 constituents would guide her council agenda.
Newly-elected Councilmember Dan Strauss stressed his longtime roots in Seattle and his desire to quickly open an office in District 6 to increase his accessibility. Another new Councilmember, Andrew Lewis (District 7) was named chair of the Select Committee on Homelessness and Housing Affordability and the Council representative to the new regional organization to address homelessness, so he focused much of his time discussing how the city can address homelessness.
Newly re-elected Councilmember Debora Juarez, the first Native American to serve on the Council, talked about how the strong women in her family have guided her to be a Councilmember who listens to all perspectives in crafting public policy. She also provided Leonard Forsman, Chairman of the Suquamish Tribe (on whose ancestral lands Seattle was built), time to discuss the long connection between his tribe and the people of Seattle.