Omigod, omigod, omigod: Kshama Sawant is a socialist! She's coming to collectivize your P-Patch and seize control of the means of producing overpriced espresso drinks! Even worse: She's talking about rent control! What could be worse for Seattle's skyrocketing rental market than reining in the rent?
Listen to her critics, and you'd think Sawant was running for the office of Dear Leader. But she isn't. She's running to be one out of nine members of the city council—a stagnant, homogenous, business-toadying body that would benefit from a genuine lefty flanking its ideological left. And when it comes to the types of issues that actually come before the council—a minimum-wage hike, transit expansion, universal preschool, police accountability, city-sanctioned homeless encampments, building more affordable housing, and more—Sawant's policy positions fit comfortably within the mainstream of Seattle's broader progressive values.
No wonder Sawant has four-term incumbent council member Richard Conlin running scared. An immigrant woman of color, an Occupy Seattle organizer, and an economics instructor at Seattle Central Community College, Sawant has been wowing candidate forum audiences with a cogent economic-justice agenda.
"There is nobody in the political leadership in Seattle right now who comes into work every day with a sense of urgency to really fight for people's standard of living," argues Sawant. "That's why voters are engaged in our campaign, because they are hearing a voice that they have been wanting to hear for years."
It's a voice that voters certainly haven't been hearing from Conlin, who during his 16 years on the council has mostly distinguished himself by growing 16 years older. Conlin campaigned to build the $4.2 billion transit-free deep-bore-tunnel project, while using city resources to attempt to block an anti-tunnel referendum from the ballot. He twice froze money for the city's Transit Master Plan, while underfunding the Bicycle Master Plan by 75 percent. He supports creating new fines for aggressive panhandling (which is already illegal) but opposes regulations that would make homeless encampments safer. And he was the only member of the council to vote against Seattle's paid-sick-leave ordinance. It's time for him to go.
Not surprisingly, Conlin's campaign contributors are a "who's who" of wealthy special interests. Seattle's business establishment already has the ear of the other eight members of the council—now it's time to give the rest of us a voice. Vote for Kshama Sawant.