Saturday, February 4, 2023
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Seattle needs council members whose sole agenda is public service

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In the words of former New York Mayor Fiorello La Guardia: “There is no Republican or Democratic way to clean the streets.”

At its core, municipal government is about delivering services: clean streets, timely garbage pickup, electricity that works, clean and welcoming parks, dependable public safety.

After four tumultuous years, Seattle voters should seek City Council candidates with civic experience on their résumés and who share a back-to-basics commitment to their constituents.

In this year’s elections, Seattleites will see a majority of new faces on the ballot for council. Four incumbents so far — Alex Pedersen, Debora Juarez, Lisa Herbold and Kshama Sawant — announced they will not seek reelection. Seven council district seats are up this year; two citywide positions come before voters again in 2025.

Of the retiring members, Sawant is surely the most memorable. She was a devotee of the Socialist Alternative party first, a member of the Seattle City Council second, and seemingly way down the list of her priorities, a representative for the District 3 residents of Capitol Hill and surrounding neighborhoods.

“Capitalism needs to be overthrown. We need a socialist world,” she wrote in a toxic farewell published in The Stranger, dumping on everyone from her council colleagues to U.S. Rep. Pramila Jayapal for being “sellouts.”

The end of her time in local politics came as no real surprise. A self-styled champion of unions and working people, Sawant eventually drew the ire of unions and working people fed up with her self-aggrandizement. Sawant’s meddling in a contentious carpenters strike in 2021 led the head of the union to charge Sawant with “interfering in the NW Carpenter Union’s democracy just to grab the limelight for her own political agenda.” Around the same time, MLK Labor, a coalition of unions, tweeted that Sawant should “ask how you can support instead of being a nuisance.”

Sawant wasn’t alone in putting ideology before her constituents. In a blog post announcing her upcoming departure, Herbold, who represents West Seattle, wrote: “Above my love of public service to the constituents of District 1, I don’t want the Council to lose a progressive voice on the Council.”

West Seattle deserves a representative in City Hall who places love of public service at the top of the agenda, period. In public meetings, Herbold had a particular habit of responding to people concerned about local crime by saying she had no control over the police department. Yet she was all for defunding the Seattle police by 50%. She initially resisted efforts to increase hiring incentives to rebuild the department and voted to eliminate 80 police positions in the last budget.

These have been difficult years for Seattle. It often seems like the threads that bring residents together — quiet civility, a love of this place’s natural beauty, looking out for neighbors, an entrepreneurial zeal — have not been able to withstand the centrifugal forces driving folks apart.

The next generation of city leaders can change that narrative. It starts with candidates who are more interested in actual problem-solving than ideological proxy fights, Twitter posts and meaningless point scoring.



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