With Kshama Sawant leaving the Seattle City Council, the temptation is to tell city government’s resident Trotskyite not to let the door hit her on the way out. Such advice would ignore that Sawant is frequently gone anyway and overlook the current council’s penchant for remote meetings.
Two memories of Sawant. The first is the belligerent mob of camp followers on hand in council chambers when she was holding forth. They intimidated opposing voices, browbeat her council colleagues and cheered Marxist jargon. The second was seeing a poster while headed for a concert at St. John’s-Smith Square in London, touting the upcoming appearance of an American political leader who had capitalists quaking in their boots. She went global.
Both candidates running to replace Sawant in District 3, Joy Hollingsworth and Alex Hudson, pledge to show up for work at City Hall. A second improvement, they promise to work with and for District 3 constituents, where I live. The Socialist Alternative activists in Sawant’s office didn’t much bother with neighborhood concerns. Agitation and revolution were the (party) orders of the day.
The bottom line for the current election is that Seattle’s District 3 is getting what democracy should deliver, a choice of the greater of two goods. Capable candidates both, we’ve broken bread with them at Madrona’s weekly neighborhood breakfast. Hollingsworth and supporters are doorbelling my neighbors. Sawant snubbed us when a popular café, St. Cloud, invited her to chat with the community over coffee and goodies.
District 3 is a varied constituency, embracing First Hill, Capitol Hill, Madison Park, Central Area neighborhoods, and Madrona. Urban problems are visible. The hazardous, infuriating Madison Street construction mess makes it difficult to get from one end of the district to the other. We’ve only recently recovered from the great 23rd Avenue construction mess and the harm it did to small, minority-owned businesses.
Posts are installed outside our neighborhood grocery to forestall another smash-and-grab burglary. Stores carry signs with the message: “No Cash Kept on Premises.” Just down the hill, the popular owner of The Postman was shot to death a year ago, and 12 bullets were put through the store windows on the anniversary of his killing. Police response time is down.
Decay is not on a level seen next door in District 2 with its open-air drug and stolen goods market at 12th & Jackson, businesses bailing from Little Saigon, plus one beloved shopping place after another shutting its doors on Rainier Avenue. I wish either Hollingsworth or Hudson could be on the ballot there to take out the council’s badly overmatched Tammy Morales, who has been Sawant’s fellow traveler on the council.
To the candidates. Joy Hollingsworth is a third-generation Seattleite, born and raised in the Central Area, living with her wife in the family home. She is product of a distinguished, civic activist African American family. Grandmother Dorothy Hollingsworth was longtime member of a better Seattle School Board than the present one. Joy played basketball at Seattle Prep, later coached at Seattle University. She has helped manage a successful family-owned cannabis business and works with the Food Access Network of Northwest Harvest.
A crowd of more than 200 showed up for her announcement on MLK Day. What I took away from hearing Hollingsworth is a commitment to restore the “Seattle way.” Everybody gets consulted on everything. Nobody is demonized. We have police accountability, but we hire more cops and work at more rapid response and co-response so police get help in non-crime calls.
I wonder how our police officers have felt at being called “murderers” by Sawant or seeing the council stumble through its defund-the-police debate in 2020. With the impression that we don’t have their backs, they’ve been decampin to other cities or retiring. It’s a shame given progress made under the Justice Department’s consent decree.
Hollingsworth is an optimist. She strikes me as one of those people who believes that anything worth doing is worth doing with enthusiasm. She brings to the table deep understanding of the minority experience of watching a city move from discrimination to diversity. She has witnessed an evolution of inclusive politics even as economic inequality squeezes many in the city.
Alex Hudson has lived 14 years in District 3 and has given back to where she lives. As head of the First Hill Improvement Assn., she worked effectively for affordable housing. She has since become head the influential Transportation Choices Coalition, laboring to expand bus and light rail while making transit free for young people under 18.
Hudson was a negotiator of the $61 million public benefits package that accompanied expansion of the downtown convention center. Included is $29 million spending on affordable housing, $10 million apiece for Freeway Park and pedestrian and bike improvements. Local endorsements are a game in local campaigns. Worth noticing, however, is that a key partner in convention center negotiations, Matt Griffin of the Pine Street Group, is backing Hudson.
Hudson is a self-described urbanist and would be on the left if elected. Unlike that wing of the council, however, she is highly competent. She negotiates with the downtown business community rather than demonizing it as do Sawant and The Stranger. An astute listener, she avoids the condescension, cliquishness, and elitism that characterize some among our city’s urbanists.
What, then, to worry about in these two candidates? Each believes in solving problems. Sawant treated every controversy as an organizing tool, with more to gain from causing trouble than calm conciliation. She was a football spiker, claiming credit for the $15-an-hour minimum wage, yet she abstained from council passage of the final package, hammered out by a panel co-chaired by a business nabob and an astute young labor leader.
Hollingsworth is backed by Mayor Bruce Harrell, and close to hizzoner. Too close? Our city’s legislators need to keep distance. A wise council turned down an earlier mayor’s recommendation that Seattle City Light invest in two ill-fated WPPSS nuclear plants, for which we would be paying to this day. A hard push from the council, notably from Tim Burgess, was required to get Mayor Mike McGinn on board with Justice Department conditions for reforming the Seattle Police Department.
Amidst Hudson’s upbeat program, one line made me cringe: “The Central City Connector streetcar is a long overdue and necessary project that should already be in service.” She’s championing a project that’s $100 million-plus over its original budget, which would create a massive, prolonged mess and deliver permanent traffic congestion to First Avenue.
She also speaks of “increased automatic camera enforcement,” a “transformative Move Seattle levy” next year, plus more “bus priority lanes.” Best to recall the weird transforming of Fourth and Sixth Avenues and making Third Avenue bus-only that fueled urban blight. The fear here is that Hudson will fuel wretched excesses of the Seattle Department of Transportation.
District 3 voting was simple. With Sawant, you were either for her or against her. Hudson-Hollingsworth is a choice of two quality candidates. With close friends in both camps, my pick will be kept private. I’d urge readers not to follow endorsements but read web sites for both Joy and Alex and trust your own judgment. The Seattle Times editorial page has gotten snarky this year; The Stranger preaches class warfare.
With seven of nine Council seats at stake, this “off year” election will help shape Seattle’s growth – or retrogression – for years to come.