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Head tax repealed: Is the Sawant era over in Seattle?

Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant speaks, Tuesday, June 12, 2018, at City Hall in Seattle before a meeting to repeal the city’s controversial head tax. Sawant opposed the repeal. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

The Seattle City Council both passed and repealed its head tax in less than a month. The legislation itself and the activity surrounding it shows that it was about much more than the head tax, according to KIRO Nights. It was all about Seattle residents’ relationship with the city council.

The Monday vote was 7-2 and appears to be the result of a private council meeting far from the reach of Kwasha Sawant. She alleged the repeal was the result of a backroom betrayal.

“I think for the first time we saw true leadership coming from Mayor Jenny Durkan,” said KIRO Radio’s Zak Burns. “She gets this meeting to happen. She convinced the council members that this head tax wasn’t a good idea. It’s not worth angering an overwhelming majority of the businesses and citizens here.”

Previously expected to raise $47 million annually, the tax would have applied to more than 500 businesses and cost them $275 per employee every year. A repeal campaign quickly sprang up after it passed on May 14. The No Tax on Jobs Coalition gathered 40,000 signatures and included the support of companies like Amazon, Dick’s Drive-In, and Zillow, among others.

RELATED: Was Kshama Sawant’s concern over ‘backroom betrayal’ legitimate?

“I think Mayor Durkan realizes that all this anger had little to do with the head tax,” Zak said. “This was a referendum on the city council themselves. Here they are asking for more money when they have no proven track record on past spending in terms of success.”

Councilmembers Teresa Mosqueda and Sawant were the only no votes, not entirely a surprise considering that Sawant said that “Jeff Bezos is our enemy” before the vote. Head tax supporters shouted chants that caused some council members to walk out after voting.

“I’m disappointed with the noise that they were making trying to prevent Seattle City Council members from voting. Are we kids?” said KIRO Radio’s Gee Scott.

“That’s her tactic,” Zak said.

The head tax repeal may be a sign of Sawant’s waning influence

To Zak, the there was little chance of the head tax passing had it gone before a public vote. Opponents to the tax were passionately mobilizing, collecting signatures, and building a massive coalition.

“They saw the writing on the wall,” he said. “They’d rather do this well before November when other measures are going to be on the ballot.”

However the decision came to be, this may ultimately be a sea change in Sawant’s power to affect her vision of change in Seattle.

“For years she was the Socialist lion who got everything done, and now she is becoming quite toxic,” Zak said. “She thought her brand was more powerful than Amazon’s, and she was proven wrong.”

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