Kshama Sawant wants to oust four ‘corporate-backed’ council members

Jul 2, 2018, 2:16 PM | Updated: Jul 3, 2018, 7:53 am

sawant, council...

Seattle Councilmembers Sally Bagshaw, Debora Juarez (top), Bruce Harrell, and Rob Johnson (bottom). (MyNorthwest, Seattle Channel)

(MyNorthwest, Seattle Channel)

After feeling blindsided by the bulk of the Seattle City Council over the sudden repeal of the business head tax, Kshama Sawant is calling for independent candidates to run against several of her council peers.

Seattle head tax 101

In a column for CounterPunch, a left-wing publication, Sawant writes the Progressive and Socialist groups who led the “housing and justice movement should unite for the 2019 elections” to run against council President Bruce Harrell, and council members Sally Bagshaw, Debora Juarez, and Rob Johnson. She calls them “corporate-backed” and alleges they led the council’s opposition to the tax.

The bulk of the council, including Sawant, will be up for re-election in 2019. The only two members whose terms don’t expire that year are Teresa Mosqueda and M. Lorena Gonzalez.

Though she doesn’t ask for candidates to oppose Lisa Herbold or Mike O’Brien, Sawant does say there was a “disappointing spectacle” from the two colleagues.

Sawant and the ‘Amazon tax’

The council repealed the head tax about a month after unanimously approving it. Sawant and Mosqueda were the only two of the nine-member council who voted against the repeal. Several of those who did vote for the repeal made it known that doing so was difficult. They said they want an alternative to the head tax.

So far, no alternative has been officially proposed.

Sawant says nobody has conceded on the head tax, however.  She calls it an “Amazon Tax” and says she will “continue to demand the promised ‘Plan B’ for affordable housing and homeless services.” She references “fall’s Seattle budget” and a “fight for a minimum of $50 million annually” until an even bigger and permanent business tax is established.

Minutes before the council repealed the head tax on June 12, Sawant said Mayor Jenny Durkan and the council were “caving to Amazon.” She was referring to the business-backed signature-gathering effort. That effort aimed to put a repeal vote on the November ballot. Sawant described the repeal as a “backroom betrayal,” organized by her fellow council members without her knowledge.

“Remember their vote today the next time the council member complains about legislation being rushed,” Sawant said at the time. “In fact, the movement, including my office, was only informed about this backroom legislation agreement only a couple of hours ago.”

Head tax reception

A lawsuit was filed over allegations that seven of the nine council members agreed to nix the tax before they announced the special repeal meeting in June.

Those who fought for a head tax argue big businesses need to contribute more to solutions in Seattle. The city faces both homelessness and affordability crises. Businesses earning $20 million or more would have paid $275 per employee per year. An estimated $47 million would have been raised.

Many in Seattle’s business community that would pay the head tax criticized the council. Some argue the council rushed toward a solution.

Jon Scholes, the CEO and president of the Downtown Seattle Association, said, “If spending were the only thing keeping us from solving the issue of homelessness in the city, we would have addressed it long ago.”

Sawant writes nobody should have been surprised by the opposition the head tax faced, but it wasn’t unwinnable.

“We have no guarantees that if we fight we will win in any given instance. But the most discouraging and damaging thing of all is to accept defeat without even putting up a fight.”

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Kshama Sawant wants to oust four ‘corporate-backed’ council members