Councilmember Sawant Urges Solidarity with Striking Operating Engineers Local 302

Councilmember Kshama Sawant (District 3, Central Seattle) released the following statement in solidarity with the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 302 (which includes construction crane operators), whose members just voted to go on strike after rejecting the latest contract on the Western Washington Master Labor Agreement:

“After months of negotiations, members of Operating Engineers Local 302 have elected to go on strike in response to the nickel and diming intransigence of highly profitable contractors raking in millions off the workers’ labor.

“Everyday, members of the Operating Engineers are at work before sunrise, risking their lives to make construction possible. It’s important that we as working people stand in solidarity with them as they fight for a decent contract.

“Seattle has been the construction crane capital for three years running. The building boom in the city and region has made untold profits for corporations and wealth for billionaires. And yet the workers who operate those cranes and help create the profits are increasingly unable to afford to live in the very city they are building.

“Going on strike is not easy and requires courage, determination, and collective action. But we know workers can win victories when we get organized and fight together. Let’s remember when the Teamster Sand & Gravel Drivers went on strike last year after receiving a so-called “last, best, & final” offer from their union busting bosses, they were able to win substantial increases in compensation as well as language protecting their work because they were willing to fight for it.

“Compensation and overtime pay is a safety issue, especially on construction sites. If wages are low enough that workers are forced to work overtime, there’s no penalty for the bosses who push for more and more overtime to maintain accelerated schedules. Working massive overtime is dangerous, and the safety of every worker on a construction site is linked to the safety of all other workers at the site.

“Socialist Alternative and my Council Office support the operating engineers in all their demands:

  • A 15 percent pay increase over three years to at least keep up with rising living costs;
  • Double time – if the bosses attempt to take the eight hour day away from workers, it should cost them;
  • Paid parking – downtown parking costs around $20-$30 daily, and workers shouldn’t have to pay these exorbitant costs just to come to work.

“We wish the members of Local 302 the best in winning their demands. If they win, not only will their living conditions be improved, it will encourage other workers to also fight for their workplace rights and for an affordable city.”

 

 

 

Councilmember Sawant Stands in Solidarity with Seattle Educators Rallying for Strong Contract

Councilmember Kshama Sawant (District 3, Central Seattle) issued the following statement in solidarity with educators in the Seattle Public School District who are organized with the Seattle Education Association (SEA). Members of SEA are fighting for pay raises commensurate with the city’s cost of living. They are also demanding the District take steps toward addressing racism in the school system, and include substitute teachers and support staff in healthcare coverage.

“As an elected representative of Seattle’s working people, a socialist, and a member of the American Federation of Teachers, I stand in solidarity with Seattle educators in their struggle for a strong contract.

“Seattle is absolutely unaffordable for our educators, and they are increasingly getting pushed out of the city. This is a crisis that must be addressed. Other school districts have offered contracts with 20 percent raises. It is only reasonable for Seattle Public Schools to at least match that, given the skyrocketing housing costs in Seattle.

“We need to fight institutional racism in every aspect of our society, including in our classrooms. SEA is fighting for Ethnic Studies at all grade levels, hiring more black educators, training staff in restorative justice practices, and building on their previous victory to expand race and equity teams. These are important steps toward a school district where black lives matter.

“SEA is fighting for regular working substitute educators and support staff to get healthcare coverage, which is a life and death issue for many hard-working subs.

“I want to urge Seattle Public Schools and the School Board to settle a strong contract with the union. If SEA is forced to strike, I will be joining them on the picket lines.

“This is a union fighting for all of our children. While Betsy DeVos and Donald Trump’s administration are attacking public education nationally, we are fortunate in Seattle to have a union like SEA standing up for educators, students, and families. We need to stand with them in promoting high-quality, fully-funded schools for all. Supporting SEA in winning a strong contract is an important component of building statewide and national mass movements to fight for public-sector unions against the Trump agenda, and to tax Wall Street to fully fund high-quality public education throughout the nation.

“Seattle Educators need our support now, so if you want to help them build strong schools, please join them today from 4 to 6pm outside the John Stanford Center at 3rd & Lander right near the SODO light rail station.”

Council President Harrell Establishes Select Committee on Homelessness and Housing Affordability

Council President Bruce Harrell (District 2, South Seattle) today announced the establishment of a Select Committee on Homelessness and Housing Affordability.

Select Committees are created by the Council President and comprised of all nine Councilmembers to comprehensively and effectively conduct the business of the Council, as outlined by Council Rules (SECT. VII)

Councilmembers Sally Bagshaw (District 7 – Pioneer Square to Magnolia), Teresa Mosqueda (Position 8 – Citywide) and Kshama Sawant (District 3 – Central Seattle) will serve as co-chairs. The complete committee meeting schedule will be announced at a later date.

“As President of the Council, I feel compelled to change our approach to coordinating and communicating to the public about the city’s homelessness response. While we have made progress with our standing committees that oversee the Human Services Department in defining outcomes and reporting and executing a plan, the public demands more. With that in mind, I am proposing a new and more centralized approach through a committee of all nine Councilmembers focused on this issue,” said Council President Harrell.

“Whether you are an individual experiencing homelessness, an advocate, a homeowner, a renter, business owner, or employee, we as a City remain compassionate for the plight of those experiencing homelessness. There also seems to be a growing intolerance of the current conditions where individuals are living in tents on public right of ways or unsafe areas. We should have the highest standard and, in fact, share a common goal of striving to help all individuals experiencing homelessness transition into permanent housing and providing help to those with mental illness.

“This has been one of the most difficult and complicated problems Seattle has ever been asked to solve. We hear from advocates saying that because we don’t have the affordable housing resources, camping should be tolerated. Conversely, we hear from property owners and business owners saying they pay a large portion of the city’s taxes and expect the city to enforce the law.

“There are clearly different views on how to address Seattle’s homelessness crisis. While there are differences of opinions on homelessness enforcement and taxation to generate additional resources, I think we will continue spinning our wheels if we label those differences as simply opposing sides. My expectation of the Select Committee is to have a transparent working committee that develops strong policy and investment decisions, as well as enforcement strategies.”

Objectives of the Select Committee:

  1. Establish the groundwork by clearly defining the homelessness problem to aid the Council’s budget deliberations in October-November. This includes describing the City’s current efforts to address homelessness and any resource gaps.
  2. Describe comprehensively the City’s efforts in homelessness response. As many as 16 City departments and offices are involved in the city’s homelessness response. The City departments and offices include Office of the Auditor, City Budget Office, Department of Construction and Inspections, Finance and Administrative Services, City Attorney’s Office, Fire Department, Police Department, Office of Housing, Human Services Department, Department of Neighborhoods, Parks and Recreation, Seattle City Light, Seattle Public Utilities, Libraries, Office for Civil Rights, and Department of Transportation.
    1. What are the City’s overarching rules and/or policies on addressing homelessness? What are the department’s current homelessness response procedure(s) for unauthorized encampments?
    2. Each department (except Office of the Auditor, City Attorney’s Office, and City Budget Office) will describe its:
      1. Function and responsibilities in addressing homelessness.
      2. Performance measurements.
      3. Characteristics of the homeless population served.
      4. Annual budget and number of employees allocated to addressing homelessness over the past five years, and what, if any, departmental work has been or continues to be displaced.
      5. Costs to deliver services compared to other jurisdictions and any lessons learned.
      6. Need for additional resources to improve performance.
      7. Description of coordination efforts with the other City departments.
    3. Quantitative and/or qualitative data used to assess needs such as the “Find It/Fix It” submittals.
  3. Examination of budgetary allocations and consideration of creative solutions for additional resources.
  4. Define “Clarity of Instructions” to our city departments involved with the city’s homelessness response.
  5. Learn about and enhance regional partnership efforts with King County and Washington State, and partnerships or opportunities for partnerships with philanthropic institutions, as well as faith-based organizations.
  6. Explore “outside-the-box” thinking and strategies other jurisdictions have used such as different safe parking models.

The schedule for the Select Committee is forthcoming and will be available online at a later date.

Seattle City Council Confirms Carmen Best as Seattle Police Chief

Today the Seattle City Council – by a unanimous vote – confirmed Carmen Best as Chief of Police for the Seattle Police Department during its regularly scheduled City Council meeting.

Councilmember M. Lorena González (Pos. 9, Citywide), chair of the Gender Equity, Safe Communities, New Americans & Education Committee, oversaw the confirmation process during the course of three committee meetings, including one public comment hearing. Through the Council’s confirmation process, Chief Best underwent an extensive examination of her experience and credentials, which included a thorough written questionnaire and several hours of questioning from councilmembers during public committee hearings.

The committee unanimously voted to recommend the appointment of Best as Seattle’s permanent Police Chief on August 8.

“Congratulations to Chief Carmen Best on her confirmation as the next Seattle Police Department’s Chief of Police,” said Councilmember González. “I want to thank Chief Best for her thoughtful and open engagement with community members and the City Council throughout the confirmation process. Her responses reaffirmed what many in the community already know about Chief Best: she is the right leader for the job of Chief of Police at this critical juncture of the police department’s reform process. Chief Best also has the experience necessary to meet the evolving public safety needs of the community and the Department’s police officers in a growing city facing big-city issues. I look forward to continuing to work with Chief Best on these complex issues.”

Mayor Jenny Durkan announced the nomination of Interim Chief Best on July 17, following a series of more than three dozen community meetings. More than 60 candidates applied to be Seattle’s Chief of Police.

“I have seen firsthand the love and compassion that Chief Best shows for both the community and the Seattle Police Department,” said Mayor Jenny Durkan. “Throughout her 26 years with the SPD, she has worked her way up the ranks gaining the respect of the community and rank-and-file officers. Without a doubt, I know that with her leadership SPD will continue to address the public safety challenges facing our City, implement meaningful and lasting reforms, and further establishing trust within all of Seattle’s communities.”

Best has worked in the Seattle Police Department for 26 years. She has been Seattle’s Interim Chief of Police since January 1, 2018. She previously served as the Deputy Chief, where she oversaw the Patrol Operations, Investigations and Special Operations Bureaus, and the Community Outreach section.

Resources:

Appointment Packet

Letter of Expectations

High Resolution Photo of Chief Carmen Best

Confirmation Hearing Videos

Website: seattle.gov/council/issues/police-chief

Preserving the Showbox: Councilmember Sawant to Bring Resolution, Urges Community to Keep Fighting

Councilmember Kshama Sawant (District 3, Central Seattle) responded to reports that the Showbox had been purchased by a corporate developer, who intended to build a high-rise apartment, with an open letter.

While the Vancouver-based Onni Group has signaled their intention to nominate the Showbox for landmark status, it remains unclear if that protection would be extended to the entire theater building, or just the facade, marquee or some other architectural feature.

In the letter, Sawant outlined her intentions to prepare a resolution for Council consideration, urging the Landmarks Preservation Board to preserve the Showbox (including its continued use as a music venue) as a landmark.  From the letter:

I have heard from many of you who are outraged to learn that a real estate developer intends to replace Seattle’s historic Showbox theater with a high-rise apartment building. This is yet another example of how development and construction decisions in Seattle are being driven primarily by whatever will make the quickest dollar for the largest for-profit developers, with little regard for the needs and desires of the rest of us.

Often it is affordable housing that we see demolished to make way for new luxury buildings that only the wealthy get to live in. In this case, it is a landmark of Seattle’s history and music that is on the chopping block. In both cases, Seattle is more and more becoming a playground for the rich, with little space for working people and for the culture that makes Seattle so unique.

Big developers have immense power in Washington state, but one possible point of leverage are Seattle’s landmark preservation laws. Because the Showbox has so much historic value, the Landmarks Preservation Board should agree to landmark it if they hear from a large enough community of people. However, the board often preserves only the outside of buildings, and in this case we need the Board to also preserve the music venue inside.

Sawant further indicated that while nominations to preserve the Showbox as a landmark can be initiated by filling out a form, the nominations are only one step, and will most likely not be enough.

“…The Showbox theater should not only be preserved on the outside, but also be maintained as a music venue,” wrote Sawant.  “In fact, the Onni Group, the corporation threatening the Showbox, has indicated they plan to nominate the building to the Landmarks Preservation Board. As a mega development corporation, Onni will no doubt hope that the Board will decide not to preserve any part of the building that will conflict with their multi-million-dollar development plans. We obviously hope, on the other hand, that Board will not just preserve the facade, but enable Seattle’s music community to continue to function at the venue. There are undoubtedly other locations where upscale apartments could be built, although what our city really needs is affordable housing.”

Sawant signaled her intent to prepare a City Council resolution by Monday, August 6 urging the Landmarks Preservation Board to preserve the Showbox inside and outside, and invited emails in support to be sent to the preservation board via email: sarah.sodt@seattle.gov.