We hate to pull you away from your completely self-indulgent but totally justified post-COVID rumspringa, but we’re holding a primary election on August 3, and it’s a big one. Seattle’s entire progressive project is at stake.
This election will decide whether Seattle will FINALLY have a chance to pair a progressive mayor with a progressive council, or whether Seattle will AGAIN vote for more gridlock, acrimony, and criminalization by pitting some corporate simp against a council who actually wants to build housing, reduce emissions, fund alternatives to policing, raise taxes on big business to pay for homeless services, and bail out the workers who run our music venues, theaters, dance clubs, restaurants, bars, barbershops, bathhouses, sex dungeons, sex towers, sex moats, and Howard Schultz's world-famous cafés!!
This election will also decide whether King County stands a chance to flip its remaining red seats blue, and whether we will swap our executive for someone with a hunger for new ideas and the tenacity to implement them before activists spend years and years of their lives pressuring him to act.
We know it’s difficult and time-consuming to make major decisions about the future of the city and the county when you’re so busy awkwardly negotiating the city’s patchwork of mask policies, reconnecting with the nudists at Denny-Blaine, and jockeying with antifa for a table at Cafe Presse. Believe us. We know.
But that’s why the Stranger Election Control Board is here. We hold in-depth, highly antagonistic meetings with the candidates who matter, and then we pick the ones who piss us off the least so that you can focus on the three jobs you need to work to pay rent. All we ask in return is that you vote exactly the way we tell you to. And that you tip us for saving your ass time enough to vote and watch the Mariners lose in the same afternoon.
Below you’ll find all our arguments for the candidates, but if you’d rather not read the bratty, cussy fruits of our labor, then head on over to our Cheat Sheet and vote the Stranger ticket.
If you are registered to vote in King County, your ballot should be in the mail RIGHT NOW. (If you’re not registered to vote for some reason, go fix that! If you’re not sure, then check here!) When it shows up in your mailbox, rip that sucker open, carefully fill it out with a pen, stuff it in its little envelope, and then mail it in ASAP—no need for a stamp. If you don’t trust the mail, then just drop it into a nearby dropbox no later than 8 pm on August 3.
All the data says you’re going to “sit this one out” because it’s an off-year election, and because you’re too busy reveling in the absence of a Trump-fueled news cycle, and because you’re so disenchanted with politics you can't peel your eyes away from those wiggling people on TikTok. Prove the data wrong and VOTE, MOTHERFUCKERS!! Otherwise, landed white Boomers with four-car garages will continue to have the most say in how this city runs.
The Stranger Election Control Board is Matt Baume, Chase Burns, Nathalie Graham, Jasmyne Keimig, Charles Mudede, two or three of Mayor Jenny Durkan’s disgruntled public records officers, and Rich Smith. The SECB does not endorse in uncontested races, in races where only two candidates filed (those go straight to the general election! we’ll endorse in those races later this year!!), or in races we forgot.
By reading our endorsements, you accept the SECB’s terms of service. SECB endorsements are legally binding. God bless.
Alright friends, crack open your bespoke seltzer, or your gas station Zipfizz, or whatever mild stimulant you need to get yourself pumped to read an arcane discussion of a complex property tax levy, because the following endorsement is pretty dry but extremely important. In fact, voting to approve the Best Starts for Kids levy might be the most important bubble on this ballot.
When people talk about the need to make investments “upstream” to solve chronic issues such as homelessness, gun violence, and opportunity gaps in schools, they’re talking about funding stuff like the Best Starts for Kids levy.
The levy raises hundreds of millions of dollars to spend on programs that support poor kids at every stage of their development to prevent them from becoming goofy-ass little hellions.
When we first endorsed this levy back in 2015, all the science told us that making these kinds of investments upfront would reduce the need for more costly “interventions” later on, such as permanent supportive housing, cops, jails, and so on. Lo and behold, it’s only been six years and the county says it is already seeing major improvements.
Just to name a few: The Youth and Family Homelessness Prevention Initiative prevented 9,200 families from entering homelessness, according to a county analysis. (The entire homeless population in King County hovers at around 12,000 people, though that’s likely an undercount.) The levy also put food on tables, diapers on butts, clothes on backs, and car seats in cars for “89,000 children and families” across the county over the course of the last three years.
Do you want us to go on? We can!! Levy funds built school-based health centers that kids visited “over 16,000” times, and 75% of those visitors “passed all their classes.” Levy money also paid to train over 8,000 “people who work with King County’s youth and young adults.”
Funding all these programs doesn’t just help the families who need the services, it also creates jobs all over the county. Dila Perera, executive director of Open Arms Perinatal Services, told us the money helped her hire more people in BIPOC neighborhoods to serve their mostly BIPOC clients. “That’s the sign of a good safety net,” Perera said. “You can really see how many leaders of color emerge from these programs.”
In addition to maintaining funding for these essential programs, the renewal and expansion of this levy would subsidize the cost of 3,000 childcare spots, directly helping families and adding even more jobs. That investment wouldn’t fully cover the current need, which stands at around 10,000 childcare spots, but if the county can leverage state and federal funds then we can fill that yawning gap so parents can get back to working the ten jobs they need to live in this capitalist economy that’s clearly working just fine.
This new iteration of the levy will cost 19 cents for every $1,000 of assessed home value, and it will raise around $873 million for all this stuff over the next six years. For a homeowner sitting pretty in a $600,000 house the tax bill for this proposal would run about $114 per year. That’s $9.50 per month to thread the county’s safety net with titanium steel (we have no idea how nets work) and to build a bunch of guardrails to prevent people from falling into that net in the first place. That’s less than the standard Netflix plan! Less than HBO Max!!
And for all you supposedly “tax fatigued,” house-rich/cash-poor types: do yourself a favor and see if you qualify for a low-income, senior, veteran, or disability property tax exemption. A while back the county gave the assessor more money to process claims faster, so you should get it in a jiffy.
We want to recommend state Sen. Joe Nguyen with a hoot and a holler and a cavalry charge, but we’re backing him with a shrug and a prayer.
In the last few years the first-term state Senator helped push the infamously incremental chamber to the left. (We wrote a whole thing about it.) So when Nguyen announced his bid to challenge Dow Constantine, a three-term incumbent who exemplifies establishment politics, we were excited to see his vision for the county.
But so far, he’s mostly made a strong case for his continued service in the state Senate.
Nguyen wants to make welfare benefits more generous, create a new taxing district to pay for free transit, and pass other progressive taxes to pay for housing and services for the homeless. Those ideas sound great... for state Senator Nguyen to pass through the Legislature next session so that King County has the authority to implement them.
Meanwhile, Constantine makes a good case for his *groan* fourth term as executive. In the last year, he’s bought up a bunch of hotels to house 1,600 chronically homeless people, he’s proposed meaningfully large investments to historically underserved areas of the county, and he’s vowed to depopulate the youth jail by 2025.
But then we remember that Constantine only moved on this stuff after the pandemic created room for him to go big, and after years of protests followed by a global uprising against racism. (With the rather large exception of his push for Sound Transit 3, the ballot measure that expanded light rail. That ruled.)
We remember him standing shoulder to shoulder with a bunch of other establishment types to break ground on Seattle’s $4 billion car tunnel while the earth was melting everywhere around him. We remember his failed attempt to dodge youth jail protesters, his inability to adequately address longstanding issues of misogyny and racism at Metro, his decision to ally with Jenny Durkan to prevent Seattle from taxing big businesses, his willingness to trash the city council to score easy political points with suburbanites and thus perpetuate the divisiveness and political gridlock he’s supposedly railing against.
We remember that Constantine is basically the Jenny Durkan of county government, the guy who knows better than everyone else and yet also the guy who advanced few if any truly risky proposals to curb income inequality, to reduce racism, or to protect tenants from predatory landlords.
Constantine claims the pandemic and the latest surge of the movement for Black lives dropped the scales from the eyes of King County residents, and so now all this cool progressive shit he wants to do is suddenly possible. But we detect a little projection going on here. We remember the #NoNewYouthJail movement talking about abolishing the carceral system years ago. We remember the Occupy movement talking about the gap between the richest and poorest years ago. We remember screaming about the tunnel boondoggle years ago. Maybe the problem wasn’t the public, but rather which section of the public Constantine had been listening to the most.
What if we had a county executive who spearheaded meaningful policy without having to be yelled at for years? An executive who didn’t stand in Seattle’s way because he thinks he knows better? An executive who’s had a sense of urgency to make progressive change since he started running for office?
We like the new turn Constantine has made, we just don’t know how long it will last.
Metropolitan King County, Council District No. 3
This year Democrats* stand a chance of banishing Republicans from the King County Council entirely, which would end a lot of the slow-rolling, obstructionism, and general fuckery they contribute to an already achingly slow legislative body. Of the three remaining red seats, this one seems ripest for the picking, but only if Issaquah’s Sarah Perry makes it through the primary. She’s the only candidate who could—and who actually should!—win this race.
Perry radiates enthusiasm for many of the SECB’s policy priorities. She gave us a “heck ya!” in support of decriminalizing sex work (using the Nordic model, unfortunately), and she threw her support behind decriminalizing all drugs so that we can start treating addiction like the public health issue it is. She also wants to end youth incarceration “ASAP,” end fare enforcement, and, when asked if she’d work to add more reliable bus service to her transit-starved district, she blurted out, “Jesus, God, yes!”
She boasts decades of experience raising money for big projects in the nonprofit housing and higher education worlds, and she’s basically a four-star general in the local political trenches. She has literally won an award for her organizing skills, she’s snagged a shitton of major endorsements, and she’s raised enough money to pose a serious threat to longtime incumbent and certified numbskull Republican King County Councilmember Kathy Lambert.
Perry’s democratic opponent, Joe Cohen, can’t say the same. What he can say is that he’s really into “creative” ideas, such as bringing Elon Musk’s idiotic hyperloop to the Eastside. We prefer more buses and trains—you know, modes of public transit that actually reduce our reliance on cars—and Perry does, too.
Perry doesn’t check all of our boxes. She hedged pretty hard when it came to defunding the police (she said she’d bring “the most impacted into the conversation” to “look at the budget together” with lawmakers, which, snooze), but we’d much rather rail against her suburbaninity than deal with Lambert’s inanities for another minute.
In the last few years, Lambert has voted against modest tenant protections after complaining that they weren’t equitable for landlords, she voted against making Juneteenth and Indigenous Peoples’ Day a holiday, she voted against forcing anti-abortion centers to stop purposefully mislabelling themselves, she publicly tingled at the thought of a Betsy DeVos speech, and she thinks you’re too stupid to understand ranked-choice voting. We hope she never lives down the day she said, “When I was younger, slapping a woman on the butt was a compliment,” in support of Joe Fain, a former state Senator accused of raping a woman in 2007. Fain denies the allegation.
How the Eastside let a GOP concern troll like Lambert represent them on the council for the past 19 years is beyond our comprehension. But one thing is clear: her time must come to an end.
Vote Perry.*County council seats are technically nonpartisan, but we fucking know who’s who.
Metropolitan King County, Council District No. 7
Ancient incumbent King County Councilmember Pete von Reichbauer notoriously supported taxpayer handouts to the Mariners because, in his words, “If we didn’t have sports, what would we cheer about?”
There are plenty of good things to cheer about in District 7, Pete! We could cheer about the movements to address climate change, to build affordable housing, and to make public transit accessible to everyone. And now we can cheer about someone who actually wants to do all that stuff: Saudia Abdullah, division director of King County’s Community Correction division.
Abdullah’s positions aren’t 100% where we want them to be—she won’t commit to ending the ban on building new apartments in residential zones, for example—but she’d make a marked improvement over Reichbauer, a Republican who opposed the safe gun storage law, basic tenant protections, and who asked King County Executive Dow Constantine to declare some day in September “Carmen Best Day” to honor the chief who oversaw the gassing of Capitol Hill.
Abdullah is focused on improvements that matter, though, like investing in transit to unincorporated areas, expanding broadband, reducing youth detention to zero, and providing adequate shelters for everyone in need. She also wants to expand community college vocational programs into high schools, and she supports finding efficiencies in the Sheriff’s swollen budget to the tune of… well, some amount. In our endorsement meeting she couldn’t name an exact amount. Oh well!
She’s also a Libra, which we assume is just one aspect among many that she has in common with Bruce Springsteen and Serena Williams.
Metropolitan King County, Council District No. 9
Chris Franco is ready to light a fire under some asses in King County.
During our endorsement meeting, he said he’s “sick and damn tired of people like [longtime incumbent Republican King County Councilmember] Reagan Dunn” who are “content to sit in incrementalism and mediocrity while kicking crises down the road.”
He’s “done with Dunn’s” bullshit, and he’s laser-focused on one crisis in particular: ending structural racism within county government and within the county itself.
We like Franco’s sense of urgency on that issue and on other progressive issues, we like his willingness to say “bullshit” a lot, and we think he can leverage his background as a combat veteran and his support among Democratic clubs to flip this seat and do what he says he wants to do on the council.
Before Franco started work as a program manager in King County’s Office of Equity and Social Justice, he managed logistics for the county’s COVID-19 response. His experience in both of those roles gives us confidence he knows which levers to pull to move the bureaucracy along, as does his ability to go on and on and on about exactly what the county needs to do to increase the number of its contracts with women and minority-owned businesses.
Don’t get us wrong, attorney and Renton City Councilmember Kim-Khanh Van and Seattle Equitable Development Division director Ubax Gardheere present strong cases, too, we just parted ways with them on more issues than we did with Franco.
Councilmember Van has experience as an elected official, and she’s successfully organized communities around key issues such as stopping Asian hate, but she equivocated on life-saving safe injection sites. She told us her support would “depend” on community support, and said she’d allow them in her district, but she told the 31st Legislative Democrats she flat-out does not support them.
Gardheere said she voted not once but twice for professional bullshitter and conservative state superintendent candidate Maia Espinoza, who opposed last year’s LGBTQ-inclusive, comprehensive sex ed referrendum. By way of explanation, Gardheere said her “concerns with [Washington Superintendent Chris] Reykdal come from his first time running against Erin Jones and the details are personal." She didn’t discover “how horrible” Espinoza was until after she’d voted in the general election, and yet she also said she “had my concerns with both candidates, they both sucked for different reasons.” If you can’t vote for Reykdal when he’s running against the Betsy DeVos of Washington, then we can’t vote for you.
Seattle City Council President Lorena González is the mayor the city needs right now.
When Mayor Jenny Durkan wasn’t watching her own cops gas Capitol Hill, mourning broken windows downtown, allegedly mistreating her own staff, or sweeping homeless people out of public spaces, she was going out of her way to obstruct and undermine a progressive city council that finally achieved a majority after Seattle overwhelmingly rejected big businesses’ attempts to install a bunch of stooges in 2019. Durkan vetoed the payroll tax to fund affordable housing, she left federal funds for homelessness on the table, and she consistently refused to direct funding to programs that addressed the rotten bouquet of crises the city continues to face.
We don’t have to live like this anymore. We really don’t!
We could have a mayor who actually works with the council to pass good legislation, rather than one who does the bidding of corporations and then scapegoats the council.
With far less acrimony between the legislative and executive branches, González can realize her vision for a worker-centered COVID recovery, raise taxes on the rich to pay for affordable housing and homeless services, end the apartment ban in residential zones, and create safe neighborhoods all while Councilmembers Teresa Mosqueda, Kshama Sawant, Tammy Morales, and Nikkita Oliver hold her accountable from the left.
The people who spent the last year running from their Amazon delivery routes to their chaotic Doordash dinner rushes to their Sunday morning shifts at Instacart know the pandemic supercharged the iNnOvAtIvE ways Big Tech exploits its employees, and González is the candidate in the field coming up with innovative ways to protect them.
Her “Progress for All'' plan didn’t impress the big-business boosters over at the Downtown Seattle Association or the big-business beta cucks at the Seattle Times, but it revved up the SECB’s (biofuel-only) engine. She wants to seed more worker-owned small businesses, help fossil fuel workers train for jobs that don’t light the ocean on fire, subsidize childcare, and create a city where you can buy groceries, get to work, lounge in a leafy park, grab a green tea with your findom, and groom your goldendoodle all within 15 minutes of walking, biking, or busing.
We know she’ll follow through on these plans because she’s followed through on similar policies. See for reference her sponsorship of the secure scheduling law, which stabilized schedules for hourly workers and beefed up the agency that goes after companies for wage theft.
We do, of course, have some concerns. In 2018, González caved to pressure from labor and voted to approve the Seattle Police Officers Guild (SPOG) contract, which gutted the police accountability ordinance she fought for. This choice raises questions about her commitment to holding cops accountable and to taking necessary action on climate change, which some parts of labor oppose. González also voted to repeal the head tax after initially voting to pass it.
Given her reliance on labor support now, the pressure there remains. But the nature of that pressure has changed. Labor booted SPOG last year, and they support the Green New Deal. And González is still the same González who won a $150,000 settlement against SPD after a cop threatened to beat the “Mexican piss” out of her client. She’s still the same González who inspired so much fear in the cops that they chose to abandon the East Precinct rather than risk having her as mayor.
As cowardly as her move to repeal the head tax was, the decision to repeal seemed politically shrewd, given the real threat of a referendum. She made up for it two years later when she co-sponsored the progressive payroll tax on big businesses that has already withstood one court battle, though it faces an appeal. González said she’s in favor of increasing the tax.
The rest of the candidates suck or don’t have enough combat experience. And—with the exception of Andrew Grant Houston and Lance Randall—they cynically and opportunistically built their entire campaigns in opposition to a council they’ll need to work with to achieve their goals, essentially promising another four years of bickering and backstabbing in City Hall. Fuuuuuuuuck that.
Colleen Echohawk is a “maybe” on decriminalizing drugs, a “maybe” on giving people a poverty defense in court, and a “maybe” on rent control, so we’re a "no" on her.
Her flip-flopping on issues throughout the campaign hasn’t inspired confidence, either. First she championed Compassion Seattle, the unfunded charter amendment that will permanently enshrine half-baked homelessness response plans into Seattle’s constitution. Now she’s very much against it. She first offered a weak, vague response to the news about the insurrection cops. A day later—after nearly every other candidate released their statements—she said she’d fire all six of them.
And though she successfully built housing for the homeless as a nonprofit director, she also co-chaired a committee that recommended the city sweep people off the streets faster. She told us she was there to say “don’t treat people like pieces of shit when you have a police officer and all kinds of crazy traumatic stuff happening,” and “not at all because I thought sweeps were good.” Okay.
We align with some of Andrew Grant Houston’s ambitious policy proposals, but he gave us little indication that he could make any of them a reality.
Jessyn Farrell also offered detailed climate and housing plans, but she supports Compassion Seattle, and—even worse—she suggested that we could fix the parts of the amendment we don’t like by running another charter amendment, which is just some shit you say when you’re wrong.
Casey Sixkiller, Durkan's Deputy Mayor of Operations, supports encampment sweeps, Compassion Seattle, and worked as a lobbyist for “military/security contractors, a pharmaceutical company and a private prisons company,” according to the Seattle Times. During our meeting he tried to play off his lobbying as "advocacy," which didn't seem any better to us.
Bruce Harrell has had two original ideas since the beginning of his long political career (not counting the “Italian American Heritage” month proposal he planned to distribute on Indigenous Peoples' Day). One: Build a “jobs center” where the jobs go. Two: Create another fucking database to measure homelesness. A “jobs center” sounds fine, but you don’t need to be the mayor to push for one. And we don’t need another data dashboard, we need houses. On top of all that, a bunch of landlords back his campaign, he supports Compassion Seattle with the rest of the other corporate types, he didn’t do anything while on the Seattle City Council that convinced us he’s willing to stand up to big business, and he basically thinks private donations will fix homelessness.
We think it's cool Lance Randall played the organ in a King Youngblood music video, but we don’t like his ideas. Sorry, Lance.
González is steady, practiced, and hardened by six years on the council. We expect her to go into her mayorship with her sleeves rolled up, just like she did when she cut her maternity leave short to steer Seattle through the coronavirus pandemic in her first year as council president.
Before we launch into all of our complicated feelings about this race, we are THRILLED to report that Ann Davison, the conservative candidate who hopes to sail through this primary on a wave of suburban fear, is an absolute dunce. We thought she’d AT LEAST drop a bunch of opportunistic crime stats on the table during our endorsement meeting, but no such luck! She doesn’t even seem to know enough about the office to criticize it effectively.
That said, her mildly respectable showings in the 2020 Washington lieutenant gubernatorial election (she got 285,597 votes!) and in the 2019 Seattle City Council election make us think she could take second in this race if she got a last-minute injection of cash or a Seattle Times endorsement. Davison’s current fundraising numbers don’t support this fear, but we’re not taking any chances.
We want the city to have a productive conversation about whether to meaningfully reform the current criminal punishment system or whether to abolish it and then rebuild it from the ground up. We do not want a stupid, tedious discussion about how three-term incumbent Pete Holmes is the reason Seattle Is DyInnnNGGG, and how he supports pouring coffee on babies, or whatever post-news right-wing story KOMO is running on any given day. (He does not, for the record, support pouring coffees on babies!! He’s against it!)
That’s our primary reason for supporting Nicole Thomas-Kennedy, but it’s not our only one. After four years working as a public defender, NTK understands that our current system mostly punishes people for living in poverty. She understands that people need to connect with services several times before something takes, and that putting people in jail—even for a few days—can disrupt progress toward that end. People can lose housing, jobs, relationships, the stuff they need to stay out of trouble.
Based on that understanding, she wants to stop prosecuting most misdemeanors so we can reduce the harm the system inflicts on defendants and, in turn, on victims, and she’s got some pretty compelling data on her side.
NTK also knows the attorney’s office could spend more resources on prosecuting bosses for stealing wages than it does on prosecuting homeless people for stealing clothes from Goodwill, and she wants to hire more lawyers to do just that. She also wants to get more aggressive about amending the consent decree to align with community demands, and to finally fucking actually spend time and resources pushing to decriminalize sex work.
Yes, some of us express extreme skepticism at the prospect of gutting the criminal division’s $8 million annual budget to fund social programs, as NTK says she wants to do. And, yes, some of us feel more than a little nervous about NTK’s lack of a detailed timeline for transitioning from this punitive system to a truly restorative system.
And FINE, some of us admit it: Pete Holmes has frankly done a pretty good job on the issues NTK is running on. He’s been an active partner in standing up the city’s diversion programs, and he’s excited about Seattle’s latest version of community court. He also has decades of experience in civil law, and he’s used that experience to help defend Seattle from lawsuits against the city’s tenant protections, worker protections, and progressive taxes.
But all his experience didn’t stop him from supporting the Seattle Police Department’s demand to subpoena unpublished photos from media who covered the May 30 protests even though cops already had images of the suspects. His experience also hasn’t stopped him from partnering with SPD to embark on expensive and useless fishing expeditions for sex buyers.
While we’re not 100% sure it’s time for a change at this particular helm, we know we at least want Thomas-Kennedy to make it through the primary so we can find out more.
Council Position No 8
In our endorsement of her competition in 2017, we called Teresa Mosqueda a “self-styled consensus builder” who would “ride into city hall on bold promises only to disappear into milquetoast centrism.” In her four years on the council, Mosqueda has proven us all wrong. We will eat crow, but not in front of other crows, as we fear they may keep harassing SECB member Charles Mudede.
Mosqueda was the brains and, yes, the “consensus-building” brawn behind JumpStart Seattle, the progressive payroll tax on big corporations that’s saving Seattle from sinking into a pit of COVID-19 debt and allowing the city to plan for a future with more affordable housing and homelessness supports. The tax already withstood an inevitable legal challenge brought by the ghouls over at the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, but it will face an appeal.
Aside from JumpStart Seattle, Mosqueda led the effort to grant grocery workers hazard pay during the pandemic, laid the groundwork for the domestic workers bill of rights, and fought for basic pay for app-based workers and drivers. We could go on.
And we will! But only to talk about what she wants to do next. She wants to raise $100 million for more bike, pedestrian, and transit projects. She wants a safe consumption site set up yesterday, and she’s already started the process (with an emphasis on process) of abolishing single-family zoning. We want all that, too.
One knock against Mosqueda is that she’s never tried a psychedelic drug. (Even King County Executive Dow Constantine claims he tripped on the Oregon coast.) When she asked if marijuana counted as a psychedelic, we told her it only counted as a daily vitamin. While we don’t expect to catch Mosqueda at the next Glass Animals concert, the point is she supports decriminalizing psychedelics, though she’s wary about decriminalizing all drugs. Which…concerns us.
But, whatever, she’s good on everything else, and the candidates running against her aren't even worth mentioning.
Council Position No 9
Seattle doesn’t deserve Nikkita Oliver, but boy do we need them.
We need them to help lead the progressive majority on the city council, anchor the conversation on transferring money from our bloated police budget to less harmful and more effective alternatives, and actually make people give a shit about what happens at the city council.
That last point is worth taking a moment to explain. City council often gets the policy right but the messaging wrong. Just look at the PR failure of the head tax, the Defund whiplash, and the untimely demise of the discussion around letting poor people accused of misdemeanors claim poverty as an affirmative defense in court.
When Oliver speaks about these issues, they don’t sound like they’re reading off a script fresh from a lobbyist’s printer. They sound like they’re speaking from experience—experience as an attorney, experience as the director of Creative Justice (an arts-based diversion program for youth), and experience as an organizer who has led thousands of people to City Hall to drive many conversations around the injustices of the criminal system. They sound like the most inspiring politician in town, and they haven’t even been elected to anything yet. The council needs a champion for its own policies, and Oliver, who is, incidentally, a trained MMA fighter, will be that champion.
This quality separates Nikkita “KO” Oliver from their opponents; Brianna Thomas, chief of staff to Council President Lorena González; and Sara Nelson, co-owner of Fremont Brewing.
Though Nelson technically has experience as a legislative aide to a former city council member, she seems to have forgotten most of it. She couldn’t even name a single bike or pedestrian project she’d like to see finished. Hellooooo, Sara, the unfinished Burke Gilman Trail goes right by your giant small business brewery!!!
Meanwhile, Thomas sells herself as a city council insider with special knowledge about which council members “need a nap” or a “snack.” But we don’t need another council member looking to ~ bridge the divide ~ with the more conservative members. We want a council member to step into González's seat and lead like she did.
We also part ways with Thomas on a number of key issues, including criminal justice issues and the first-in-time law. (She doesn’t like it. We do.)
On policing, Thomas told us she wants to use progressive revenue to fund policing alternatives. Oliver wants to find that money in the police department, the courts, the jails, and the prosecutor’s office. They envision divesting 10 to 20% from that system over five years and then investing that money into programs we know make communities safer.
We take Oliver’s side in that debate. We need to reduce the harm those systems cause now, and use that money to scale up and stand up diversion and violence-intervention programs in every neighborhood across town.
Thomas also expressed skepticism about giving poor people accused of misdemeanors a defense to use in court. We expressed skepticism about her skepticism. Oliver rightly supports the idea.
We’re also confident Oliver will vote with the most progressive council members on lifting the racist apartment ban in residential zones, funding social housing, and creating a green, livable city for everyone.
Oliver has inspired a generation of mostly Black and brown youth to engage with local politics. We think Oliver will continue bringing those voices—and that attention—to the council.
We also want an out queer back on the council. So there.
Seattle School District No 1, District Director No. 4
Vivian Song Maritz is a first-generation Asian American with a legit background in finance, a hearing disability, and a kid with special health needs. The board needs all of that lived and learned experience right now.
Seattle Public Schools is staring down the barrel of a nearly $70 million budget shortfall for 2021-22, and Maritz’s experience as a finance analyst (albeit years ago) and a small business owner give us confidence in her ability to navigate the board’s $1 billion budget. We don’t put much stock in people with management degrees from Harvard, but it seems like the board could use one of those at this time.
Of course, none of that experience matters if Maritz's values and priorities suck. But they don’t. She’s dedicated to working to put a counselor, a nurse, and a social worker in every school. She promises to advocate for fully funding special education services. And she’s so passionate about finding ways for kids to get to school that she said she banded together with a handful of parents and wrote a white paper on school transportation. In a system where we literally don’t have enough buses to drive children to school, that kind of passion is important.
Finally, Asian students account for about 13% of the student population in Seattle Public Schools, but Asians account for 0% of the school board. At a time when Asians report higher levels of abuse nationwide, that lack of representation on the board doesn’t sit right with us.
Sure, Maritz changed addresses twice to run for this seat. Luckily for her, we don’t really care if people move to run in an election. We do care if those people use their million-dollar homes toward that end, but, the school board is a volunteer gig. Until we start properly paying people to serve, we’ll only get people with the money or the time to run.
Interim school board director Erin Dury is a sharp, capable, down-to-earth leader who would continue to excel in this position, too. We just think Maritz has a couple more tools in her belt.
Seattle School District No 1, District Director No. 5
Michelle Sarju, a program manager at King County Public Health, spent most of her career as a social worker and midwife. She repeatedly told the SECB that public school is a person’s “birthright,” and when a midwife tells you something is a birthright, you listen.
Sarju, who has raised three Black children alongside Seattle’s Public School system, and who has fostered a few others, knows the challenges students of color face in our schools. She’s committed to fixing the opportunity gap and to tackling other aspects of systemic racism within the district. Random fun fact: Sarju said her dad’s cousin was Linda Brown—yes, Brown v. The Board of Education’s Linda Brown.
Sarju is not only the SECB’s choice for this position (which covers Seattle’s Capitol Hill, International District, and Central District area), she’s also her competitor’s choice.
Not long after our endorsement interview began, burgeoning perennial candidate Crystal Liston shouted, “Michelle, you got my vote, girl! I’m LOVING what I’m hearing.” The SECB nearly stopped the meeting right then and there. Was Crystal conceding? She wasn’t. She just loved and agreed with everything Sarju had to say.
And, listen, we loved what we were hearing, too. For accessibility reasons, Sarju wants to keep a virtual learning option around. She wants to create a K-12 ethnic studies curriculum to expose kids to different cultures and their histories early on. And she wants to boost mental health resources for students.
While Liston essentially “yas queen”-ed her way through Sarju’s goals for the district, her fan-girling behavior peaked when she asked Sarju out on a date in the MIDDLE of our meeting. The SECB’s collective jaw fell to the floor. We felt embarrassed for even inviting Liston to participate in our meeting, but Sarju’s only other opponent is a Republican named Dan Harder, who didn’t respond to our meeting request. Vote Sarju.
Wow! You made it to the end of this damn thing. Go buy yourself a cookie. Buy us one, too.