October 7, 2014 by John Crapper
On Saturday, 10/4/14 Seattle and Puget Sound Kossacks had the chance to have lunch with Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant. I am the coordinator of this group.
From her biography:
Kshama Sawant is not a career politician. She is an activist who brings a passion for social justice to her work as a public servant. As a member of the City Council, Kshama pledges to be a voice for workers, youth, the oppressed and the voiceless. She only accepts the average workers’ wage and donates the rest of her six-figure salary to building social justice movements… …In 2012, Kshama ran as a Socialist Alternative candidate for WA State Legislature and surprised everyone by winning 29% of the vote. The momentum continued in her campaign for Seattle City Council where she boldly ran on a platform of fighting for a $15/hr minimum wage, rent control and taxing the super-rich to fund mass transit and education. In November she defeated a 16-year incumbent Democrat to become the first socialist elected in a major US city in decades.
Kshama Sawant now chairs Seattle City Council’s Energy Committee with covers Seattle City Light, alternative energy sources, energy policies and air pollution regulations.
From the moment she arrived she dove into lively conversations with all displaying boundless enthusiasm, energy and incredible depth of knowledge on numerous issues of interest within the group. One of the first things I was personally interested in hearing about was this:
On the eve of the historic People’s Climate March, authors Chris Hedges, Naomi Klein, 350.org founder Bill McKibben, and Seattle councilperson Kshama Sawant discussed the urgency of radical action on climate change. The event was moderated by WNYC’s Brian Lehrer, and Senator Bernie Sanders was the keynote speaker. (emphasis mine)
The conversation was so lively I finally had to interrupt to allow her time to order food. The conversations continued without pause throughout lunch.
At about 1:45 I clicked the glass to quiet things down, conducted about five minutes of business then formally introduced Kshama Sawant to the crowd. If you missed our meet up or if you just want to hear the words of a political maverick in our midst I invite and encourage you to take the time to watch.
Kshama Sawant is a champion for social justice, worker’s rights and education. She touched on all these points and more. Transcription is not one of my strong suites but I am able to paraphrase some key points she made.
We are all longing for a break from timid, waffling politicians.
We ran our campaign on the streets, on foot, putting aside our personal lives.
We need campaigns rooted in community movements.
Occupy ended the silence about income inequality.
Hope is vital for empowerment.
The hot button issue she specifically mentioned of particular concern for Seattle at this time was the need to oppose the Seattle Housing Authority’s recently announced “Stepping Forward” proposal. She made reference to a letter she recently sent Andrew Lofton, Executive Director of the SHA. The entire letter can be read here but let me share its introduction: Dear Mr. Lofton;
Over the last month, you have been trying to garner public support for “Stepping Forward,” a program that will increase the rents of the SHA’s low-income tenants by over 400% in a span of five years. You are aware from the hearings that the tenants have overwhelmingly and categorically rejected Stepping Forward. Mayor Murray, Seattle City Councilmembers Nick Licata, Bruce Harrell and Tim Burgess, and several housing justice organizations such as the Tenants Union of Washington State, Puget Sound Sage, the Seattle Human Services Coalition, and the Low Income Housing Institute have all expressed clear opposition. I also met with you in my office on September 9th, when you described the program, and where I explained my unambiguous opposition to Stepping Forward.
Also mentioned were the need to oppose the shipment of oil by train through our city and the need to convince Seattle’s Mayor Murray to reconfigure the members of his Housing Committee away from the preponderance of developers now on it.
Because of the constant flow of discussion we were unable to interrupt to get a group picture this time around. Some things are just more important than a Kodak moment!
From the comments I heard and the observations I made I would summarize with one word to describe the most important thing we each took away from the luncheon – HOPE.
Thanks to each and every one of you in attendance for your presence, enthusiasm and support in making this inaugural event such a success.