Best and Worst Moments For Progressives on Seattle City Council in 2022
The year is almost over. The sky has seen its last full moon until 2023, kids went to school for the last time before January, and earlier this month, the Seattle City Council held its last meeting of 2022. You can may not be so exciting as to create a seemingly non-literal end-of-the-year dump photo for Instagram, but during this time of reflection, it’s worth noting the performance of our elected officials over the past 365 days, especially those on the left who should be carrying the banner of of the Seattle Left.
Here are some of this year’s memorable highs and lows for Seattle City Council’s most progressive members—Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda, Tammy Morales and Kshama Sawant—from an alt-weekly perspective, of course.
Mosqueda, who represents the entire city, is a favorite among Seattle progressives. She won her re-election quietly with no problems, and she used her second term to get some good (and some not-so-good) votes.
Along with balancing the budget and protecting the sanctity of JumpStart, Mosqueda, along with her ally, Councilwoman Lisa Herbold, also won human service providers their legally protected cost-of-living adjustments.
In the mayor’s proposed budget, Mayor Bruce Harrell wanted to cap wage increases for shelter workers and case managers at 4%. That wouldn’t meet the cost-of-living increases that Mosqueda advocated and the council approved, including Harrell himself, in 2019. Some advocates worried that the effective wage cut would further exacerbate retention issues, which could lower the quality of care. for vulnerable people who interface with human service providers.
In the council’s final draft of the 2023-2024 budget, Mosqueda and Herbold worked together to cut Harrell’s bad policy and secure pay raises.
Mosqueda also stood her ground as a progressive by taking an unpopular vote to dramatically increase JumpStart payroll tax revenue. But Mosqueda did not vote with progressives on every budget issue. For example, she didn’t join her usual progressive bloc in supporting council member Tammy Morales’ amendment to create a Municipal Housing Authority using money allocated for the Mayor’s bad volunteer day.
Morales’ Municipal Housing Authority would have helped the city acquire and build more green and affordable housing to combat the housing crisis. The authority would also have helped get the Our Neighbors Home Public Development Authority off the ground if voters passed it this February.
Mosqueda left the Morales Municipal Housing Authority out of the initial package in favor of recommendations from the Green New Deal (GND) oversight board and other existing projects. Social housing advocates said that because of the dire nature of the housing crisis, the city should not have to choose between the GND’s recommendations and green, social housing. However, all but Council members Andrew Lewis, Sawant and Morales voted against the Municipal Housing Authority amendment.
Morales, who represents South Seattle, the Industrial District and parts of the Chinatown-International District (CID), is up for re-election next year and Unknown knows at least two potential challengers, including one eyed by the Mayor. Morales has racked up progressive wins to impress District 2 voters, but she’s also taken a big middle-of-the-road stance this year that could follow her into the upcoming election season.
After the U.S. Supreme Court overturned decades of abortion protections, Morales and Herbold began working to support abortion protections in Seattle. (In addition, Sawant also passed legislation to make Seattle an abortion sanctuary.)
Along with providing more funding for abortion in the city budget, Morales championed a bill to prohibit discrimination against anyone based on real or perceived pregnancy outcomes, and a second bill to give the city the power to charge anyone who blocks or disrupts access or operations. of health care facilities, including those that perform abortions.
But any politician who dared to respond locally to the national crisis faced the same boring criticism from the right, insisting that Washington has enough, if not too much, access to abortion. In Morales’ case, her bills faced criticism for overreach, as they doubled down on existing nationwide protections. But Morales argued that it’s worth making sure Seattleites have access to abortion, no matter what happens in the state.
Morales may have acted boldly on the call to protect abortion, but she did not respond so enthusiastically to her constituents’ protests against the expansion of the SODO Service Center. In a statement released after the King County executive halted the expansion, Morales said he took the news with “thought.”
She toed the line, not fully committing to celebrating with the CID protesters who fought the County by shifting the burden of shelter onto communities of color, and not fully committing to grieving the loss of a facility that might have brought some of the the homeless of the neighborhood inside. The canceled “homeless megaplex” is likely to hit the campaign trail, especially if someone with a stronger opinion challenges it.
The council’s most senior member, Sawant, defended her seat late last year from a right-wing recall. She won her district largely by appealing to renters on Capitol Hill, the population core of her district that also includes First Hill, the Central District and Madison Park. Sawant stood out from other council members for the eviction moratorium, but she didn’t keep her standing promise to delay rent control.
In February, the mayor announced that the city would end the eviction moratorium, giving landlords permission to kick out tenants for nonpayment, even as the pandemic flared and rental assistance dried up. Sawant introduced legislation to extend the moratorium until the end of the civil emergency, which just ended on October 31.
The bill answered a call from the Stay Healthy, Stay Home Coalition, a group of progressive organizations that fought for tenants throughout the health emergency. Herbold tried to pass an amendment to buy the tenants and the council a few more months. Sticking to his guns, Sawant voted no. If she had voted yes, the amendment would have passed, and council member Dan Strauss said he would join Sawant, Mosqueda and Herbold in passing the amended bill because it would tie the end of the moratorium to a specific date. This would have resulted in a 4-4 tie (Morales did not participate in the vote). According to the general rules and procedures of the council, in case of a tie, the bill does not pass, but the winning party can propose to reconsider it later. So Sawant didn’t quite shoot himself in the foot by spoiling a 2022 highlight.
In the case of the moratorium, Sawant did the impossible and the council did not join her. But in the case of rent control, Sawant didn’t try at all this year. As she celebrated overcoming withdrawal, she announced a renewed interest in passing a rent control law. Such a law would enact rent control once the state makes it legal to do so.
But Sawant made no move to push rent control to the council. (She He did attend a rent control rally this fall in Vancouver, if that counts for anything.) Despite past victories for renters, not much came out of her Sustainability and Tenants’ Rights committee this year. In fact, she canceled 11 of her 20 committee meetings—a cancellation rate of 55%. The rest of the council scheduled 145 committee meetings and canceled only 25 collectively, resulting in a cancellation rate of 17%.
Mosqueda is safe next year — she just won election in 2023 — but you can certainly write to her office or hold your feet to the fire in public comments. The other two progressives are running for re-election. If Sawant runs again in 2023, she will face her usual attacks from Seattle’s rich and powerful, and her base, Capitol Hill renters, may roll their eyes at any campaign promises to control rent. For Morales, she may face backlash from CID protesters. We’ll see how progressives legislate in 2023 and whether they can do enough for their districts and bases to keep their seats — and strong progressive presence — on the council.