Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant holds a press conference on Saturday, November 9, 2019, at Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute in Seattle.
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Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant holds a press conference on Saturday, November 9, 2019, at Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute in Seattle.
Credit: KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

Return of the head tax? 5 things to expect with new Seattle City Council

Seattle sees itself as an ambitious progressive leader that is a role model for other cities.

This is a city that is leading in crafting new, cutting edge legislation, like the $15 an hour minimum wage, or the domestic workers bill of rights.

The election results aren’t final, but if they hold, labor would have a 7-2 majority on the council.

Given this, I expect the council would want to build on its liberal reputation.

1.

New labor protections

Labor wants to see more gig economy worker protections. The council has already held some hearings looking at this.

They heard testimony from people who deliver groceries for an online company called InstaCart.

But the way the law currently works those folks aren’t necessarily guaranteed even minimum wage.

2.

Safe injection sites aka safe drug consumption sites

These are seen by advocates as harm reduction measures.

They’re controversial; critics see this as the state authorizing illegal drug use.

I think we could see eight out of nine votes in favor on this new council.

But there’s a wrinkle: Earlier this year the U.S. attorney for western Washington said he would sue if Seattle tries safe injection sites. So we may see lawsuits if this goes through.

3.

Rent control

Councilmember Kshama Sawant is making rent control her big issue for 2020.

For her this is a part of her strategy as a revolutionary Marxist … to provoke what she calls the developer class to fight back, raise class consciousness, end capitalism.

As for the rest of the council, if these results hold, there’s a gender split.

The three men have said they oppose rent control. The women on the next council have said “maybe” or “yes” to some form of rent control.

Of course what people say during campaigns and what they actually do are different. Also: Rent control is illegal under state law.

There’s nothing I’ve seen that suggests that state of Washington is going to change that law to allow Seattle to do it.

That means more lawsuits if this passes.

4.

Backlash to the Amazon money

Seattle City Councilmember M. Lorena González, has been working on a bill to limit corporate spending on elections.

It would ban entirely donations to PACs by corporations that have non U.S. investors. It would not ban union spending on PACs, however. That one is expected to end up in the courts.

If you look at what the U.S. Supreme Court has done in similar cases, it’s hard to see this holding up?

5.

Head tax?

When Sawant declared victory on Saturday she stood in front of a banner that said:

TAX AMAZON But will it actually happen? We’ll see!

Also: a related question about the navigation teams or “sweeps.” Sawant has called for them to be defunded. Will be very interesting to see what happens there.