As we enter the final days of the City Council election campaign, the candidates and their allies have coalesced into two camps, each with their own narrative. The “Progressive Left” says that the election is about whether we want to allow big business to run the city, while the “Moderate Left” says it’s about replacing an ineffective Council that prioritizes ideology over solving the city’s problems.
Two weeks ago Amazon, in an attempt to fortify the moderate-left’s message, kicked an own-goal by making a precedent-setting contribution to the Chamber of Commerce’s PAC and in so doing all but confirmed the progressive-left’s narrative.
This past week, the progressive-left returned the favor when Council members Mosqueda and Gonzalez both endorsed Council member Sawant for re-election, after actively campaigning against her in the primary and harshly criticizing her for refusing to work with them because she saw them as “corporate Democrats.”
To both sides, I say this: just stop it. What you’re doing isn’t helping. In a city where nearly everyone is left of center, you’ve managed to polarize our politics and civic discourse to the point where we can no longer have thoughtful debates on policy issues. If this was fair Verona, then we’ve now reached the point in the story when the Duke would be laying down the law to both of you.
We all know how we got here, and there’s plenty of blame to spread around. Amazon notoriously spent years ignoring its responsibility to be an engaged, constructive corporate citizen while it reshaped South Lake Union (and the city as a whole) in its image. The City Council responded with a plan to tax Amazon and other big companies, branding the head tax an “Amazon tax” and staging a “progressive revenue task force” with a pre-ordained outcome to justify it — and then feigning outrage that Amazon dared to respond when directly attacked. But then after the Mayor brokered a compromise, a smaller head tax that by all reports the business community agreed not to fight, Amazon and other companies bankrolled a referendum effort and publicly humiliated the Council by forcing it to repeal the head tax. Council members Mosqueda and Herbold then flew to New York City to do their best to undermine Amazon’s attempt to establish “HQ2” there — and succeeded. And now Amazon has plowed nearly $1.5 million into a PAC to unseat two of the three incumbent Council members and install a replacement Council more to its liking.
We all get it: you despise each other. And there’s truth behind both of your narratives. Amazon is throwing its corporate muscle and wealth around too much, and the current City Council has recently become obsessed with placating its political base of unions and advocacy groups and issuing high-minded symbolic statements while making little visible progress on some of the city’s most pressing issues that affect both residents and businesses.
But now you’ve both committed to all-out war on each other, and you’re tearing our city apart. That’s right: our city. It’s not the City Council’s, nor is it Amazon’s. Remember us, the people who live and work here? The vast majority of us are left of center, and we agree on far more than we disagree on. We want more affordable housing. We want our homeless neighbors to get the help they need. We want cleaner, safer streets, and a clean, sustainable environment. We want good jobs, good benefits, good transportation, and a rich cultural life. We want equal opportunity for everyone. Sure, we have disagreements about how to achieve many of those things; in a diverse city, you get diverse viewpoints. But your obsessive battle with each other is making it harder to achieve our common goals, not easier.
Every time the progressive-left brands anyone who departs from its orthodoxy as “conservative,” it rips the stitches a little further. Every time the moderate-left declares City Hall to be “ineffective” and ignores the real accomplishments it has made, the gulf widens.
Here’s the nasty reality: there’s a recession coming, probably next year. When the bottom falls out under our local economy, we need to be united in our response. Your stupid, petty, political fight is all but assuring that we won’t be, and the most vulnerable people in our city will be the ones who suffer the most for your intransigence.
You’re our civic, economic, and political leaders; we need you to lead now. Be the better angels of our nature, take a moment for humble introspection, and call a political truce. Some have said that this election is a battle for the soul of our city. I hope they’re wrong, because simply allowing this battle to occur, let alone escalate, speaks more to what’s in our soul than the outcome does, regardless of which side “wins” on Election Day.
Once more, on behalf of all of us who are disgusted at what this election has become: just stop it, before this really does become a Shakespearean tragedy and you kill off the Seattle that we love.