Mayor Murray resists Trump; Sawant leads protest; city council defies Murray
Over the last two weeks, I’ve been proud of Seattle City Hall.
First, Mayor Ed Murray and city councilmembers declared they would fight the Trump administration. Next, Councilmember Kshama Sawant led people into the streets to protest the president-elect’s policies. And finally, over Murray’s strenuous objections, Councilmember Lisa Herbold led a successful effort to add $29 million for affordable housing to city government’s budget.
The night of the presidential election of Donald J. Trump, Murray did what a leader should do. He articulated the common values that most Seattleites hold.
“Regardless of tonight’s national results, tomorrow Seattle will remain a city guided by the values of equality, inclusion and openness. Tomorrow we will continue to support women, we will welcome as neighbors our Muslim brothers and sisters, and tomorrow Black Lives will still matter. Our City will remain strong because of our diversity, not in spite of it,” said Murray.
The next day, he went even further and openly defied Trump on undocumented immigration. “By continuing to be a sanctuary city, we are doing the most American thing that we could possibly do,” Murray said. Seattle’s status as a “sanctuary city” refers to the 2003 law that states, “[N]o Seattle City officer or employee shall inquire into the immigration status of any person.” (The term “sanctuary city” is somewhat misleading because Seattle officials cannot prevent federal agents from arresting undocumented immigrants, but it’s useful shorthand.)
Trump has threatened to withhold federal funding from sanctuary cities. Bring it on, said Murray. “I’m an optimistic person, but I’m not as optimistic about getting help from the federal government.” Murray’s principled refusal to bow to Trump’s xenophobia is courageous. If enough mayors of the nation’s 200 sanctuary cities follow Murray’s example–and New York, Chicago and Los Angeles already have–Trump will have a real fight on his hands.
Also on Wed., Nov. 9, Sawant and her Socialist Alternative party led a march of thousands from Westlake Park to the University District. “To build the resistance against Trump, to stop the growth of his movement, we need to build our own movements, we need our own mobilizations. Working people and youth need an independent party of, for and by the 99%. Are you with me?” Sawant asked the thousands at Westlake.
Sawant has been criticized because she refused to support Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and urged people to vote, instead, for the Green Party’s Jill Stein (among the naysayers were writers at The Seattle Times and The Stranger). Although I voted for Clinton, despite her miserable record on war, trade and Wall Street, I refuse to play the blame game. I will not join the usual left-wing, circular firing squad.
Sawant has shown that she can put boots on the ground. She has used her position at City Hall to support local social movements. She has been extremely successful in providing leadership in the fight for the $15 minimum wage, $29 million for affordable housing, the campaign to #BlockTheBunker and the defeat of Seattle Housing Authority’s plan to jack up rents for thousands of low-income tenants.
The most effective way to fight Trump is to organize ongoing massive demonstrations across the country. Is that likely to happen? No, probably not. Should we be proud of Sawant for trying? Yes, indeed!
We need the biggest possible coalition to oppose Trump. Each part of an anti-Trump coalition should be free to battle the president-elect in their own way: Trotskyists, Maoists, anarchists, Greens, Buddhists, Christians, Wiccans and regular folks in the streets; liberal, moderate and conservative elected officials in public office; principled or opportunistic Republicans in the U.S. Senate; immigration-rights attorneys in the courts; advocates for survivors of sexual violence and women’s health providers at their jobs; donors to non-profits and activist groups at home with their checkbooks and whoever else wants to stop Trump’s agenda of hate.
And speaking of coalitions—I’m proud of the seven members of the Seattle City Council, led by Lisa Herbold, who successfully overcame the furious opposition of Mayor Murray and authorized $29 million for affordable housing investment by the city of Seattle.
Their work was important in and of itself. We need to do everything we can to help our 6,000 homeless neighbors. This action adds to the city’s 2017 budget of $53 million for homeless services and August’s voter-approved $290 million housing levy. “We are in a homelessness state of emergency. We need to build today to meet the need,” said Herbold.
Murray fiercely opposed the $29 million because he considers it financially risky. The city hasn’t used its bonding capacity in this manner before.
Good! It’s time to experiment and try every reasonable thing we can think of. Thank you, Councilmembers Bagshaw, Gonzalez, Harrell, Herbold, Johnson, O’Brien and Sawant.
The city council’s work was also symbolically important. It demonstrated why democratic governments are set up with checks and balances. Legislators can oppose executives. The judicial branch provides oversight based on the state and federal constitutions.
I hope the U.S. Congress and the federal courts will recognize their duty to oppose anti-Constitutional actions by Trump. If not, I pray that voters and street protestors will.
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Award winning journalist George Howland Jr has been hired by Seattle Displacement Coalition to write for Outside City Hall about city politics, housing, homelessness and land-use. He works under his own editorial direction. The Displacement Coalition plays no role in choosing his specific subjects or editing his copy.