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Former Seattle City Council member forms group opposing incumbents

caption: The PAC "People for Seattle" has funded mailers attacking Herbold, Sawant and Sawant challenger Zachary DeWolf.
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The PAC "People for Seattle" has funded mailers attacking Herbold, Sawant and Sawant challenger Zachary DeWolf.

Seattle’s City Council races are awash in independent spending, mostly by pro-business or neighborhood groups, with some labor money as well.

Hundreds of thousands of dollars are being spent, mostly on mailers and social media ads to boost name recognition of endorsed candidates in the crowded August 6 primary.

But the group People for Seattle, which bills itself as "progressive" and "pragmatic," is also urging voters to reject incumbent Councilmembers Lisa Herbold (District 1, West Seattle) and Kshama Sawant (District 1, Capitol Hill).

People for Seattle was founded this spring by former City Council member and interim mayor Tim Burgess, as well as restaurant owner Taylor Hoang. They said their group would support candidates who champion “good governance” and transparency.

The anti-Herbold mailer urges voters to reject her based on her sponsorship of the so-called "head tax” on large businesses. It says the tax "would have increased taxes without a plan to address homelessness.”

Herbold was one of the original sponsors, but unlike Sawant she ultimately voted to repeal it as well. Herbold called the failure of the tax “heartbreaking” and blamed business groups for pushing a “misleading narrative” that the city is not already building housing or holding funding recipients accountable.

The mailers also say that Herbold “voted to cut funding for the Navigation Teams tasked with reducing homeless camps.” Herbold called that a deliberate misrepresentation.

“The fact is that I have never voted to cut funding for Navigation Teams,” she said in a response to supporters.

“My efforts have focused on requiring accountability and measurable outcomes in helping people to move into shelter and receive services. This is standard practice for funding for homelessness. We can’t lose sight of our goal of helping people gain stability.”

Journalist Erica Barnett reported that Herbold and other council members ultimately fulfilled Mayor Jenny Durkan’s funding request to expand the teams.

Further, the People for Seattle mailer claims Herbold “voted to cut funding to clean up litter and abandoned vehicles.” Herbold said that claim is also false.

In her response Herbold said, “I led a successful increase of funding for the RV remediation program so more garbage could be picked up when SPD requires RVs to leave an area.”

And then the mailer appeals to voter dissatisfaction with the Move Seattle property tax levy. It says the transportation levy “is failing to meet the City’s promises to District 1.” The ad doesn’t make clear why this is specifically Herbold’s fault.

In her questionnaire for People for Seattle, Herbold said she sponsored legislation to improve oversight of major projects — “work Tim Burgess helped initiate.”

She also cites other examples of supportive and collaborative work with Burgess. While on the council, Burgess apparently praised SDOT’s analysis in formulating the levy. And political consultant Sandeep Kaushik led the levy campaign, and has also done work for People for Seattle.

While People for Seattle provided their own questionnaire, their list of endorsed candidates is nearly identical to the ones backed by the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce. (The only minor difference is in District 7, where People for Seattle endorses four candidates, including two picked by the chamber.)

There are four open district seats this year. The only other incumbent is Debora Juarez, who represents North Seattle and District 5. She has been endorsed by People for Seattle and the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce.

People for Seattle did not respond to requests for comment.

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