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Small business factor in the Seattle City Council race: Today So Far

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  • There are 45 people running for Seattle City Council. One initial takeaway: There's a handful of candidates from corners of business.
  • The Forward Party welcomes Nirvana's Krist Novoselic to its board. Also, Chris Vance leaves the emerging third party.
  • Seattle considers new rules for delivery app companies.

This post originally appeared in KUOW's Today So Far newsletter for May 25, 2023.

There are 45 people officially running for Seattle City Council in the upcoming election. It's a lot. But as KUOW's David Hyde points out, "a lot" can be relative. There were 55 candidates in 2019, which is the last time Seattle had seven council seats up for a vote.

Seattle voters approved the city's democracy voucher program in 2015. It was first used in 2017. It's a way to provide public financing for elections with the aim of encouraging candidates who normally wouldn't have access to big donors (this year, there is $5.25 million in available democracy vouchers). After that, a lot more candidates started showing up. It seems that, this year at least, the candidate count has dipped. The deadline for candidates to file was last Friday.

Hyde notes that one potential reason behind the lower number of candidates this year is the "increasingly toxic atmosphere in Seattle politics." Four out of the seven open seats have no incumbents. Council President Debora Juarez told The Seattle Times that, “I’m not seen as a person by some people and it’s not safe for me or my family." She is not running for re-election.

Still, one could assume that Seattle's democracy vouchers are having an influence. At least, they're favored by a majority of candidates — 36 candidates (out of the total 45) are listed as participating in the democracy voucher program, so far.

While chatting on Bill Radke's "Week in Review" last Friday, I made one observation, despite it being quite early to make such a statement, but it's only become more clear since then. A fair number of candidates from corners of Seattle's business community are popping up, including two cannabis entrepreneurs in District 3 alone.

  • Stephen Brown is running for District 1. He's owner of Eltana Bagels and says his "career has been spent founding and running companies."
  • Tanya Woo is running in District 2, and is a known figure among the business community in the CID.
  • Joy Hollingsworth is running in District 3. She works at Hollingsworth Farms, her family's cannabis business.
  • Alex Cooley in District 3 founded Solstice, a cannabis company.
  • Ken Wilson in District 4 is a small business owner and engineer.
  • Pete Hanning in District 6 is the former owner of Fremont's Red Door, and is currently the executive director of the Fremont Chamber of Commerce. He's also worked with the Seattle Restaurant Alliance, Washington Restaurant/Hospitality Association, and the Seattle Nightlife & Music Association.
  • Jon Lisbin in District 6 built and sold an ad agency in Seattle. He also served on the board of Seattle Entrepreneur Network.
  • Victoria Palmer in District 6 is a personal organizer.
  • Olga Sagan in District 7 is owner of Seattle's Piroshky Piroshky restaurants.

Then there are what I call "business adjacent" candidates. They're in the business scene, have previously run businesses, are consultants, etc. Like Shea Wilson (District 7), an attorney who helps with business formation, and buying/selling businesses. ChrisTiana Obeysumner (District 5) is the consultant behind Epiphanies of Equity LLC. Maren Costa (District 1) is an advisor for startups, and has worked in a leading role at some of the area's big tech companies (Microsoft, Adobe, Amazon). And Phil Tavel (District 1) who previously ran a business in Pioneer Square, describes himself as an entrepreneur, but primary works as an attorney.

Add that up and that's 13 candidates, about 29% of the field.

In other politics news, have you heard much about the Forward Party? The emerging third-party effort has lost its initial local leader, but has added some Seattle music royalty to its ranks at the same time.

You may recall Andrew Yang as a Democratic hopeful in the 2020 presidential primary. Since then, he's started a movement to develop a third party, mostly filled with folks who don't like the sensationalism, extremes, and general Sharks vs Jets mentality of the two main political parties. The third option he, and a range of other organizers, are offering is the Forward Party.

They have been setting up state level branches in recent months. Washington has one of its own. Yang was in town this month for a Forward event. A scroll through the party's recent social media posts features a range of volunteers and leaders who are signed on locally.

One name that may sound familiar to Washingtonians is Chris Vance, former King County and state lawmaker, and former chair of the state GOP. He left the Republican party and has run unsuccessfully as an independent ever since. Vance has called for a more moderate third party over the past few years.

Vance says he was signed on as the Washington state lead for the Forward Party, but recently announced, "I am sorry to say that I just resigned from the Forward Party and am once again politically homeless."

In a tweet, Vance says that he was expecting a Forward Party convention in 2023, and a new party platform, which isn't happening. Not having a strict platform has sort of been the Forward Party's schtick since day one. Vance doesn't think it will work.

Around the time of Vance's exit, Yang welcomed Nirvana band member Krist Novoselic to the Forward Party.

“The only way you do anything is to become really active,” Novoselic said in a statement to Forward Party members.

In an email to supporters, Yang noted that Novoselic is former chair of his county's Democratic Party, and has a history of political activism in Washington. He is now joining the national board of the Forward Party.

"I've been in touch with Krist for a number of months, but our first meeting was last month in Seattle ... He joined me in speaking to the Washington Forward Party, and agreed to join our efforts after meeting the local activists and volunteers in the state," Yang wrote.

According to the Forward Party, Novoselic joined the board to "accelerate our strategic initiatives and enhance American democracy."

The current Seattle City Council is expected to consider a bill this week that could change how delivery companies nix their own workers.

The basic idea here is that companies like DoorDash, Uber Eats, etc. can "deactivate" drivers for a range of reasons. Understanding those reasons, or getting a straight answer about them is quite difficult. That's the issue Triny Hernandez ran into when DoorDash deactivated her account. She had to work through a translator to find out why. In the end, all she got were pages and pages of company legal language around deactivation. She believes DoorDash dinged her for not taking orders that were too far away from her location. There wasn't much she could do about it.

The measure in front of council members aims to remedy situations like this. Networking companies (aka delivery app companies) would have to give notice before deactivating a driver. They would also have to create clear guidelines around this policy, create a way to appeal the decision, and provide an actual explanation along with evidence why a person was deactivated.

KUOW's Ruby de Luna has the full story here.


caption: A new partnership encourages more students to pursue a higher education. 
Pictured, from left to right:
Renton High students Liliana Urias, Dechae Hester, Renton Technical College President Yoshiko Harden, State Rep. Steve Bergquist, Renton Schools Superintendent Damien Pattenaude, RHS students Jayden Huggins, and Yaxyry Lomeli.
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A new partnership encourages more students to pursue a higher education. Pictured, from left to right: Renton High students Liliana Urias, Dechae Hester, Renton Technical College President Yoshiko Harden, State Rep. Steve Bergquist, Renton Schools Superintendent Damien Pattenaude, RHS students Jayden Huggins, and Yaxyry Lomeli.
Courtesy of Renton schools

A new partnership encourages more students to pursue a higher education. Called the Renton Program, the new partnership’s goal is to create a new pathway to higher education for students who otherwise wouldn’t be able to attend. It covers up to two years of a student’s first associate’s degree. Graduates at all four of Renton’s high schools are eligible — regardless of their grade point average, income, or ability. The new state budget provides $400,000 toward the free college program. (Renton Schools)


There's a lot of space stuffed into May 25. For starters, the very first "Star Wars" film was released into theaters on May 25, 1977. That kicked off a space-opera franchise with highly celebrated movies (and some which we don't talk about).

But that happened in a galaxy far, far away. Right here on Earth, President John F. Kennedy put the USA on a path to the stars on May 25, 1961. Speaking in front of a joint session of Congress, Kennedy announced the nation's goal of traveling to the moon. The speech wasn't terribly sensational, other than the proposal to go to the moon. Also, JFK was asking the American people for billions of dollars over the coming decade, which, especially by 1960s standards, was a sensational amount of money. Despite this being the big debut of America's intentions for space travel, this is not the moment that most remember.

The next year, JFK addressed a crowd at Rice University in Houston, Texas. That speech was far more poetic and is now often quoted. There, he stated, "There is no strife, no prejudice, no national conflict in outer space as yet. Its hazards are hostile to us all. Its conquest deserves the best of all mankind, and its opportunity for peaceful cooperation may never come again. But why, some say, the Moon? Why choose this as our goal? And they may well ask, why climb the highest mountain? Why, 35 years ago, fly the Atlantic? .... We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard."

Eight years later, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the moon.


caption: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) Feb. 24, 2022, in Orlando, Fla.
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Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) Feb. 24, 2022, in Orlando, Fla.
John Raoux / Associated Press

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, top rival to Trump, files paperwork to run for president

Ron DeSantis, the arch-conservative, culture-warrior Florida governor who ironically saw his political career take off by defending and channeling former President Donald Trump, appears to have decided to challenge him for the GOP presidential nomination.


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