Wednesday evening, I met 1-1 with Councilwoman Sally Bagshaw. She’d invited me to meet with her via Facebook after seeing something I wrote (probably when I said she’s an airhead and pawn of the local business establishment). We talked for about an hour, which is more time than I’ve ever gotten with a local lawmaker. She seemed interested in listening to me and getting my ideas and suggestions. Not knowing where to start, I explained my interest in affordable housing and homelessness. She jumped off on that point and seems very interested (which really surprises me) in mandatory inclusionary zoning (fancy name for a policy where the city requires new apartment buildings to reserve some units for low-income people). She asked if I’d help her push for it, which I’m very enthusiastic about. I did not pull punches or sugarcoat on the dearth of courage from Seattle lawmakers or the economic corruption of the political system, and some of my initial thoughts on why the election went as it did. I don’t think she totally gets it. I still think she’s a bit simplistic in how she views some things. She doesn’t see the need for more political parties, following some of the tribal Democratic Party line (let’s just bring people together and get things done, the Republicans have just blocked Obama, who seems not to be held responsible) though she does see that the government, state and federal at least, has shown itself unable or unwilling to address our problems. It sounds like education, transportation, and mental health are her top priorities at least in Olympia. I also, after being warned that she likes to hear herself speak, made sure to assert myself. But I was civil and well-behaved. I came back to the need for public financing a couple times and raised the idea of a guaranteed basic income, which she seemed to like but find impractical at the city level. I also explained my own poverty, unemployment, and health challenges. At some point she said I’m needed to fix things in the U.S. and suggested or asked if I’d considered running for office. I explained I can’t raise money and don’t have the personality for it–I’m a policy person rather than a campaigner (think Obama; not Bill Clinton). I didn’t think to ask her to hire me. She’s no Socialist Alternative bombthrower, but she said plenty of things that seem basically like democratic socialism to me. (That’s a compliment)
Overall it was a very good experience. It’s nice to be called in to offer your ideas and be listened to (I feel ignored or excluded so much anymore), especially by someone with the power to act on it. Time will tell if there’s really hope for mandatory inclusionary zoning in Seattle. Bagshaw did agree that incentive zoning (tax breaks Seattle offers to developers to produce affordable housing–which has produced just 714 affordable units in a decade or so) is a joke.