By the time you read this, nine Seattle City Council members will have been voted into office. However the events of the candidate forum held on October 15 remain relevant even after the election. Unlike sports, the time to pay attention is after the votes are counted. This forum provid- ed the opportunity to hear important issues, ask questions and speak directly to the candidates. The student body can thank our Associated Student Council for hosting the event at Seattle Central College along with the help of political science instructor Carl Livingston and public speaking instructor Dan Norton, who together moderated the forum.
Each candidate was given time for a five minute opening statement, followed by a student Q&A session and a two minute closing statement. At- large candidates Lorena Gonzalez and Bill Brad- burn kicked off the forum. Bradburn’s opening statement was focused on environmental issues, restorative justice movements and his socialist perspective of the world as a father concerned about the future for his children. Lorena Gonza- lez spoke of her success fighting for justice and police reform as a nationally recognized civil rights attorney who identifies with the student struggle.
At-large candidate Jon Grant spoke about his work as the former Executive Director of the Washington Tenants Union fighting for renters’ rights and mandating inspections of rental units to improve living conditions. In his closing state- ment, Grant discredited what he described as an oligarchy that runs Seattle and promised a change with his endorsement.
South Seattle candidate Tammy Morales spoke passionately about her involvement within the local community and as a food justice activist. When asked what she would do about the violence in her district, Morales became emotional on stage and her sincerity was felt by the crowd.
Shortly after the arrival of Central District in- cumbent Kshama Sawant, the hall filled with stu- dents again. This was clearly the main event, as the crowd’s energy levels had increased dramat- ically. Sawant greeted the crowd by saying, “It really feels like coming home,” and mentioned teaching “not your normal economics” courses at Seattle Central. She also talked about being an active member of the Occupy movement here on campus. Sawant’s mission statement encapsulat- ed her goal of being a voice for young people and traditionally marginalized communities, many of whom are negatively impacted by Seattle’s eco- nomic growth.
Banks arrived soon after Sawant’s opening state- ment and immediately addressed the crowd. She spoke about her work and life-long involvement in the Central District community, highlighting her accomplishments working with the last five Seattle mayors. She also outlined her involve- ment with the Urban League and her rise to be- coming its current CEO. Banks asked the crowd how many students were registered to vote and only a handful of students raised their hands. This fact should not be overlooked. The lack of student participation gave credence to what Sawant called a “crisis situation”: young people are especially at risk of being marginalized and don’t have access to an inclusive economy. On the contrary, according to Sawant, the current economy creates low-paying jobs, high rents, in- creased tuition and cuts in educational funding.
All of the candidates identified with issues that students deal with and spoke about solutions for change; however the real purpose of the forum was for students to increase their political aware- ness and participation. Instructor Livingston quoted Frederick Douglas, “Power concedes nothing without a demand,” to emphasize that things like this forum are relevant to us as stu- dents. We have to stand up and own the process to make sure we are being represented and that the process speaks to the things we need. I hope that this event inspired other students like me to get involved and participate in these types of discussions so we can build the community we want to live in together. Although this election has already been decided, the next election may feature a whole lot of new, young faces.
By Joshua Byrd