Kshama Sawant: The Socialist quietly takes her seat

Inside the first Seattle City Council meeting of newly-elected member Kshama Sawant.
Crosscut archive image.
Inside the first Seattle City Council meeting of newly-elected member Kshama Sawant.

The era of Kshama Sawant, the Seattle City Council member whose election has been hyped by the media as one of world-historical significance, arrived quietly enough. 

In her first City Council meeting, Sawant sat near the end of a table and talked casually about upcoming events with her eight council colleagues. Outgoing City Council President Sally Clark welcomed Sawant, and the city's first Socialist council member made a few remarks, polite but politically pointed. 

"I do want to welcome our new council member, Kshama Sawant," Clark said early in the meeting. "Welcome to the table this morning." 

Sawant looked over to Clark, but made no remarks until later, when each council member spoke briefly about the committees they are going to lead (Sawant will chair a committee overseeing Seattle City Light). 

"Thank you, Council President Clark," Sawant said. "I am happy to be here to be able to serve the interests of working people of Seattle." And then she said she would be keeping the council posted on the committee as it gets organized, noting that she will be attending a meeting of new Mayor Ed Murray's advisory committee on income inequality and a $15 minimum wage on Wednesday.

Even while she made a point about whose interests she intends to serve, there was none of the verbal self-indulgence that critics have warned might become a trademark. 

With that introduction accomplished, the next council member, Bruce Harrell, drew laughs as he started to talk about the public safety committee. "It is really nice to have all these cameras here for my presentation," he said of the national and local media gathered to document Sawant's council debut.

In the afternoon, one of the first speakers during the public comments section, singled out Sawant. "My speech is only going to be to Kshama, because she is a citizen," said Sam Bellomio of StandUp America, who was defeated in a council run last year. "The rest of you are bureaucrats." 

"Kshama," he went on, "you are the change." But, he cautioned that she would not succeed in creating change "if you let these guys or the newspapers shame you." 

And so it began for Sawant, the rest of the council and their Seattle constituents.


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