For the first time in a decade, self-promotional socialist Councilmember Kshama Sawant will no longer represent District 3—a swath of central Seattle that includes Eastlake, Capitol Hill, and the Central District.
The newly open seat is an opportunity for voters who deserve a proactive, progressive district representative who listens to constituents’ concerns and gets to work. That candidate is Alex Hudson, and she receives our enthusiastic endorsement for City Council District 3.
Hudson is the most qualified candidate for any of this year’s open seats, blowing the rest of the field away with her political acumen, policy chops, and deep history of activism in the district.
Hudson has been on our radar for years as a Seattle activist and transportation advocate who consistently scores policy wins and funding for equitable transportation, housing, and neighborhood-level improvements. Nearly a decade ago, as head of the First Hill Neighborhood Association, Hudson—a longtime renter—defied stereotypes about neighborhood activists. Instead of trying to “protect” First Hill by keeping low-income people out, she advocated for hundreds of units of affordable housing at a Sound Transit-owned property on East Madison St., organizing to bring two new homeless shelters to the neighborhood, and leading efforts to secure $80 million in public benefits from the construction of the new downtown Convention Center, just across the freeway from First Hill.
Hudson wants to double the maximum housing density allowed within a half-mile of planned or existing light rail and bus-rapid transit stations, creating room for up to 270,00o new homes while getting rid of the old “urban village” strategy that concentrated dense housing on large, busy arterial streets to preserve homeowners’ exclusive single-family enclaves.
She was been equally effective for five years as Executive Director of the Transportation Choices Coalition, which lobbies at the state and local levels for investments in transit, bike, and pedestrian safety and mobility. Last year, for example, TCC helped secure $5.2 billion for transit and multimodal transportation as part of the Move Ahead Washington transportation package—a critical victory at a time when local transit systems are struggling to recover from the pandemic. Under Hudson’s leadership, TCC has also lobbied against both the state ban on “jaywalking” and efforts to make Sound Transit’s fare enforcement policies more punitive—policies that disproportionately target people of color and low-income people with fines and penalties.
On a council that will soon feature at least four new faces, Hudson will provide necessary policy expertise, negotiating skills, and a steadfast voice for progressive policies on transportation, housing, homelessness, and public safety. Unlike other candidates who speak in generalities, Hudson can rattle off a wonky list of specific policies she’s eager to get to work on.
For example, where candidates often pay lip service to the need for more affordable housing, Hudson wants to implement zoning changes that would double the maximum housing density allowed within a half-mile of planned or existing light rail and bus-rapid transit stations, creating room for up to 270,00o new homes while getting rid of the old “urban village” strategy that concentrated dense housing on large, busy arterial streets to preserve homeowners’ exclusive single-family enclaves.
She also wants to increase the amount of funding from the JumpStart tax, which is perpetually being raided for other priorities, that has to go directly to housing; allow the owners of existing buildings (not just new ones) to take advantage of a tax exemption in exchange for providing affordable housing, a plan she estimates would add about 3,000 new affordable homes; and concentrate new affordable housing construction in neighborhoods with high access to opportunity (like South Lake Union and Queen Anne) rather than the lower-income neighborhoods where the city has traditionally placed affordable housing.
Fittingly for a transit wonk, Hudson has a list of immediate, low-cost ideas for improving road safety and access to the city for people who walk, bike, and use transit. For example, she told PubliCola, the city could prioritize simple safety improvements like curb bulbs, spaces between parking and bike lanes, and crosswalks without going through years of public process. Longer term, she wants to complete the stalled downtown streetcar and build a lid over I-5 between Capitol Hill and downtown, among other ambitious transportation and economic development priorities.
We’d love to see her go toe to toe with Mayor Bruce Harrell on his proposal to eliminate a planned Midtown light rail station just across the freeway from First Hill in favor of a “North of Chinatown/International District” station across from City Hall.
We’d love to see Hudson head up the transportation committee, which has been helmed for the last four years by old-school neighborhood NIMBY Alex Pedersen, and sit on the Sound Transit board seat currently occupied by retiring District 5 council member Debora Juarez.
She demonstrated political tenacity when she challenged Mayor Bruce Harrell on his proposal to eliminate a planned Midtown light rail station just across the freeway from First Hill in favor of a “North of Chinatown/International District” station across from City Hall. (First Hill got screwed out of its original station in 2005, with a slow streetcar on Broadway as consolation.)
Challenging the both Mayor Harrell and King County Executive Dow Constantine, the two establishment heavies who orchestrated the decision to move two Sound Transit stations away from the CID and First Hill, Hudson helped build a coalition that visibly irked Constantine in the board room and forced Harrell and Constantine to keep the popular Fourth Avenue station option on the table. By helping organize the opposition in the middle of her own campaign, Hudson demonstrated how willing she is to challenge the city’s power brokers—and showed off her talent as a grassroots organizer.
Hudson acknowledges that she’ll have a learning curve on other issues, including police funding and public safety (for the record, though, she supports creating a new alternative response team along the lines of the CAHOOTS program in Eugene, Oregon. She also says District 3 would be an ideal location for one of five crisis care centers King County voters approved in April. And—in an issue close to PubliCola’s heart—she said she would take action to remove illegal obstructions from the public right-of-way, including the concrete “eco-blocks” many business owners have placed on public streets to prevent RVs from parking near them.
“The public right-of-way is for everyone, and so we can’t just [let businesses] drop hostile architecture all over the place, and call it good,” Hudson told us earlier this year. “Forklift comes, picks them up and moves them away. I don’t think it’s that complicated.”
For District 3, PubliCola enthusiastically picks Alex Hudson.
The PubliCola editorial board is Erica C. Barnett and Josh Feit.