We never knew Paul Allen had it in him.
For many, many years, Seattle’s progressive activist community only knew Paul Allen as a major civic nemesis. Given all the times he’s used his infamous billions to undermine grassroots democracy and progressive causes in Seattle, you could hardly blame us. How, and why, did we loathe him so? Let us count the ways: his funding of the 1997 special election that led to the taxpayer financing of the construction of Seahawks Stadium; his pulling of City Hall strings to get the city to construct an expensive streetcar that ultimately served no other purpose than to up the value of his South Lake Union real-estate holdings; his privately-owned vomit-shaped “museum” built on the public land of Seattle Center; the list goes on and on.
Amazingly, all that egregious egotistical excess, and all the local progressive ire it inspired, suddenly became irrelevant in January 2011.
That month, Paul Allen announced that he was financing yet another special election aimed at influencing yet another important decision within Seattle city politics. Only this time, rather than serving his own financial and/or egotistical interests, this election had the following — and truly surprising — stated goal: to overturn the current Seattle City Council and replace it with a solid progressive slate.
Allen’s more specific goal was to purge the council once and for all of its regressive, pro-business, anti-underclass elements and replace these with a group of respected local social and economic justice activists. To choose the ideal candidates, Allen spent the entire preceding year, beginning on April 1, 2010, seeking the advice and counsel of various Seattle-based progressive organizations, including, among others, the staff and readership of Eat The State!
The candidates thereby chosen were as follows: Joe Szwaja for Seattle City Council Position No. 1; Brita Butler-Wall for Position No. 2; Aaron Dixon for Position No. 3; Juan Bocanegra for Position No. 4; David Bloom for Position No. 5; Sally Soriano for Position No. 7; and Dorsol Plants for Position No. 9. (Positions Nos. 6 and 8 were left unchallenged, since most of the groups Allen surveyed felt that Nick Licata and Mike O’Brien were worth keeping on council.)
Lo and behold, when Paul Allen and his money want something, Paul Allen and his money get it. The special election held on the date in focus here naturally yielded victory on all counts, as all the candidates were handily elected by clear landslides, helped no doubt by the many glossy, full-color flyers and campaign signs personally financed, along with the election itself, by Paul Allen. (Also on the ballot was a measure to cancel the scheduled November 2011 Seattle City Council races, which also handily won.)
When asked why he decided to undertake this enigmatic endeavor, Allen told the local press, “I dunno. Same reason I built EMP, I guess. I thought it would be kinda cool. Y’know, like, Dungeons and Dragons kinda cool.”
When asked if Seattle’s progressive community had any qualms about finally achieving a clear progressive majority on the Seattle City Council by such questionable means, Eat The State! co-editor Jeff Stevens, on the official behalf of ETS!, replied, “Hey man, if you can’t beat ’em, subvert ’em!”
–Jeff Stevens. Sources: brown rice; lentil soup; Henry Weinhard’s Private Reserve; lack of consistent REM sleep.