This month, I will be sharing highlights from the People’s Assembly that we hosted on February 27, 2016. Adam Ziemkowski, one of my Legislative Aides, opened the People’s Assembly with the following speech.
Welcome to the first People’s Assembly in the city of Seattle! It is so fantastic to see so many people here. My name is Adam Ziemkowski. I am a Legislative Assistant with Kshama Sawant.
Everybody knows we live in a wealthy and prosperous city.
The city is home to some of the most prominent high-tech multinational corporations like Amazon.com, and large and profitable property development corporations like Paul Allen’s Vulcan and Triad Capital Partners – the last of which tried to shake down a candidate running for City Council last year! Some of you might know him.
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos made $5 billion in one night just a couple of months ago!
It was recently documented that Seattle’s landscape is dotted with anywhere between 45 and 70 cranes building massive structures to house not homeless people, but wealthy people.
Many new upscale businesses are opening up. For wealthy people, and people with very high salaries, people in the 1% – all this is working out wonderfully.
For the rest of us, this city is fast becoming unaffordable. The median home buying price is over half a million dollars. Renters are experiencing an epidemic of economic evictions. Investment and development companies spent $3.8 billion in 2014 buying up properties all over the city. These properties are bought up, they’re renovated – and then the rents are jacked up.
And with every passing year, homelessness is spiking. As the city gets wealthier, more and more people are becoming homeless.
With every passing decade, at the same time, we have seen a gutting of the state and federal funds for social services, mental health services, and to deal with drug addiction.
At the same time, corporations get sweetheart deals from City Hall, from legislators in Olympia, and from US Congress.
And we are constantly told—there is a drumbeat—that there is no money for essential services, and no ability to make housing affordable.
Homelessness is a clear example of the contradictions that exist under capitalism – with so much wealth, but such bone-crushing suffering alongside of it.
But all of that suffering, every tear, down to the last shiver in the middle of the night at winter, is completely avoidable. And I’ve got to say it: that, ladies and gentlemen, is why I am a socialist.
And as a socialist, I strongly believe that we need to build our grassroots movement. Because we know there is more than enough money, right here, right now, in our city to end homelessness once and for all.
But we also know that developers, corporate landlords run by Wall Street hedge funds, big businesses, and the corporate politicians that are funded by them are not just going to make housing affordable, they’re not going to fund services, they’re not going to end homelessness because it makes sense or because we ask nicely.
How did we win the fight for a $15/hour minimum wage? How did we win sanctioned encampments? How did we win funding for services for sanctioned encampments? These were all historic victories.
We won them by getting organized, by formulating concrete demands, and by fighting to win those concrete demands.
We won them by recognizing that corporations and the corporate politicians are not on our side. And that we can push back against the establishment if we are strong and if we build solidarity among ourselves.
That is what we are going to need to do to end homelessness.
The goal of the People’s Assembly was to bring our city’s activists, organizers, and advocates together inside City Hall so that we unite together to build a fighting movement.
Homelessness is a solvable problem.
Concretely, our movement here today is demanding that we use $10 million of the city’s emergency funds for homelessness.
There is a petition circulating, and we ask that everyone please sign that petition. Then go onto our website, Kshama Sawant’s blog, and pass that petition on to everyone you know.
I would like everybody to just briefly look at the agenda, and just look at the breadth of the workshops available this afternoon. We have a talented and inspiring group of organizers, union members, advocates, and ordinary people—activists—here today. I am extremely confident that we can put up a hell of a fight and score some important victories for the 99% in 2016!