Activists are planning a “renaming ceremony” Thursday to dub Seattle’s center of municipal government “Comcast City Hall.” The event, organized by left-leaning Seattle advocates, is an effort to call attention to corporate influence in city politics, particularly Seattle’s contentious mayoral race.
“It’s clear in this election that Seattle’s City Hall is up for sale to the highest bidder, so we might as well rename it Comcast City Hall,” event organizers said in a press release. “We’re holding a ceremony to do just that. Big corporations are trying to buy Seattle’s local elections. Comcast, CenturyLink, AT&T, Amazon, Vulcan, big hoteliers, developers, and more are spending more than half a million for political advertising to sway voters.”
Comcast declined to comment on the City Hall protest.
Upgrade Seattle, a group that advocates for municipal broadband, is organizing the event with help from Unite Here Local 8, Democracy for America, the Transit Riders Union, and the Sierra Club.
“Beyond the more than $50,000 donated by large ISPs to Durkan’s Independent Expenditure, they have also rigged the system by installing their lobbyist as Durkan’s campaign consultant,” said Devin Glaser, policy and political director at Upgrade Seattle.
GeekWire asked Durkan to confirm whether a former Comcast representative is working on the campaign and we will update this story when we hear back. Below is a statement from Stephanie Formas, a spokesperson for Durkan’s campaign:
Access to high speed internet is an important equity issue, which is why Jenny has proposed a plan to connect underserved neighborhoods, community centers, libraries, and schools in every part of Seattle. Jenny would love to have municipal broadband, however she believes that Seattle must first and foremost address and solve our homelessness and affordability crisis, especially at a time that cost estimates of municipal broadband are upwards of $700 million.
Formas also said that 99 percent of contributors are individuals subject to a $500 limit.
Upgrade Seattle has been aggresively pushing for municipal broadband (internet that is owned and operated like a public utility) for years. The group is endorsing Cary Moon in the Seattle mayoral race. Moon says she will pursue city-owned internet if elected.
“We can do this and we have to do it,” Moon said on stage at the Seattle Interactive Conference earlier this month. “It’s an equity issue, first of all. It’s a privacy issue and it’s an affordability issue. We have unbelievable disparity between what you can get in the south end and what you can get in the north end. You need high-speed internet to survive in this world, to do homework, to hunt for a job, to participate in the economy in a thousand ways, you have to have access to the internet.”
The “renaming ceremony” takes place on the west side of City Hall at 5:30 p.m.
Update: Glaser shared the photo below from the event with GeekWire.