Seattle Metro Chamber new President & CEO, Rachel Smith. Photo by Alabastro Photography.

Rachel Smith, President and CEO of the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, is joining us for our monthly meetup on Tuesday February 8th. Discussion will start at 6:30pm.

Smith will lay out her vision for the Chamber and the city and take questions from the audience. We hope to gain insight into the Chamber’s stance on issues such as support for small businesses impacted by the pandemic, how to address the homelessness and housing affordability crises, and what Seattle business leaders think of the tech boom occurring across the lake in “business friendly” Bellevue. We’ll discuss bills to watch in Olympia, such as statewide missing middle housing reform loosening the grip of restrictive single-family zoning.

Despite all the fuss about Covid prompting people to flee urban centers, Seattle’s growth has shown little sign of slowing down. In fact, housing prices continue to skyrocket, far outpacing wage growth.

Stepping into her new role as head of our region’s largest and oldest business organization just as we emerge from pandemic induced lockdowns, Smith will be leading an organization that has historically wielded political heft in Seattle.

In 2017, the Chamber affiliated Civic Alliance for a Sound Economy (CASE) political action committee (PAC) spent big helping to elect Jenny Durkan as mayor of Seattle. In 2019, CASE PAC spent even bigger trying to “take back” the council, but the torrent of money — especially with more than $1.5 million coming from Amazon alone — backfired. Most CASE candidates lost, allowing progressives to gain control of the legislative body. As Smith stepped into her role in 2021, she announced the Chamber wouldn’t be endorsing candidates or engaging in candidate spending though CASE in the 2021 election, although they did back Compassion Seattle charter amendment initiative, which was struck down by a judge before it could appear on the ballot. Mayor Bruce Harrell, a favorite of business leaders, still significantly outraised his opponent and won in a landslide, pledging he’d implement the Compassion Seattle plan, which outlined a rapid standing up of emergency shelter to clear parks of homeless encampments as soon as possible.

The stakes will remain high as we navigate what looks to be a rocky pandemic recovery, and the Chamber will certainly be using its advocacy to weigh in on the policies that will guide Seattle forward. Will the Chamber continue to oppose and legally appeal progressive tax policies like the JumpStart Seattle tax, and if so, what other solutions does it believe could address our city’s needs?

We hope you can join us for an important discussion about Seattle’s future! As always, The Urbanist’s monthly social event is free, all ages, and open to everyone. The line opens a 6:15pm and the speaker starts at 6:30pm.

Watch the video:

About Rachel Smith

Rachel Smith has nearly 15 years of government affairs, policy, operations, and advocacy experience, including 13 years serving in local and regional government. Prior to her Chamber role, she served as Deputy County Executive and Chief of Staff to King County Executive Dow Constantine. Previously, she served as Government and Community Relations Officer for Sound Transit, and in the administration of former Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels. Her experience also includes non-profit work, both as a staff and board member.

About the Chamber

The Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce is the largest business association in the region. Founded in 1882 by local business leaders, the Chamber today is an independent organization representing 2,600 companies and a regional workforce of approximately 750,000. The Chamber is also a policy advocate and the only chamber in the area that represents business at the city, regional, state and federal levels.

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Doug Trumm is publisher of The Urbanist. An Urbanist writer since 2015, he dreams of pedestrianizing streets, blanketing the city in bus lanes, and unleashing a mass timber building spree to end the affordable housing shortage and avert our coming climate catastrophe. He graduated from the Evans School of Public Policy and Governance at the University of Washington in 2019. He lives in East Fremont and loves to explore the city on his bike.