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Friends of the Market Newsletter

 

(November's newsletter will be released in a separate mailing shortly after Friends of the Market's Annual Meeting.)

 

Post Alley Passages



CITY POLITICS AND PIKE PLACE MARKET

The recent November election begins another era for the Seattle City Council, which will return to district voting, a system abandoned 105 years ago. Several Years ago, the first campaign to put district voting in place lost when it did not define the district boundaries. The second succeeded, in 2013, by clearly delineating all districts. This new election system has the City Council remaining at nine members; seven represent newly designed districts, and two represent the city at-large.

For two past election cycles, Passages has been on record opposing City district elections – opposition based on concern for the Pike Place Market and its longtime ready access to City Hall. In the past, doors were open to all nine council members. Now, with districts, seven of the Council have a primary commitment to their home district. Those open doors may be semi-closed to Market advocates.

A political side note: locally, library proposals and district elections failed in past. Each came back later with very specific plans – the library to stay in the same location, and the election proposal showing seven districts clearly defined on maps. The lesson to take from that that is: vague promises or multiple choices lose to specific, defined objectives.

Market Within District 7, Represented by Bagshaw

Fortunately, the Market is fully within District 7, now represented by re-elected Sally Bagshaw, who has a long history and association with the Market and Market causes. Before she was a council member, CM Bagshaw was President of Allied Arts (celebrating its 60th anniversary this year), and a leader in the historic preservation movement and in early waterfront renewal planning.
         
The Market has a friend in City Hall with Sally Bagshaw on the council.

Noxious Legislation Could Alter MHC

But, districts or not, the Seattle City Council still has, till the end of the year, a noxious piece of legislation (CB118467) on its desks which could alter the Pike Place Market Historical Commission numbers, representation and structure. The August and October Passages columns were entirely devoted to the introduction of and arguments against amending the 1971 People’s Initiative which created the Market Historic District and the Market Historical Commission (MHC). That structure and language has worked well for 44 years, sustaining the character, buildings and uses of the Market to the present.

The existing ordinance states, “The Mayor shall make his appointments of representatives of Friends of the Market, Allied Arts, and the Seattle Chapter of the American Institute of Architects, from a list of four nominees from each organization.”

Proposed Ordinance Strips Legacy Organizations

The proposed ordinance strips the Market legacy organizations of nominating rights and takes away half the seats of Allied Arts and Property Owners. That nominating power goes to the Mayor and Council for appointments to Historical Commission seats. There is an old political maxim uttered by William “Boss” Tweed, who ran New York City in the late 19th Century: “I don’t care who does the electing, so long as I get to do the nominating.” That utterly undemocratic idea should not be injected into 21st Century Seattle government.

This amending ordinance comes out of CM Nick Licata’s office. Additional language was added during six months of review in the Department of Neighborhoods (DON), with no outreach for community comment, before public release in July. Since that time, only one meeting, on September 17th, has been held in the Seattle Public Utilities and Neighborhoods Committee (SPUN). At that meeting, CM Licata was unable or unwilling to answer his colleagues’ questions about what the perceived wrongs at the Market are that this bill would fix, or who the aggrieved parties were who had approached him to put this legislation forward.

Lack of Diversity Unfounded

Licata’s only written explanation for the transfer of nominating power proposed was in a three page email on September 15th to Friends of the Market. In that letter he set out ordinance changes followed by his rationale.

“…in order to bring the Commission into conformity with the practice the City has been following to assure our various commissions are representing the broadest range of citizens. ...The authority for making appointments will be evenly divided between the executive branch and the legislative branch. ...The Commission shall use the  Racial Equity Toolkit in each of its decisions as applicable. Any organization involved in recommending nominees for membership on the Historical Commission shall use the Racial Equity Toolkit when identifying its candidates.”

In essence, CM Licata is saying that the current MHC nominating structure, which has served the Market very well for decades, is now seen as incapable of putting forward a diverse slate of nominees, so the responsibility will be taken from them and given to the Mayor and City Council, who will draw from their usual political networks.

Licata’s rationale was, “because we’ve done it before, and over time other boards and commissions have been altered to have their members evenly selected by the Mayor and Council.” And, ”while all the organizations involved in recommending candidates for the Historical Commission…their strength is not in representing the demographic profile of Seattle’s population."

Similar Gutting of City Departments in the Past

Similar gutting of City departments have taken place over the years, notably under Greg Nichols, who effectively reduced the DON and the Office of Arts and Culture to shadows of their former selves.

Furthermore, the PDA Council itself, currently appointed by the Mayor and the Market Constituency, might have difficulty passing the diversity standards CM Licata seems to be promoting.

CM Licata is misinformed about the diversity in the Pike Place Market organizations and not cognizant of the origins and history of the MHC. He should review all past and current commission membership rosters. The Market welcomes diversity in all its forms, and is, in fact, a model of cultural diversity.

Limited Discussion of Ordinance Amendment

A meeting was called by CM Licata’s office for October 26. The email invitation said it was, “to craft final ordinance language to revise the Pike Place Market Historical Commission’s composition.”

Present were six City employees: three from DON, two legislative aides to council members Licata and Bagshaw, and one from the Office of Civil Rights. No discussion of ordinance language developed. Two city employees used much of the one hour meeting lecturing the five FoM board members and one PDA Constituency officer about institutional racism in Market organizations. There was evident rancor, but no discernible discussion of the proposed ordinance amendment. All left with nothing accomplished.

A second meeting is scheduled for November 17th.
 

Legislation is Power Grab

This legislation is a power grab. It takes the original responsibility and standing to nominate from the Market and gives it to City Hall. Further, it completely ignores the purpose and mission of the Historic Preservation movement started in Seattle, and acclaimed nationally for the preservation of the Pike Place Market.

The Market Historical Commission has no other purpose than to Keep the Market as close to what it has historically been. The city demographics can change, but the Market must stay authentic. That is what the Historical Commission has been doing for 44 years. City Hall politics may well turn the Market into a run-down shopping mall – what Seattle citizens saved it from being in 1971 - sited on magnificent developable land.

Let your City Council representatives hear from you.

 


Post Alley Passages, written by Paul Dunn, fessdunn2@gmail.com

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