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Friends of the Market Newsletter

October 2014

Our 50th Anniversary lecture at Seattle Central Library was held the evening of September 30th. A reception for speakers, guests, library officials and board members met the need for a 'social softening' before the event. Kudos to Kate Krafft, FoM board member, for all her efforts in organizing the reception and lecture.
Let’s let Joan Singler, FoM board member, describe her impressions of the event.
"If you didn't get there on September 30th, you missed an inspiring program by David O'Neil. Mr. O'Neil repeatedly pointed out how Pike Place Market has become the prototype for other communities trying to save or create a public market. The panel discussion, lead by Peter Steinbrueck, shared thoughts about how the Market currently operates and its unique role in our community.”
One particularly provocative question resulted in very different answers from the panelists Knute Berger, journalist, and, Christine Vaughan, Market crafts person & former chair of the Market PDA Council. To paraphrase: What would we do today if there was an attempt to radically change the character of the Market?  Christine Vaughan answered, (as all FoM members would) we would fight any attempt by a group or the City to make radical changes. However, Knute Berger speculated, given the makeup of the current city population, with lots of relatively new arrivals who know little of the history to "Keep the Market", might they see change as perfectly acceptable?
Check out the lecture and discussion, compliments of modern technology. Here is the Seattle Channel's video of our final 50th Anniversary event. 
Question to Consider:  What does the newsletter audience think - would there be public support to resist a new threat of radical change to the Market's character?
Please click here  and email your response via our website. 


Post Alley Passages

In a Humbug State of Mind

Passages is generally optimistic, a booster of the Market, encouraging others to vote, attend, participate, be active citizens of this place and our city, a cheering fan of the Mariners and an awestruck bystander to the Seahawk successes; but recently that bright mindset has dimmed. It is not yet clinical depression, just a mental malady brought on by the news and it may pass soon.

The list of causes is long and discouraging. Others counsel: “there is light at the end of the tunnel”, “it is darkest before dawn” or “don’t worry, be happy.”  Such platitudes do not change the causal facts and do not lift my gloom over Post Alley.

Our nation is at war, again, with a more vicious but amorphous foe. Our state Legislature has been held in contempt by the state Supreme Court.

In Seattle, the new mayor has made positive moves this year, uppermost being the appointment of a new Chief of Police. But resistant police on the street keep shooting and thumping while serving and protecting.

The new Seattle Metropolitan Park District creates a more insular Parks Department, overseen by the overstretched City Council, which will soon be Balkanized by district elections.

Nearer the Market splashy rotogravure pictorials of Seattle’s future waterfront, as conceived by a New Yorker born in Liverpool, display his dreams of perpetual sunshine, promenading couples near bits of beach, and activities usually seen in community centers or YMCA game rooms. Immediate, unanimous civic ridicule removed the floating swimming-pool-on-a-barge.

Meanwhile the Central Waterfront Seawall Replacement has begun, unsure of total funding. Oh, and the SR-99 Tunnel under downtown?  Bertha, the digging machine, has moved three feet in nine months.

In the Market, the PDA Council and Executive Director Ben Franz-Knight struggle with planning and funding MarketFront (formerly the Waterfront Entrance) while contemplating when to start digging.

After a beautiful and long summer, we hope for some resolution on these matters before the darker months ahead. Harrumph.

                          Market Tours                           

Only a few years ago walking tours at the Market were infrequent and personal.

One of the troubling local issues is the matter of the increased number of commercial walking tours groups in the Market. The PDA made admirable progress this year getting a handle on many commercial tours by initiating a permitting system with rules, controls, and standards of performance. The $300  annual permit did not decrease the growing number of tour operators or the size of each tour group, nor, we suspect, their quality and accuracy.

Previously, we had slow moving commercial tours and vans from rest homes disbursing passengers in clumps along Pike Place. Shelly Yapp, former PDA Executive Director, used to go out and pound on windshields telling all drivers to keep out of the Market. They did, until she retired.

Motorized gawkers are not the problem that currently vexes. Nor are the student tours the PDA’s Scott Davies conducts for regional elementary schools, which work Market content into class projects and active learning experiences. Neither are Friends of the Market’s low-cost Market tours on Saturdays in the summer months featuring history and public art themes. The Market Foundation and Ben Franz-Knight lead Market tours for distinguished visitors as do other Market social organizations.

What troubles Passages are the commercial walking tours – now permitted by the PDA - that charge upwards of $40 a head, with four herds a day, which average about fifteen tourists each. (Go figure the gross revenue just over a 20 week summer.) They move like the tide, en masse, past store entrances and display windows. Although some cooperative merchants assure Passages that these guided tourists may return as customers, the arcade levels Down/Under seldom see them.

The tours use the pedestrian walkways of the Market, but contribute nothing to the upkeep, custodial clean-up, or trash disposal costs. One guide frequently sits astride Rachel spieling about “Our Market” and “We have done this or that.”  But there is no ‘official tour’ unless Ben is leading it.

Can the PDA or the Historical Commission control people walking around declaiming history, urban myths and jokes? Tour scripts are intellectual property, like trademarks, books, and recorded music. How are walking tour guides different from Market Buskers, who are permitted, too, and who make money from their art and Market location and do not share their earnings with the PDA? 

A U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington D.C. recently struck down a city requirement that tour guides with permits pass a lengthy test of their knowledge. An attorney said, after the ruling, “The First Amendment protects everyone who talks for a living,” journalists, professors, or tour guides. This may explain the City Council’s reluctance to act.

Tours present the Market to visitors as a theme park - the odd, quirky buildings, colorful vendors and the old stories of turmoil and discord - a place to visit once, like Legoland with produce.

The Pike Place Market is more than a confusing, intricate, amusing place. It is a thriving commercial, residential, and social services center that is a testament to civic activism and respect for our past. It has become a model replicated in countless markets and public places nationally.

Wouldn't it be more fitting in our tours to share how the Market grew and adapted over the last century and the important lessons Seattle has learned about historic preservation?


Post Alley Passages written by Paul Dunn,

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