The Hellhole – Week of 10/1

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Milk-toast isn’t enough to feed a hungry worker. Milquetoast reforms are similarly as inadequate to feed the spirits and needs of the proletariat. Given the resurgence of fascists and weak reforms that neither inspire a united working poor in Seattle nor meet their immediate material needs, it can feel discouraging. This is Seattle and it is a Hellhole…

But first, let’s honor the good and be not discouraged:

In Memoriam: Verlene Jones Davis

Verlene Jones Davis passed away September 22 and was OPEIU Local 8 President for over ten years. Throughout her life, she consistently fought for the rights and dignity of workers. One small example of this was her role in 2005, with fellow King County community and labor leaders, in encouraging US military withdrawal from Iraq and ensuring Iraqi refugees and immigrants had a place in union halls. She was 63 years strong before transitioning onward. Her memorial is October 13.

Abolish ICE

CW: Violence, Suicide

In Washington alone, ICE and its private sector counterparts did the following:

  • Guards at the Northwest Detention Center denied medical attention, outright facilitated suicide, forced a pregnancy termination due to lack of care, provided no on-site behavioral health services, distributed the wrong prescriptions, and a oversaw a varicella outbreak (in a place where chickenpox wounds spread and are easily contaminated without proper care).
  • Local judge ruled that force feedings can commence

Elsewhere in the United States, ICE continued its depravity:

It’s easy to feel discouraged in such a rush of reactionary violence.

How can you, worker, fight back?

An easy start: Northwest Detention Center Resistance, via Mijente, is gathering signatures on a petition to deliver to Gov. Jay Inslee and Tacoma Mayor Victoria Woodward. NWDCR is led by and centers immigrants and native voices in resistance to the brutality of ICE.

For more direct ways to get involved, read on

  • Attend solidarity rallies on Saturdays
  • Write and comfort detainees on the inside
  • Fund needed supplies and legal aid
  • Volunteering food, water, supplies, translation, data entry, childcare, and more

If you’re already involved, thank you.

Dow with the Good Hair has a New Budget.

No one bought it when King County Executive Dow “$210m new youth jail” Constantine announced his $4 million budget to end youth detention. He recently released a proposed $11.6 billion, two-year budget. Of that, $2.7 million is part of that spend that supposedly ends youth detention. The new youth jail is still there. There are some welcome cuts to the Sheriff and County Prosecutors’ offices (and are sadly offset by hundreds of thousands in new LEO programs).

"The almost $23 million dollars you are considering pouring into Dow Constantine's pet project would be enough to fund…

Posted by No New Youth Jail Seattle on Thursday, October 4, 2018

In short, there is nothing radically new or major is in the budget. It’s part for the course but balanced. Yay.

Amazon, one of the largest employers in King County, avoids online sales taxes (as well as state/federal taxes). Boeing is able to play chicken with the state over even modest taxes. This tax dodging leaves the county financing needed services through a patchwork of physical sales tax, property tax, and fines/charges. While trillion dollar companies thrive, cornerstores in Burien and scratchy-ticket casinos in Tukwila front a larger portion of their sales and gambling tax revenue to the infrastructure that Amazon and Boeing use to a larger degree. There’s something wrong with that picture, especially as the county, SeaTac, and Tukwila force out immigrant-run businesses at SeaTac Center.

If Dow Constantine has a vision beyond speaking nice words on KEXP, perhaps he could looking at the systemic causes for budget shortfalls? Riches lie in capital gains and the bosses, not in sales taxes the poor pay more often. There’s more dignity in an income tax than the stealth-tax (and potential office-caused homicide) involved in a brake-light fine or transit fares enforcement in our communities.

Overhauling taxation in Washington would be a welcome bandages on the greater road of bringing the economy under full control of every worker, regardless of gender, race, religion, or immigration status, in King County.

What Difference is a Driver’s License? A lot, sadly.

It should go without saying that the recent mandate for enhanced photo identification, required for flying, is a curtailment to the freedoms and rights of workers to travel, migrate, and move. Effective October 2020, workers will need additional paperwork in order to travel within the United States via air. This “Papers, Please” mentality is part of a broader assault on workers: from the ballot box to the bathroom, on who can do what, where, and with whose permission.

To hell with that!

The New Mercer Mega Block Mess

Wonky, yawn inducing, land use policy is back in the news. But this time it’s a clear-cut battle for resources, waged by both capitalists and the citizens of Seattle, screaming desperately for much needed affordable housing. The capitalist in this instance is of course our beloved Mayor, Jenny Durkan. The “Mercer Mega Block” is a massive 2.86-acreblock in the heart of the Mercer thoroughfare that cuts through South Lake Union. Currently nothing is being built on this city-owned mega block, and it’s only used as storage for other nearby construction projects.This is publicly held land in the heart of the city in the midst of a horrific housing crisis that our mayor wants to sell off  to the likes of Vulcan.

In classic fashion, Mayor Durkan has issued a fancy RFP as reported by C is for Crank. RFP is a “Request For Proposals” and Durkan is offering this land to the highest bidder (read: developer). The housing advocates of Seattle have not taken kindly to this. Former Seattle mayoral candidate and urban-planner Cary Moon called for a new RFP  in Crosscut, in a piece co-authored with architect and housing advocate Mike Eliason. Together they called for deeply affordable housing to be built on this ideal piece of public land. Doug Trumm of the Urbanist was slightly less subtle with his analysis of the RFP: “It’s Easy to Gouge Your Tenants in Seattle, Mercer Mega Block RFP Promises”. Trumm noted the RFP was “touting the city’s skyrocketing home prices and increasingly dysfunctional housing market as an asset.

We reached out to Eliason who helpfully translated the capitalist spin of the slick RFP:

He aptly notes how we’ll be getting screwed:

  • Virtually no community benefits
  • No citywide discussion on how best to use the land
  • The RFP is extra gross  because it sells the housing crisis as a benefit to market rate developers
  • Looks like the city expects more homes for cars (1400 or so) than those who need housing
  • No requirement for on site affordable housing (In contrast, BART is getting 44% on similar sized site in Oakland) ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
  • No guarantee of infusion of cash for affordable housing from sale, as mayor has expressed she prefers a ground lease.

(all cited in the RFP)

Despite the City Council recently unanimously passing CM Mosqueda’s resolution that “requires city departments to prioritize affordable housing development when disposing of surplus public land”, the Mercer Mega Block RFP is showing no signs of slowing down or being taken off the table by the Mayor, who told KUOW that “it would damage the city’s reputation to pull out now.” We would like to remind Mayor Durkan that it will harm the city’s population if more affordable (preferably public) housing is not built immediately. But we’re glad to see Durkan again putting her reputation with vulture capitalists before the material realities of Seattle’s citizens.
A new coalition made up of the Transit Riders Union, Share the Cities, Real Change, 350 Seattle, The Tenants Union, and more, has come together to advocate for responsible use of the Mega Block, yet alas, proposals for the RFP are due the same day you’re reading this. It remains to be seen whether the city and Mayor Durkan will do the right thing here, but given her track record we expect to see some incredibly profitable luxury apartments on the Mercer corridor in the next few years. A reminder: as of the most recent one-night count over 12,000 people are homeless in King County, and it’s getting cold outside.


Note: The Seattle Hellhole represents the views of its writers and are not official positions of Seattle DSA at large. Its writers are a collective working on independent pieces, editing, and design to deliver this each week. If you want to volunteer, join us in #communications on Slack or email [email protected]

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