The Hellhole – Week of 12/10

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This week's issue: zoning is racist and sucks but the alternative doesn't have to either, Seattle subsidizes hockey, memoriam for Amina Ahmed, and be vigilant against fascism.

Seattle Releases Neighborhoods for All Report

The Hellhole – Week of 12/10 in Audio Format (English)

Single-family housing, in urban/suburban contexts, was always a racist, classist tactic by liberals like FDR and Truman who were scared of things like communists building housing for all in Russia or Mao giving landlords and feudal-patriarchy a full-nelson or even positive reforms under Red Vienna social housing mechanisms. The Americans presidents offered up bait to the white middle class to stifle dissent coming out of WWII. They never seriously approached public housing. Instead, the incentivized more private mortgages and barely delivered on ambitious campaign pledges. Highway projects demolished housing projects in a generation, cutting through black neighborhoods, like State Route 167, which became south “Rainier Ave.” Highway 99 runs through Hooverville. You can trace the scars of communities on a satellite map. The history of Seattle urban planning and development is built on segregation, explicitly through racial covenants and redlining or implicitly through housing markets.

A socialist analysis of the Seattle Planning Commission’s Neighborhoods for All report confirms that the status quo land use and housing policy is untenable in every sense: environmentally, fiscally, humanly. The designs of the city are not in the hands of the people, especially not the working poor and particularly not immigrants, people of color, younger millennials, and sexual and gender minorities. Millennials now represent a plurality of the electorate yet are more likely to face poverty than their ancestors. Womxn are most likely to be evicted for $100 or less. People of color, redlined to segregated Seattle districts, now face exile. Wealth determines who gets a room at the proverbial inn. Immigrants can’t even trust the inn not to narc to the pigs. We must criticize unfair power. We must take on land being used as a commodity by banks, developers, and wealthier, landed families. Housing can’t both be a good investment and affordable. Just ask Councilmembers who own a condo in Bellevue and a $1.4 million dollar house in Seattle (unadjusted 2011 value).

We have a diagnosis but what’s the prescription? The report goes from elegiac rebuke to wonky and technocratic answers. Land use and development policy alone aren’t enough. Housing determined by, built by, and owned collectively by the people is preferable to either racist zoning laws or capitalists squeezing unprofitable communities out. Invisible market forces don’t build thoughtlessly; it’s done with wealth extraction in mind.

The report can’t (nor was ever intended to) recommend fighting the dual front of land use and the gigantic housing finance industry. The Seattle Planning Commission’s role, by design, stops where our bucks start siphoning up.

All tools for dismantling the power of this system must be used. Fully public housing. Percentage of income based rent. Social housing funding through a public bank. Guarantees through tenant democracy over the future of each block. Even modest reforms like rent control or annual swirlies to landlords. There is no shortage of ideas. We must have an equitable future ensured for the city’s marginalized. We must demolish the scourge of Seattle’s racist past and must acknowledge the parallel racist legacy of stripping plans for the commons away from minorities and workers, leaving them no say when the politically expedient polity (usually well-to-do white folk) is given a golden ticket. Without real change, the public is cast aside for a new arena, freeway, or market segregated high-rise that’s “Amazon workers preferred. $3,000 per month; $5,000 deposit. Income verification required.”

Rest in Power: Amina Ahmed

Seatac City Council Member Amina Ahmed died Saturday. A dedicated organizer with the Refugee Women’s Alliance, she represented a voice for marginalized peoples on the City Council. Her death leaves many fights vulnerable, such as the City Council’s current power grab to push through the sale of SeaTac Center, which houses the Bakaro Mall, home to over fifty immigrant-run businesses. It will be a devastating loss locally if those workers, many living within blocks, have no right to return and say over the future of the community we all share. SeaTac and South King County can be a haven for everyone or it can replicate Seattle’s displacement and egregious “economic gating” of communities by pushing out those on the margins for some other, wealthier cohort. Amina Ahmed’s work lives on.

Puck. Seattle Gets A Hockey Team

Guess which city is going to open the public coffers for arena renovations and a hockey team? Seattle. At a mixed-source cost of $850 million!

Like most American cities, we’re being asked to do a dance with the for-profit teams of the non-profit sports league monopolies (except the NFL, which is now for-profit — a difference without a distinction). The dance where private raiders demand subsidies from public funds for nebulous notions of jobs and tourism. As socialists, we understand that it’s not that no jobs or tourism would be created but what we do in the commons should not be done to make a small few investors like the Oak View Group rich.

We’re in the middle of a housing crisis that’s felt more acutely each day. We haven’t hit bottom yet. Instead of considering more handouts for the mega-rich, we should consider a) shutting it down or b) demanding public ownership and revenue sharing (with margin) to be repaid into permanent housing and transit funds (both of which will be impacted by arenas). Publicly funded stadiums aren’t popular by any stretch of the imagination. Almost 79% of public responses in a Marquette University study objected to a similar move in Wisconsin.

Ask yourself this: why are so many needs unmet in our society? If there are needs, surely there is work available to meet those needs? If those needs are unmet, why the city considering venture capitalist welfare without a future assured for the people living here? What functional democracy can pass something a majority of people would never agree to? Surprisingly, the Seattle Times framed the dilemma well: “It was our stadium when it needed money. But their stadium when it’s getting money.”

The Courts and Executive are set to devastate LGBTQIA+ persons, people of color, and unions — unless we fight as one

It’s no secret that both the Kavanaugh and Gorsuch appointments shoved the courts rightward. We’ve also written on how “Supreme” Courts are undemocratic previously. There are many legal cases that will roll back decades of progress for LGBTQIA+ issues, racial justice, immigration, and workers’ rights. The liberal hope in the undemocratic, unelected branch of government, hand picked by an elite to counter the people was suspect at best and malevolent by design.

The major parties are tools of the capitalist class. That’s left is in (no pun intended) a hell of a hole. We must fill the void with radical democracy down to the very apartment complexes, laundromats, and households we occupy.

Like Fred Hampton said, “We don’t think you fight fire with fire best; we think you fight fire with water best. We’re going to fight racism not with racism, but we’re going to fight with solidarity.”

It’s time like these we need to know there’s another worker on our flank, fighting for the same shared future, same shared world, and ensuring everyone — everyone — achieves a dignified life.

White Supremacists Attacked a DJ in Lynnwood.

Speaking of fascism, each December, there’s a disturbing pilgrimage for white supremacists in the region. They crowd the local bars before heading out to Whidbey Island to celebrate a white terrorist who loved The Turner Diaries and got shot hoping to start a war. This week, they brutally attacked a Black DJ in Lynnwood. While it is being investigated as a hate crime, what is left unsaid is that even the FBI believes that local police have ties to white supremacists. But their concern hasn’t resulted in action as federal agencies continue to de-prioritize investigations into white supremacist terrorism. Birds of a feather …  

Modern beat policing has its origins in slave patrols and night watches, slavery and the control of minorities. The FBI’s history is made up of efforts to dismantle Black, Latinx, and socialist radicals fighting for dignity. It can feel hopeless (and can indeed be fruitless) to pursue justice through courts alone. Follow organizations like the IWW Greater Seattle General Defense Committee in helping to restore justice to our communities and sweep white supremacy to the dustbin of history.


Note: The Seattle Hellhole represents the views of its writers and does not represent 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 #wg_comms_design on Slack or email [email protected]