By Robby Stern
On July 15, Mayor McGinn issued a new policy statement that is progressive, unique and bold. For purposes of disclosure, I am serving as a co-chair of Mayor McGinn’s re-election committee. This is a personal endorsement. I am not representing PSARA in this effort. PSARA does not endorse candidates.
Whole Foods wants to build a new facility in West Seattle. They have requested that the city “vacate” a city owned alley so that Whole Foods can use the alley as part of their development. The Director of the Seattle Department of Transportation is to transmit a recommendation to the City Council regarding the request for the city to “vacate” the alley.
For the city to transfer a publicly owned asset to a private owner, the private owner must demonstrate that there will be public benefit from the city turning over the public property to private ownership.
Mayor McGinn states in his letter to the Director of the Seattle Department of Transportation that a request to turn over public property should require consideration of the City’s vision for “sustainable economic development with shared prosperity”. The Mayor points out that the four core values of the Seattle Comprehensive Plan are “community, environmental stewardship, economic opportunity and security, and social equity”.
In reviewing Whole Foods’ development plan, the Mayor determined that disapproval of the transfer of public property is in the public interest because the project does not provide adequate public benefit.
The Mayor states that the City has a strong commitment to social and economic justice. That commitment requires the provision of fair and livable wages and benefits for Seattle’s residents. He points to language in Seattle’s Comprehensive Plan which states that the City is “seeking a greater proportion of living wage jobs that will have greater benefits” and “support key sectors of Seattle’s economy to create jobs that pay wages that can support a family, provide necessary benefits, and contribute to the vitality of the City.”
The Mayor’ notes there are already seven large supermarkets within a mile and a half of the proposed site of the Whole Foods store. At least six of those stores provide employer paid, comprehensive affordable health benefits for full time and part time employees and their families, as well as family-supporting wage scales. Whole Foods provides significantly less than other similar businesses, particularly to part time employees.
Additionally, the Mayor states that the proposed development will have a negative impact on the pedestrian environment. His administration is committed to enhancing pedestrian acccess.
This unprecedented action by the Mayor (the City Council is the ultimate decider, so get ready for a fight!) is a shock to the development community. This action has the potential to also impact future developments including a huge hotel development planned for the site of the old Greyhound bus station in downtown Seattle. Developers and big business are angry. This will add fodder to their determination to defeat this Mayor.
While the construction jobs for these two facilities would be welcome, it is critical that the nature of long term jobs created by these projects be considered. If we want to reduce the disparity in wealth and income in our community, we need government to use its power to assist in this daunting effort.
Kudos to Mayor McGinn!
The tragic jury decision in the Trayvon Martin killing reinforces vigilantism, racial profiling , and “stand your ground” mentality. It deepens the realistic fear and insecurity within our communities of color and deepens the divide within our nation.
The jury decision is disturbing and the operation of the justice system is appalling. George Zimmerman was allowed to walk away from the crime he committed and was only arrested weeks later. While the dead body of Trayvon Martin was drug tested, no drug test was ever performed on George Zimmerman. The Judge in the case ruled that the issue of race could not be brought into the trial, despite the racist language Zimmerman used when he called the police dispatcher and despite the fact that Zimmerman left his vehicle and stalked Trayvon Martin after being told by the police dispatcher to remain in his vehicle.
Meanwhile, the same “Special” Prosecutor who prosecuted the Zimmerman case also prosecuted Marissa Alexander, an African American woman, who was sentenced to 20 years for firing a warning shot to stop an attack by her known physically abusive husband. No one was injured by her action.
Sadly, Jim Crowism is rife in our justice system.