City My First Community Meeting
posted by October 19 at 22:53 PMon
I just came back from my first Seattle community meeting. Wow. The zippy topic under discussion was the city’s plan for “community renewal” in Southeast Seattle. The plan is to declare the area blighted in order to take advantage of a state law that offers financial incentives for building affordable housing and other development in poor communities. Property owners aren’t excited about the specter of eminent domain, which they fear could take control away from local—often minority—businesses and home owners. Representatives from the mayor’s office, armed with power point and microphones, attempted to explain the plan to an auditorium full of property owners (almost all of them were, by a show of hands). They repeatedly insisted that the plan was just in the beginning phases, that nothing was set in stone. (And council hasn’t gotten it’s hands on it either.) The crowd expressed it’s skepticism with lots of incredulous snorts and a few high volume comments. Then came the exciting part. Steve Johnson, the director of the office of economic development, said something about “broadly shared prosperity” that ended with “so that not everybody’s pushed out.” Immediately, the cat-calls began. “Why should anybody be pushed out?” and “Your premise is not ours.” Johnson fumbled until someone from the Southeast District Council rushed up to the stage and begged the crowd to calm down. Things really got ugly when the meeting’s organizers tried to break the audience into small discussion groups, an impasse that was eventually resolved by sending the less combative folks downstairs. One loud guy down front actually referred to the departing audience members as socialists.