Washblog

We don't respect real work in this country

[Front paged: NM]

Last night, I attended a meeting at the Northgate Community Center.  The city is considering changing the zoning in the Northgate area to allow taller buildings along 5th avenue and other areas.  Northgate has been going through a lot of changes lately, with the major development south of the Mall, and the new building going up at the corner of 5th and Northgate Way.  It's great to see.

I'm trying to find the information I saw last night online.  On Seattle.gov, the link to the Northgate plan from the main Neighborhood Planning page, www.seattle.gov/dpd/..., is a broken link.  It currently goes to www.seattle.gov/dclu/....  it is supposed to be going to www.seattle.gov/neighborhoods/....

There is no mention of the meeting last night on the Northgate page.  In fact, there is no calendar at all.  I had to go to the Northgate Activist website to find out that the original comment period ended on May 16th, was extended to this meeting.  At the meeting, they extended the comment period again to June 17th.  Northgate Activist had a link to the EIS proposal.  Finally!

http://www.seattle.gov/dpd/

Dang, I wish they would include the size of the PDF file with the link so we could decide whether to download it through a slow connection...  This thing is 112 pages!  7.355 MB.

Page 19 in the PDF shows what this is all about.  There are four options.  We can do nothing, do a broad rezone with a focus on residential, do a broad rezone with a focus on commercial, or a focused rezone.  The decision will likely be made based on how many jobs opportunities will be opened in the Northgate area by these options.  The highest number is 12,000 jobs.

I'm not going to go into the details of the plan.  It goes into Parks, Traffic, and a bunch of other details on growth projections and blah, blah.  No, what I want to talk about are those 12,000 jobs.

If you walk through a store in the Northgate Mall, you see lots of things.  Mostly clothing, made all over the world.  Toys made in China.  Jewlery made who knows where.

I think there might be a "Made in Washington" shop in the Mall, but I'm not sure.  What I do believe is that 99% of the merchandise sold at the Northgate Mall are items made somewhere else.  Elsewhere in the country, elsewhere in the world.  It's too easy to say that everything is made in China, but who knows.  What do you think the percentage is?

Those 12,000 jobs mentioned in the Draft EIS are commercial jobs.  Retail, banking, investment, buying and selling over the Internet.  They might even be decent paying jobs.  But when I spoke to one of the representatives from the city, I asked where the industrial land is.  Where are places where people can walk from home to work, and actually build something.  Something beautiful.  Something they can be proud of.  He told me that most new industrial space now is being pushed all the way to Monroe.  With probably a few exceptions that I don't know about, the only work done within the Seattle city limits is at the Port of Seattle bringing the crates to shore from the ships.  Why can't we have jobs in the city that make things?

I also spoke with the developer of the property at 5th and Northgate Way, and asked him who the main leasers were going to be for at that building.  Circuit City and Office Depot.  More retail, and competition for the shops that are already in the area like Best Buy and Kinkos.  At one point last year, we had a Public Relations retailer rent some space in one of the strip malls.  It was either a franchise or a mom and pop.  It didn't even last long enough for me to walk in and see what they had to offer.  

Where am I going with this?  This is turning too much into a rage against the machine.  So let me spread this out beyond Seattle and rant about something different but related.  I got an email from my father in Centralia for my birthday.  He told me that he had cancelled his contractors license because the state government had changed the law so that anyone who did more than one thing in remodeling or construction required a general contractors license instead of a speciality license.  More expensive bonding, more expensive insurance, more and higher fees.  He's out of business.  Out of a job.  In an area where the people are still digging themselves out from underneath tons of mud from the storms last September.

Why can't we respect work in this country?  Or even in this state?  Why can't we make things that are beautiful and that we can be proud of?  Why can't we hire people and pay them a living wage to do remodeling work on our homes without driving them out of business because their business is too small?!

This is painful.  This is personal.  This is not the future that I want to live in.  We have to change this.

< Want to change the party? | Highland Park protests new City Jail proposal! >
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Just electing a Dem president isn't going to do anything about this, though it's at least a start.

For all the frame-breaking that Obama is doing, he would never have been allowed to become a front-runner by breaking the big one, namely pointing out that we can no longer afford to be an imperial power making the world safe for dollar a day labor.  We are headed in the direction of having an economy based on beating the shit out of other countries and grabbing their resources, inventing obscure financial instruments that amount to nothing but legalized theft, putting each other in jail, and selling each other cheap imported poisoned crap.

Can you dad afford retirement yet?  One way or another, his situation is something that the Legislative Action Committee ought to be looking into for the next legislative session.

by eridani on Fri May 30, 2008 at 04:53:47 AM PST

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I moved to Seattle because, unlike places I grew up (LaLa Angeles and the economics of politics of DC), this place had real people doing real work.  It started eroding in the 80s.  I've known families where, when the Dad had a job at the steel mill, the children got through college and got a decent job.  Younger siblings who came up after the erosion of industrial jobs, are in pretty bad shape now.

In the 70s, I had friends who worked at the ship yards and younger friends who went to Alaska to work in the summer.  The guy who built some of my furniture had his shop in South Lake Union.  Did you support giving north downtown and south lake union over to big developers?  Oh -- you heard it was just a rezone, and that there would be low income housing out of the deal.  At least DC preserved their little bit of light industrial.  They do something called PLANNING.

We are turning into a city of rich singles and DINKs, and rich families who put their children into private schools, patronize chi-chi shops and restaurants, and complain that they can't find anyone to do minor repair work or clean their home.

That is why I have gotten involved in the Neighborhood Planning process in my area.  I expect it'll be about as productive as beating my head bloody against a brick wall when it comes to achieving any near term solutions.  I also expect some of our city's issues cannot ever be dealt with outside of national and state re=prioritization.  

But, I think it affords us a forum for the people in the community to assert how a REALLY sustainable city operates.  That is not just dense housing and lots o' shoppes.  It's economic development, variety of businesses and industry, people friendly neighborhoods, great mass transit, water management and good schools. It also does not assume that everybody commutes downtown to work and should come home to a bedroom community.

We are beginning the job of doing mutual educational work about really boring things like Land Use, housing and infrastructure in advance of whatever Neighborhood Plan process the Mayor proposes to empower ourselves.  Many of us also hope that grassroots will set a much higher standard when hiring (oh I mean electing) people competent to shape our city and region.  Naturally, I explain exactly how voter owned elections will give us the tools to make that happen.

by ktkeller on Sat May 31, 2008 at 08:28:46 PM PST

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in the great, heated and ideologically loaded debates about density and anti-density going on in Seattle:

http://www.livableseattlemovement.org/
http://noisetank.com/hugeasscity/2008/05/18/an-open-letter-to-the-livable-seattle-movement/

by ktkeller on Sun Jun 01, 2008 at 02:19:56 PM PST

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