Liberty Bank landmark bid moves to next step

An effort to save an empty, but historically significant 1960s bank at 24th and Union got its first round of approval for landmark status Wednesday. The Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board voted to accept the nomination of the former Liberty Bank building, the first Black-owned bank in the Pacific Northwest.

The building will have to win another round of approval from the board to be preserved as an historical city landmark. The utilitarian building, which has sat empty and fenced off since KeyBank left in September, is also being considered for an affordable housing project. Capitol Hill Housing has been in negotiations with KeyBank to buy the building and erect a mixed-use development on the site.

Longtime Central District/Africatown activist Omari Garrett filed the landmark petition for the bank. He told CDNews earlier this week that his fight to preserve the bank ran deeper than just saving a building.

“Our children are not on the street shooting eachother because they dont have a place to stay. They don’t have Black institutions to look up to, they don’t see Black bank owners,” Garrett said. “Housing is not our problem in the central area. Our problem is identity and having cultural institutions in Africatown.”

Yesterday a community post from CDNews member ‘africatown’ praised the board’s vote:

Members of Seattle’s Africatown attended the meeting to continue to advocate and preserve the cultural and historic fabric of the african american central district community, now known as ‘Africatown”.

Historic preservation, economy success, education, and cultural identity all make a substantial contribution to Seattle’s Africatown community.

The success of the nomination was the right thing to do.

It was the only thing to do.

Community. Culture.

Landmark status for CD’s pioneering black-owned bank up for consideration amid affordable housing plans

1968To preserve and rekindle a piece of Central District history, or prepare for the current and future needs of residents in a increasingly expensive neighborhood. That’s the debate at the heart of a bid to preserve the former, and now empty, Liberty Bank building at 24th and Union.Screen Shot 2014-02-04 at 5.44.51 PM

On Wednesday the Landmarks Preservation Board will decide if a nomination to save the bank building should move forward. The application (PDF) cites the building as the “first banking institution for African Americans in the Pacific Northwest region.”

Longtime Central District/Africatown activist Omari Garrett filed the preservation petition. For Garrett, the fight to save the bank runs deeper than just preserving a building.

“Our children are not on the street shooting each other because they don’t have a place to stay. They don’t have Black institutions to look up to, they don’t see Black bank owners,” Garrett said. “Housing is not our problem in the central area. Our problem is identity and having cultural institutions in Africatown.” Continue reading

Building a Council District 3 coalition off to early start

Hunger-Games-District-3We are still 21 months away from electing the first Seattle City Council members by districts, but efforts are already underway to organize around the new political space. The heightened interest in the city’s civic affairs is encouraging, but sustaining that interest through 2015 and beyond could be a challenge. After all, what’s the point of districts if residents within those districts aren’t making themselves heard?

The District 3 council member will represent a dynamic swath of central Seattle that will combine two neighborhood anchors — Capitol Hill and Central District — with several smaller outliers, like Madrona, Madison Park, Madrona, and Leschi.

“We’re the most dangerously informed and opinionated district,” said Akilah Stewart,  one of the first prominent voices on a D3 Facebook group and organizer of the first off-line meeting at her house to plan for a real-world organizing forum. “It’s exciting that we’re at a time when there will be a big convulsion in Seattle politics”

Just days after the November election, The Stranger’s Dominic Holden created a Facebook group to act as a digital gathering space for all District 3 residents. Since then the group has grown to over 700 members and has become relatively active in discussing Seattle politics at a D3 level.

Members have even begun organizing a forum for elected officials to talk directly to those under the new political umbrella.

You can join the conversation at

Currently the group is more concerned with organizing residents rather than vetting possible candidates, although newly minted council member Kshama Sawant would be the front runner were the election to happen today.

Aside from the Facebook group, there are few other public organizing efforts happening around the district. Many of the existing community groups in the area told CDN council districts are well off the radar though there are signs other entities like development companies and business organizations are already planning ahead.

Michael Wells, director of the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce, said his group has not yet focused on reaching out to other neighborhood chambers within the district.

“I don’t think a whole lot of things will change, officials must still must legislate around the whole city,” he said. “Even in zoning, there’s a tremendous conversation through the whole city having to do with zoning of new buildings.”

2013 CNC - City Council Leg Districts Map Overlay 12.2013 FV1One question raised in the wake of passing district elections is what becomes of city’s 13 neighborhood councils? Some have proposed that the number of neighborhood councils  be reduced to seven to mirror the new district boundaries. Without redistricting there are several residential pockets that would be separated from their neighborhood councils when it comes to their representation on city council.

Of the small gathering at the January 13th East District Council meeting, most seemed to be in favor of keeping the current neighborhood council boundaries.

During the meeting Greater Duamish Council chair Alexis Gallegos said she recognized keeping the current neighborhood district boundaries could dilute neighborhood’s influence on City Council, but that the 13 districts should still be preserved.

“We voted on council districts, so we have to be OK on that. But I don’t have to be OK with someone taking over my neighborhood,” she said.

If you’re ready to get ahead in your politicking, District 3 “frontrunner” Sawant will be in the area Thursday night at this month’s East Precinct Advisory Council meeting speaking about “her vision for the issues most impacting working people, youth and the poor in our communities.”

Thousands march from Garfield High to keep alive MLK’s fight for economic, racial justice — and a $15 minimum wage?

Thousands gathering outside Garfield High School before marching to Westlake Park on MLK Day. (Photo: CHS)

Thousands gathering outside Garfield High School before marching to Westlake Park on MLK Day. (Photo: CHS)

Thousands of people marched through Seattle to Westlake Park Monday to keep alive Martin Luther King, Jr.’s fight for economic justice and a higher minimum wage. The MLK Day Rally and March began in the Central District with a gathering inside Garfield High School.

DSCN1145Hundreds of people packed into school’s gymnasium to hear speeches, watch performances, and honor the event’s longtime organizer, King County Council member Larry Gossett. Monday marked the 32nd annual celebration of MLK Day in Seattle.

Newly elected city council member Kshama Sawant attended the rally and march. She’s been at the forefront of Seattle’s $15 an hour minimum wage fight and said that struggle honors King’s memory.

“MLK was centered around the same demands we are today,” Sawant said. “This is still a poor people’s movement.”

Prior to his assassination April 4, 1968 King was a strong advocate for raising the minimum wage to $2 an hour — that calculates to just over $15 today when adjusted for inflation.

Mayor Ed Murray and King County Executive Dow Constantine were also in attendance. Murray thanked Gossett for being an early supporter of marriage equality and for spearheading the effort to change King County’s namesake to MLK in 1986. Previously King County was named after one of the state’s early civic leaders who was also a slave owner.DSCN1116

Former head of the Black Panther Party’s Seattle chapter Aaron Dixon delivered the rally’s keynote address inside Garfield High.

“Anyone who is oppressed is our friend. We need to find as much common cause with people as we can,” Dixon said. “We got the power, we are the 99%.”

Longtime Seattle civil rights leader Lacy Steele said the minimum wage fight is central to celebrating MLK’s legacy. “The fight is economic,” said Steele, who is also President Emeritus of the Seattle-King County NAACP. “It’s not a holiday, it’s a work day.”

The march and rally wrap a weeklong string of events in central Seattle to honor MLK.

Murray sworn in as 53rd mayor, Sawant extolls socialist principles during oath ceremony

Murray takes the oath from ambassador to China Gary Locke, on a Gaelic bible held by Murray’s husband, Michael Shiosaki (Image: @Mayor_Ed_Murray)

Murray takes the oath from ambassador to China Gary Locke, on a Gaelic bible held by Murray’s husband, Michael Shiosaki (Image: @Mayor_Ed_Murray)

Ed Murray was sworn into office as the 53rd mayor of Seattle Monday afternoon in the packed lobby of his new office at city hall. But it was the council’s newest member and her raucous supporters that stole the show. Supporters of Kshama Sawant packed the house sporting red shirts and signs emblazoned with pro $15 an hour minimum wage messages.

Murray may take office as the first mayor from Capitol Hill. He’s definitely the first openly gay man to take the post. Sawant was the first socialist in nearly 100 years to be sworn into the city council.
Sawant and Murray gave vastly different speeches following their oaths. While Murray talked inclusiveness and good governance, potholes and police were far from Sawant’s mind as she spoke for nearly nine minutes on the ills of international capitalism and the dysfunction of the two-party system (see a transcript of her remarks below).
“I wear the badge of socialist with honor,” she said, thanking the some 100,000 people that voted her into office and driving home the point that socialists are far from the fringe in Seattle.

Sawant takes the oath of office from Washington State Labor Council Vice President Nicole Grant (Image: @Ed_Murray_Mayor)

Sawant takes the oath of office from Washington State Labor Council Vice President Nicole Grant (Image: @Ed_Murray_Mayor)

Sawant began her speech by raising a fist and ended it simply by saying “solidarity.”
Council members Mike O’Brien, Nick Licata and Sally Bagshaw were sworn in at the ceremony. They earned some cheers in their own right, but none as big as when they touched on raising the minimum wage. City attorney Pete Holmes was also sworn into office and made several nods to the city and state’s historic end to marijuana prohibition.
The 2014 crop of elected officials technically assumed office in December, but this was the day for pomp and circumstance.
Earlier in the day Murray spent some time on Capitol Hill attending noon mass at Seattle University’s Chapel of St. Ignatius. Murray, who frequently attends mass at the chapel, told CHS he didn’t want the entire day to be about ceremony. The mayor kicked off inauguration day volunteering at Mary’s Place women’s shelter.unnamed

Remarks given by Kshama Sawant following her swearing in:

My brothers and sisters,

Thank you for your presence here today.

This city has made glittering fortunes for the super wealthy and for the major corporations that dominate Seattle’s landscape. At the same time, the lives of working people, the unemployed and the poor grow more difficult by the day. The cost of housing skyrockets, and education and healthcare become inaccessible.

This is not unique to Seattle. Shamefully, in this, the richest country in human history, fifty million of our people – one in six – live in poverty. Around the world, billions do not have access to clean water and basic sanitation and children die every day from malnutrition.

This is the reality of international capitalism. This is the product of the gigantic casino of speculation created by the highway robbers on Wall Street. In this system the market is God, and everything is sacrificed on the altar of profit. Capitalism has failed the 99%.


Despite recent talk of economic growth, it has only been a recovery for the richest 1%, while the rest of us are falling ever farther behind.


In our country, Democratic and Republican politicians alike primarily serve the interests of big business. A completely dysfunctional Congress DOES manage to agree on one thing – regular increases in their already bloated salaries – yet at the same time allows the federal minimum wage to stagnate and fall farther and farther behind inflation. We have the obscene spectacle of the average corporate CEO getting seven thousand dollars an hour, while the lowest-paid workers are called presumptuous in their demand for just fifteen.

To begin to change all of this, we need organized mass movements of workers and young people, relying on their own independent strength.That is how we won unions, civil rights and LGBTQ rights.


Again, throughout the length and breadth of this land, working people are mobilizing for a decent and dignified life for themselves and their children. Look at the fast food workers movement, the campaigns of Walmart workers, and the heroic activism to stop the Keystone XL pipeline!


Right here in SeaTac, we have just witnessed the tremendous and victorious campaign for fifteen dollars an hour. At the same time, in Lorain County, Ohio, twenty-four candidates ran, not as Democrats or Republicans, but as ‘Independent Labor’ and were elected to their City Councils.

I will do my utmost to represent the disenfranchised and the excluded, the poor and the oppressed – by fighting for a $15/hour minimum wage, affordable housing, and taxing the super-rich for a massive expansion of public transit and education. But my voice will be heard by those in power only if workers themselves shout their demands from the rooftops and organize en masse.


My colleagues and I in Socialist Alternative will stand shoulder to shoulder with all those who want to fight for a better world. But working people need a new political party, a mass organization of the working class, run by – and accountable to – themselves. A party that will struggle and campaign in their interest, and that will boldly advocate for alternatives to this crisis-ridden system.

Here in Seattle, political pundits are asking about me: will she compromise? Can she work with others? Of course, I will meet and discuss with representatives of the establishment. But when I do, I will bring the needs and aspirations of working-class people to every table I sit at, no matter who is seated across from me. And let me make one thing absolutely clear: There will be no backroom deals with corporations or their political servants. There will be no rotten sell-out of the people I represent.


I wear the badge of socialist with honor. To the nearly hundred thousand who voted for me, and to the hundreds of you who worked tirelessly on our campaign, I thank you. Let us continue.


The election of a socialist to the Council of a major city in the heartland of global capitalism has made waves around the world. We know because we have received messages of support from Europe, Latin America, Africa and from Asia. Those struggling for change have told us they have been inspired by our victory.


To all those prepared to resist the agenda of big business – in Seattle and nationwide – I appeal to you: get organized. Join with us in building a mass movement for economic and social justice, for democratic socialist change, whereby the resources of society can be harnessed, not for the greed of a small minority, but for the benefit of all people. Solidarity.

Seattle University administration tells faculty not to unionize

A Seattle University official has notified faculty that the school’s administration opposes ongoing efforts to unionize non-tenured instructors and encouraged faculty to oppose joining a union.

In a letter obtained by Capitol Hill Seattle, Provost Isiaah Crawford recently told SU faculty at the 12th Ave campus that bringing in a union to represent contingent full-time and part-time faculty would negatively impact the university culture by “disrupting the direct relationship between the university and its faculty and the faculty’s governing body.”

Instructor Yancy Hughes Dominick, a full-time adjunct in the Department of Philosophy, told CHS he’s undecided on the union but wants the discussion to continue.

“I was disappointed that (the provost) would end the conversation before it really started, but I was not surprised,” he said.

Hughes Dominick said he and many other faculty members are generally happy with the administration, pay, and benefits at SU. The interest in unionizing stems from the broader issue of year-to-year contracts the school uses for adjunct professors. “It’s hard to be committed to the large project of teaching classes at a university if you don’t know if your going to be teaching or not,” Hughes Dominic said.

Here’s a statement from the faculty about their desire to unionize.

Crawford said he sent the letter when he heard faculty members were being approached by staff from Local 925 of the Service Employees International Union. SEIU is currently working on a national campaign to unionize thousands of adjunct instructors. A union representative contacted by CHS did not respond in time for this post, but we’ll update if and when they do.

In his letter, Crawford also warned that unionizing may impede the school’s religious freedoms as faculty relations would be subject to federal rules.

“SU is an institution that exists to serve its unique Jesuit-Catholic academic mission.  Because of the University’s religious character, we must consider carefully whether the First Amendment to the United States Constitution prevents the federal National Labor Relations Board from exercising jurisdiction over its relations with its faculty,” he writes.

SU wouldn’t be the first school to oppose unions based on religious grounds. The administration at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma is opposing ongoing organizing efforts by SEIU Local 925, partially based on religious grounds.

The new Nickelsville: Three camps in the Central District


Campers have been fueling fires with scrap wood given to them by a construction crew across the street. (Photo: Bryan Cohen)

As the rain returned to Seattle Wednesday evening, four people huddled around a small campfire in a lot behind the Arco AM/PM gas station at 23rd and Cherry. Surrounded by 28 tents set on top of homemade platforms built from old pallets, the 32 residents of the Cherry St homeless camp prepared for another night in their new Central District home.

The camp is the third and most recent community to move into the CD following the exodus of the longtime Nickelsville encampment on Marginal Way in Delridge. The camp follows two other Nickelsville communities that moved into the Central District in September. A camp at 22nd and Union has around 25 residents and the camp at 20th and Jackson has around 20, according to Nickelsville staff person Scott Morrow.

The Cherry camp, which had been located in Skyway, moved December 2nd onto a empty lot owned by the Cherry Hill Baptist Church. Despite the significant time and energy spent to construct the encampment, the group currently is only authorized to stay through February. Jamie McDaniels, who moved from the Skyway camp to the new Cherry location, said he and fellow residents were relieved to find the space but they’re already worried about having to move in three months.

“Could you imagine having to move everything you own every ninety days?” he said. “Logistically it’s a nightmare.”


The tent city abuts a private home on 22nd St. Campers said neighbors have been very accommodating. (Photo: Bryan Cohen)

McDaniel’s said the group is eyeing a longer-term space at 15th and Spring. The camp, like the two other Nickelsville communities, has three portable toilets and a large dumpster. A guard shack, occupied 24 hours a day, sits in front of the camp’s chain-link fence entrance on 22nd. Campers constructed a large protected kitchen area and common space for a campfire.

Residents must abide by a code of conduct, which includes a ban on alcohol and drugs, weapons, and abusive behavior. The campsite is nearly packed, but McDaniel’s said they’re permitted to house 75 residents.

Among the three CD Nickelsville camps,  Cherry is the largest. Morrow told CHS that Union and Jackson will likely stay in their current locations through September 2014. Camps must be sponsored by churches according to city ordinance. The Union camp, which is restricted to families, is sponsored by the Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd and the Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church is sponsoring the camp on Jackson.

Nickelsville community members say they fund their operations through a mix of church support, government assistance, and neighborhood volunteers.

Earlier this year the City of Seattle announced it would be evicting the Nickelsville community from their longtime Marginal Way encampment. In June, the City Council approved a $500,000 contract with the Union Gospel Mission to help “transition” campers off of the city-owned lot. After the previous moves went down over the summer, residents at Cherry St told CHS they have yet to receive any assistance from UGM.

In an email to CHS, a UGM spokesperson said “The one misconception that is out there is that the Mission received a $500,000 check. That is not the case. As expenses occurs, rents for apts., furniture, etc., we request reimbursement of fund from the City of Seattle.”

One CDNews reader and Jackson camp neighbor said she and another neighbor brought wood to camp residents when temperatures dropped last week, but they were overwhelmed with the number of people when they arrived. “I don’t even know what to do … there are people living outside at the end of my street,” she said.

For more about the camps and how to get involved, check out the Nickelsville Works Facebook page.

What exactly will the 23rd Ave greenway be? It’s up to you


Traffic Circle Garden, originally uploaded by prima seadiva.

The 23rd Ave corridor is arguably the most neglected transit corridor east of I-5. For years the Seattle Department of Transportation has recognized the need for street and pedestrian improvements. Now it’s finally happening through two concurrent projects: a $46 million overhaul of 23rd Avenue and a greenway slated to run parallel to 23rd one or two blocks away.

Details of both projects are getting hammered out now, including how each can move forward without running into each other’s path. At a well-attended and — at times — testy November 6th meeting to gather public input on the greenway, much of the discussion turned towards the 23rd Ave corridor project.

Some people in the session ended up pretty damn angry about the whole thing. Continue reading

New assisted living project a sign of change at 22nd and Madison

Six stories everywhere you look (Image: CHS)

Six stories everywhere you look (Image: CHS)

Artist rendition of the planned "Memory Care Deck" -- "Fresh air, walking and sunshine will brighten your day. Our secured Memory Care floor of Aegis on Madison was uniquely designed to offer a second-level outdoor deck that will bring back the feelings of yesteryear. The façade of an old-fashioned neighborhood will surround the deck including a vintage car parked at the local garage, mailboxes, benches, and the doorsteps of classic NW homes. Residents can walk and reminisce about 'the good old days' here."

Artist rendition of the planned “Memory Care Deck” — Fresh air, walking and sunshine will brighten your day. Our secured Memory Care floor of Aegis on Madison was uniquely designed to offer a second-level outdoor deck that will bring back the feelings of yesteryear. The façade of an old-fashioned neighborhood will surround the deck including a vintage car parked at the local garage, mailboxes, benches, and the doorsteps of classic NW homes. Residents can walk and reminisce about “the good old days” here.

Believe it or not, E Madison has quite a bit to offer an assisted living community. Aegis Living is slated to open its newest facility in January at 22nd and Madison — called Aegis on Madison — and general manager Rob Liebreich said the company couldn’t be happier with the location.

“There’s been a transition in this area has really picked up in terms of its reputation and desirability,” Liebreich said. “Five years  back we probably wouldn’t have built this community where we’re building it now.” Continue reading

Who will lead the (hopefully) United Neighborhoods of District 3?

Screen Shot 2013-11-07 at 9.17.04 PMLike it or not, district-based city council seats will be here in 2015. As of Thursday’s last count, nearly 65% of Seattle voters approved Charter Amendment 19 to drastically re-calibrate the city’s top elected body. Under the new arrangement the city will have seven district-based council seats and two at large representatives, with the Central District falling in Seattle District 3.

District-based council seats represent a historic shift in the political dynamics of the city and will likely cast a microscope over neighborhood politics. Madison Park moms, Seattle Central Community College students, and Central District old-timers will now all be jostling to elect and influence one single council member in the Fighting Third.

A lot of political rising and falling can happen in two years, so District 3 candidate predictions may be premature. Who would run if the elections were held today? Wyking Garrett? Sandy Cioffi? Bobby Forch? Dominic Holden? Jason Lajeunesse? Toss out your best guesses/nominations in comments.

Kshama Sawant, your first District 3 Council alderperson? (Image: CHS)

Kshama Sawant, your first District 3 Council alderperson? (Image: CHS)


Screen Shot 2013-11-07 at 9.22.19 PMOne person who definitely won’t be running is Madrona resident Richard Conlin, who announced his plans Wednesday to not seek reelection after his two-year term. Conlin went through a bruising campaign this cycle against firebrand socialist Kshama Sawant. District 3′s first Council chief might not be a very interesting discussion by the time the final 2013 votes are counted. Sawant’s camp believes the late tallies have swung so far toward the Socialist Alternative candidate’s favor that she’ll win the race outright. District 3, your first leader might already be in place.Screen Shot 2013-11-07 at 9.22.36 PM

Those running for district seats must reside in the district, but are only required to have lived there for 120 days prior to being elected. Council members must also stay in the district throughout their term in office. At-large candidates can live anywhere in the city. According to the charter amendment the districts will be redrawn every decade to account for population shifts.

One upside of the boundaries is that demographic changes in the district will be easy to track. Eastlake aside, the three Capitol Hill and Central District zip codes — 98122, 98102, and 98112 — are a near mirror of the District 3 boundaries. District 3 may also have the widest household income range of any other district in the city, from the near $250K average annual incomes in Broadmoor, to an $18K average annual income in one Yesler Terrace precinct.

Picture 1

The changeover from all at-large to mostly district representation will be a little tricky and won’t be fully on-track until 2017. That’s when the two at large council members will be elected to 4-year terms; district representatives will run for 4-year terms starting in 2015. Here are the details of the transition from King County Elections:

To make the change to districts, the five council members elected in the 2011 City Council elections would serve their present terms ending on December 31, 2015, and the four council members elected in the 2013 City Council elections would serve two-year terms also ending on December 31, 2015. In 2015, the two at-large council members would be elected to two-year terms ending on December 31, 2017, and the seven district council members would be elected to four year terms ending on December 31, 2019. Thereafter, all members would be elected to four-year terms.

Seattle District 3 includes Capitol Hill and the Central District as well as the heavily residential, homeowner dominated neighborhoods of Madison Park, Madrona, and Montlake. Critics of the boundaries have argued that the map was drawn up based on irrelevant geographic boundaries that disenfranchised denser neighborhoods by splitting them apart.

District supporters have promised greater accountability from elected officials. For many that will mean having a one stop complaint-line for any issue, instead of having to look up which council member chairs the relevant committee.

The new district representatives will also presumably be an important voice on wider neighborhood issues. Where current at-large council members can afford to dither on neighborhood nit-and-grit, the District 3 rep would likely be pressed to take a stance on specific issues.

Most of District 3 is contained east of I-5, but there are two notable exceptions. According to the Districts Now! map, District 3 takes a strip of downtown blocks between 5th and 6th Avenues to include the King County jail, SPD headquarters, and the municipal court. A small chunk of South Lake Union included in the district scoops up The Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research campus and Lake Union Park.