Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Newsflash: Hints of an emerging compromise on Lora Lake

Port Commissioners have begun hinting at a possible compromise in the Lora Lake controversy. Some of the hints are public.

After public testimony at this week's Port Commission meeting, Commissioner Pat Davis shared with tent city residents that they were working on finding a resolution.  Commissioner Alec Fisken piped up and said that the Port should consider the Tent City residents' request to live in Lora Lake in the meantime and Bob Edwards concurred.
Pat Davis, of course, had led the opposition to retaining Lora Lake.  Her comments and those of other commissioners in other settings suggest a positive resolution is in the offing.  I guess it sometimes takes a lawsuit to bring out the compassion in a person.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

SHARE/WHEEL -- Calling a Bluff or Accepting an Offer?

During public hearings over the final status of the Lora Lake Apartments, a Burien City Council member was heard to say, "If you believe it's acceptable to live in the flight path at Sea-Tac airport, you ought to come live there."  Well, today SHARE/WHEEL (of Tent City 3 and 4 fame) offered to do just that -- to live at the Lora Lake Apartments while their status is being determined in the courts.
Here's a letter sent by SHARE/WHEEL to Port Commission President John Creighton:
Dear President Creighton:
We respectfully request your consideration of hte following proposal: Let us move out of our tents and into the Lora Lake Apartments on September 27, 2007. In exchange, we give you our word of honor that in March 2008 we will move back out if asked by you, leaving the aprtments in as good - or better - condition than we found them.
Living in our tent community is so much safer than having to sleep alone under a bridge or a bush. But living in an apartment would be much healthier, especially when the temperature drops below freezing.
Try as we might, the winter cold and rain makes many of us sick when we are living in tents. Drying things out, keeping clean, and staying healthy is so much harder in the winter. There are a good number of older people and disabled people in Tent City 3.  The luxury of living in housing for several months would surely get more of us out of our present homeless situation and back into permanent housing.
How we would self-manage living in an apartment for the winter would be differnet, in some ways, than how we self-manage Tent city 3. In other ways it would be similar. We already pay for the garbage (dumpster and utilities (porta potties and D Cell batteries). Security patrols are already a 24/7 activitiy, and litter patrols operate daily.
You may know that SHARE is already King County's largest indoor shelter network. We also operate several houses, where our workers live. Our indoor opoerations are therefore insured. The Port of Seattle, therefore, would not be asked to pay for any operating costs and you would be an additional insured on our policy. The financial risk to you, therefore, would be negligible.
There would be other advantages to the Port of Seattle. The Lora Lake Apartments would be safeguarded by our community. We would ensure that there were not unauthorized visitors or dangerous activities. This would cut down considerably on the costs of your security guards and lighting.
Your important partner, the City of Burien, would also benefit. We of Tent City 3 eat and shop in whatever town we are in, and Burien merchants would therefore benefit.
Our partnership to temporarily reopen the Lora Lake Apartments would also reconfirm that the Port is serious about being a positive governmental entity in King County, and that the controversial stand you ahve taken on tearing down the Lora Lake Apartments was for principles reasons, not due to disregard for poor and powerless people.
SHARE is no stranger to working in partnership with the Port of Seattle. For over two years our Safe Haven Shelter operated very well in a Pier 46 Terminal Warehouse on Seattle's Central Waterfront. You can check with those we worked with - we always kept our word, kept the place clean, and when it was time to go we moved with thanks (and no pleading).
SHARE and WHEEL are both organizations made up solely of homeless and formerly homeless people. WHEEL is only women and SHARE is co-ed. When we work together our Code of Conduct is stringent - it allows no fighting or drugs, and requires non-violence and sobriety.
After 16 years, we know what works. Our community is made up of sober individuals with diverse talents. There is practically every kind of maintenance worker you can imagine living at Tent City 3.
We are confident you will give this proposal the consideration it deserves. Toward that end we are eager to meet with your representatives and outline our proposal in greater detail.
Thank you for your consideration,
Signed (by 29 members of SHARE/WHEEL)
Imagine being able to shut down Tent City 3 for a period of six months.  What a great relief this would be to people who otherwise would be living outdoors all winter long.  Port of Seattle commissioners have said they're sympathetic to the problem of homelessness.  Here's an opportunity for them to put their words into actions.


Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Anti-Homeless Candidates Struggle in Last Night's Primary

With most precincts counted after last night’s primary it’s worth taking a look at some key local races we’ve watched at the Church Council.  Of course we don’t do politics, but our social justice work is greatly impacted by the results of each election cycle.

The races we’ve kept an eye on this season are in Woodinville (where we’re supporting Northshore United Church of Christ which is still fighting a backwards city council in court over hosting tent city over a year ago), Burien (where the city council has voted to demolish the Lora Lake Apartments) and the Port of Seattle (where a 3-2 vote by commissioners momentarily meant doom for the units at Lora Lake).

Here are results:

City of Woodinville Council Position No. 2

Jeff Glickman        382    38.47%

Randy Ransom        421    42.40%

Dave G. Henry        188    18.93%

Write-in        2    0.20%

City of Woodinville Council Position No. 6

Susan Boundy-Sanders        295    29.62%

Liz Aspen        377    37.85%

Al Taylor        146    14.66%

Christy Diemond        176    17.67%

Write-in        2    0.20%

City of Burien Council Position No. 4

J. Fulop        578    21.99%

Gordon M. Shaw        980    37.29%

Stephen Lamphear        1054    40.11%

Write-in        16    0.61%

Port of Seattle Commissioner Position No. 2

The-Anh Nguyen        5370    4.53%

Gael Tarleton        37902    31.97%

Wen Wu Lee        5426    4.58%

Jack Block Jr.        13278    11.20%

Bob Edwards        33172    27.98%

Thom McCann        22893    19.31%

Write-in        515    0.43%

Port of Seattle Commissioner Position No. 5

Bill Bryant        34129    29.40%

Alec Fisken        50536    43.53%

Catherine J. Perkins        22797    19.64%

Stephen Symms        8054    6.94%

Write-in        579    0.50%

The Port of Seattle contest was the easiest to call.  All candidates supported preservation of the 162 units at Lora Lake.  One would have to wonder if Edwards’ last-minute decision to support preservation of Lora Lake helped him against a crowded field.  His campaign brochure featured a color photo of him with his arm around Ron Sims.  Could that endorsement by Sims have happened if Edwards had been backwards on Lora Lake?

In the City of Burien, Lora Lake opponent Gordon Shaw made it to the General, but was polling well behind his chief opponent, Stephen Lamphere, a Lora Lake supporter.  Only Burien council member Rose Clark has been more vocal in opposition to preservation of Lora Lake.

In Woodinville, Al Taylor and Jeff Glickman are both close allies of current council members Roskind, Stecker, and Price, who have led the fight against Northshore UCC.  Taylor’s skimpy 15% is a spanking by voters.  Glickman heads to the General in second place to a strong and experienced candidate in Randy Ransom, former mayor.  

In each of these races one of the most critical issues they faced was their stand on homelessness — either about Tent City 4 or about the Lora Lake Apartments.  The results, especially in Woodinville and Burien, suggest candidates’ positions on homelessness are a piece of the puzzle voters consider as they make their decisions.  This is a wake-up call to anti-homeless elected officials.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

My favorite YouTube Video

Have some fun watching this . . . .

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Comments at today's immigration press conference

The federal government's immigration practices are going from bad to worse with Pres. Bush's announcement that immigration enforcement will be ramped up over the next weeks.  This means more raids, more families broken apart, more people displaced . . . .

Here are my comments to the press at this morning's press conference by the Comite Pro-Amnistia General y Justicia Social.

At the Church Council of Greater Seattle we believe the foundation of our daily life as a society is the family.  A strong bond between parent and child is the best way to ensure our society has a strong future.  Everyone child should be nurtured in a family where he or she is loved and protected by a parent or parents who raise them and teach them and nurture them to full adulthood.  That is why we are particularly concerned about the effect of immigration enforcement on children and families.
This is a significant problem and under-reported problem. Pew Hispanic Center study reports there are 11.5 to 12 million unauthorized immigrants in the U.S.  In addition to that number there are 3.1 million children who are U.S. citizens by birth, living in families where at least one parent is an unauthorized immigrant.
We know these families.  These children and their parents sit in the pews of our churches.  These children and parents come to us for baptisms and weddings and funerals.  These families are a beloved part of our daily ministry.  We minister to them because they are beautiful and beloved children of God.
Because of our intimate knowledge of these families, we know that today families of unauthorized immigrants are living in fear.  They fear that
  • if they apply for a drivers’ license they will be taken from their family;
  • if they get sick and have to go to the hospital the government will find out and they’ll be taken from their family;
  • if they’re pulled over by a police officer they’ll be asked questions and they’ll be taken from their family;
  • when their employer gets a “no match” letter from the government, they’ll lose their job and be taken from their family;

The children of unauthorized immigrant families will grow up to be our doctors and soldiers and waitresses and social workers and our teachers.  They belong to us; they are part of us by virtue of the U.S. Constitution which guarantees their citizenship and their right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
There is no human bond stronger than a mother’s love for her child.  The bond of parent to child is an expression of the bond of God to God’s people.  
That’s why it is not right for an American child to come home from school and discover her father has been taken away by the immigration police.
That’s why it is not right for an American child to come home from the playground and discover his mother has been taken away by the government.
We do not want 3.1 million American citizens to hate and fear their government because their mother or father was taken away from them in the middle of the night.
This year Congress was unable to pass comprehensive Immigration reform despite the universal recognition that the current law doesn’t work.  That’s why it is unfair that the federal government is ramping up enforcement of the old, unfair law.  The Church Council of Greater Seattle is already on record calling for complete reform of our immigration laws.  We are also supporting congregations who offer sanctuary to immigrants who are living in daily fear that their family will be torn apart by our unfair immigration laws.  
We call on the federal government to declare an immediate moratorium on enforcement of immigration laws that take parents away from American children.
We call on our government to remember the hopes and dreams of 3.1 million American children who simply want assurance that their mother or father will be able to tuck them into bed tonight.
God calls us as a nation to be more fair, more sensitive to the needs of these children and families. We pray that our elected leaders will remember allow our laws to represent the kind of good, loving people we know Americans to be.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Another lawsuit filed on Lora Lake

And it keeps getting more interesting by the minute.  Yesterday another group filed suit to preserve Lora Lake.  Here’s the press release issued by Citizens to Defend Affordable Housing:

Citizens to Defend Affordable Housing filed suit today to block demolition of the Lora Lake Apartments.  The suit challenges the issuance of a demolition permit by the City of Burien.  The city’s action relied on the Port of Seattle allegedly having analyzed the economic and social effects of demolition of the housing in its Environmental Impact Statements on the Third Runway.

“The problem”, said Pete Buck of Buck Law Group, the attorney for plaintiffs, “is that the Port never, in any of its documents, made any such analysis.”  The failure appears to stem from the fact that when the analysis was done, the Port assumed that Federal Aviation Administration rules would require demolition of the housing, and that the port would have no discretion in this matter. When it turned out that 162 of the units were outside the mandatory demolition zone, the Port never took that into account, and thus never analyzed the effects of removal of 162 units of affordable housing.  In addition, the Port never took into account the dramatic change in availability of affordable housing in the region since the port first made its decision.

“Our land use laws were passed precisely so that a government could not take this kind of action without analyzing the effect,” said Buck.  “The failure of the Port to analyze what loss of the housing means to the region is a fundamental flaw, and one that must be corrected.  The Port is making a horrible decision based on 10 year old documents that today are totally irrelevant.  We are confident that if the effect and the alternatives are fairly considered, the Port will have no choice but to preserve the housing.”

The plaintiff is an association of persons who have been displaced by loss of housing stock or who have been unable to find affordable housing as well as people who have been involved in saving affordable housing. According to Buck, “each of the plaintiffs is a real person with real and dramatic housing needs, and each person represents thousands upon thousands of similarly situated persons in the region.”

Although the suit does not seek a restraining order, and the trial will be after a scheduled August 9 vote by the Port on whether to demolish the housing, the suit points out that if the Port proceeds to destroy the housing notwithstanding the pendency of the suit, under a precedent recently set by Buck in the case of Bauman v. Turpen, the port is liable to replace the housing – at a cost of $32 million – if the suit succeeds.
“The plaintiffs believe that the port would be much better served to sell the apartments to King County for fair market price and allow them to be preserved rather than take on a liability of $32 million by destroying them,” said Buck.

For more information contact
Peter Buck
Buck Law Group

Monday, August 06, 2007

Port Chair Bullies Lora Lake Supporter

Here’s what we’re up against as we work with Port of Seattle.  Port Commission chair John Creighton wrote this e-mail (on his Port e-mail account no less) to Port Commissioner Bob Edwards after Edwards came out in support of preserving the Lora Lake Apartments:

From: “Creighton, John”
To: “Edwards, Bob”
Sent: 7/27/2007 5:13pm
Subject: Lora Lake motion
I want to touch base on our next meeting. I agree with Lloyd that your actions in bringing up the Lora Lake matter without notifying your colleagues (even Alec who supports your position) were disrespectful and contrary to any sense of collegiality or building trust with your fellow commissioners.

In the last two years, you have at different points criticized each one of your fellow commissioners for allegedly keeping information from you or blindsiding you. In my opinion, your actions are of an exponential magnitude worse than anything any other commissioner has done to blindside the commission in the last two years. Unlike other instances, your actions were blatantly premeditated to embarrass the Port and to embarrass your colleagues, all for selfish personal gain at our expense. If you truly had cared about building a coalition to save the Lora Lake apartments, you would have gone about it in a much different way.

Lloyd is a very patient, forgiving and tolerant soul, much more than I am. I want to assure you that I will be back in town on 8/9 and very much in full control of commission meetings. I am the chair of the commission, and will remain chair until replaced by a majority vote of my colleagues. Until that time, I am in charge of the meetings and will not tolerate any bullshit, neither from you or any other commissioner.

It will be my perogative as chair (1) whether we hear any sort of motion on Lora Lake, (2) in what form and language any such motion will take, and (3) whether or not we have any public testimony. If you object to any of that, you are free to form a coalition with 2 of your fellow commissioners to replace me as chair. If you are disruptive in the meeting, I will not be afraid to either gavel you down or take other action.

I hope that I am making myself crystal clear, but if not, I am happy to follow up with you in person.

I believe that your blatant political grandstanding has done a huge amount of damage to the Port at a time when we were moving beyond all the bullshit and scandal of the last half year. I am looking forward to January, when I hope that we will have a new commissioner in position 2 who has the maturity and the integrity to help move the port forward on the important issues of competitiveness that we really need to be focusing on. But, alas, that is the subject for a separate email.

Sincerely, John

Creighton certainly tests the limits of the word “sincerely” in this e-mail, obtained by Josh Feit of The Stranger. See how Josh interprets it.  It’s sad to think that this kind of bullying and intimidation would be used in a professional, public setting.  Shame on Mr. Creighton for embarrassing himself and the Port!