At The Intersection of Politics and Food In Skyway

by Ira Sacharoff 

Suppose you are an elected official, representing a large area, and part of the area you represent is a retail district that has been in decline for a number of years.  Twenty three years ago, before you represented this district, it had three supermarkets, a hardware store, a drug store, an auto parts store, a couple of taverns, a veterinarian, an auto parts store, a couple of barber shops, a Mexican restaurant, a Thai restaurant, a burger joint, a couple of coffee shops, and more.

Now, twenty three years later, many of the storefronts are empty. There is one supermarket, but where once stood a vibrant neighborhood now is mostly churches and casinos.

Suppose further that a resident and business owner in this area contacts you and asks for your help. This person owns a drive thru coffee stand, and twenty three years ago received a waiver from the local government that you represent, allowing him to open his coffee stand in the parking lot of a supermarket.

He needed the waiver because the zoning of the neighborhood was for pedestrian uses, even though it was in a parking lot, and even though there were no sidewalks to access it. At that time, your predecessor happily helped him out, and he received the waiver. Twenty three years later, unlike most of the other businesses in the area that stood at the time, the coffee stand still exists.

Fast forward twenty three years, and this business owner has purchased a vacant building directly across the street from his existing coffee stand. He wants to open a sit down coffee shop, serve food there, and relocate his drive thru coffee stand across the street, so he doesn’t have to continue to pay rent for the coffee stand in addition to his new mortgage. But the same zoning applies.

He needs a waiver once again because it is zoned for pedestrian uses, and once again, there are no sidewalks ,just mostly vacant buildings, and the local government which you represent has no intention of paying for sidewalks. He wants you to do what your predecessor did, and introduce legislation which would allow him to move his coffee stand across the street. Would you do it?

Of course you would. And a petition of local residents garnered over 1100 signatures suggesting that you help, because they want a sit down coffee shop, and value the contributions the business owner has made to the community. As an elected official, you should want to see the communities you serve do well. So, what’s this all about?

The neighborhood in question is Skyway, twenty minutes southeast of downtown Seattle. The local government is King County, and the elected official is Larry Gossett, who was first elected to the King County Council in 1993, and whose district enlarged in 1997 to include Skyway.

Larry Gossett is a legendary civil rights activist, and deserves much respect. So, naturally, he’s helped out this hard working Middle Eastern immigrant who owns the coffee stand, right?

Nope. He’s told him there’s nothing he can do, the law is the law (Even though in his younger days Councilmember Gossett participated in a number of civil disobedience actions.)

To make a short story long, King County will be holding an open house/Town Hall at the Secondary Learning Center, 7800 S. 132nd St, Seattle, WA 98178, June 15th, 7 PM . Mark your calendars and show up! Councilmember Gossett will be there.

Prior to his serving on the council, he participated in numerous actions demanding action from elected officials. Whether from incompetence, or laziness, or discrimination against Middle Eastern immigrants, Councilmember Gossett has refused to help.

I’m showing up, and it would just warm the cockles of my heart if all of you showed up too. Just because a politician did good things years ago doesn’t mean they get to rest on their laurels. I think an injustice is being done here, and a guy famous for fighting injustice should not be sitting on his hands. 

Featured image belongs to the public domain

7 thoughts on “At The Intersection of Politics and Food In Skyway”

  1. Larry Gossett probably hasn’t been to Skyway forever. I remember him going door to door the first year he ran for the Council. I will be shocked if he shows up for this meeting. Even the true blue Democrats won’t vote him back next time if he fails to do something that could help the area.

  2. Well said Ira!
    Upper Skyway had been needing a nice little cafe ever since August 1975 when Marijoe’s Cafe closed (The State Farm Insurance building across from the 7-11)

  3. Thank you for bringing up this issue. I agree with you that Larry Gossett has done little if nothing for quite some time. It’s past time for him to go!

  4. This is an exemplar issue, but far from the only issue of neglect in the Skyway community by its local government in the past 20 years and more.

    Another big one is the county’s apparent insistence that Skyway be one of the only places in the entire unincorporated area where marijuana stores ought to be located. Even now the head of local government is resisting following the King County Council directive from last year to propose legislation to expand the area to encompass where most unincorporated residents actually live.

    The fact that our elected officials have demonstrated more concern for their political perception in other neighborhoods than for the future of Skyway ought to call into question their true capacity to govern fairly.

  5. After attending the meeting tonight and listening to our elected officials one thing is clear……Larry needs to be shown the door! Just wants to defend bureaucracy and red tape. While some in the audience were rude at times it in no way justifies his combative nature regarding the current state of Skyway as a community. We live here and we should make the decisions to prosper and aspire to greater things. I commend the other officials for making an effort despite a somewhat fed up crowd. I also want it to be clear no one is against having churches in the community we just want balance. Having ten churches, three or four taverns, a couple of casinos and what was it five I think pot stores things are seriously out of balance. Won’t find that where he lives I bet.