There has been a lot of buzz around the Seattle City Council’s historic adoption of a $15 minimum wage, the highest in the nation. Now there’s also excitement over last week’s passage of a living wage ordinance by the King County Council that sets the same wage floor for county employees and contractors.
Yes, $15 is more than twice the federal minimum wage, which stands at a paltry $7.25 an hour and that Congress has failed to increase for five years and counting.
But despite the recent local victories, let’s not hang up a “Mission Accomplished” banner just yet; we still have a long way to go. In this debate, some have argued that $15 is too big of a jump. On the contrary, it does not go far enough.
First and foremost, $15 is not enough for King County families to meet basic needs.
The report finds that the hourly wage full-time workers in King County need to make basic ends meet, ranges from $17.37 an hour for a single individual to $34.46 for a single adult with two children. These calculations include food, housing, utilities, transportation, health care, household, small savings, child care and tax costs. They assume a 40-hour workweek. (See http://www.thejobgap.org.)
Meanwhile, if you can’t make ends meet, it’s not as simple as just finding another job. Another study the Alliance released last year found that, for every living wage job for a single individual in Washington state, there are eight job-seekers.
For a single parent with two kids, there are 21 job seekers for every living wage job. Seventy-eight percent of all job openings in Washington don’t pay enough for that parent to survive.
Quite simply, many King County families aren’t making ends meet, and $15 is not a living wage.
Our improved minimum wage falls short by other measures as well. A Center for Economic and Policy Research report finds that, had the federal minimum wage kept up with economic productivity, it should have been $21.72 an hour in 2012, about three times the current minimum wage.
It is also worth noting that several exceptions have watered down the policy. The Seattle minimum wage is phased-in, getting to $15 an hour gradually between 2017 and 2021, depending on the size of the business and whether it offers health care.
The Seattle wage schedule gets us closer to an actual living wage than we’ve been in the history of our living wage study, which goes back to 1999. But in reality, it remains a modest step in the right direction.
In the end, the triumph of $15 is that it was a bottom-up approach to progressive policy change that succeeded. After all, it was Seattle’s low-wage workers who first had the courage to demand a $15 minimum wage — and they got it.
Many families face impossible balance sheets, paying living costs, maybe student loan debt or medical bills, and are having excruciating kitchen table conversations.
A $15 minimum wage is a huge step in the right direction, but we must remember that this is only the beginning in the movement for a more prosperous Washington and America.
Gems is a column devoted to spotlighting the various denizens who contribute to the rich mosaic that is the South Seattle area.
Who: Lisa Cooper
Best Known Around South Seattle As: “That” lady who never met a volunteer opportunity she didn’t like
SpecialTrait: Inexhaustible charm she disseminates freely throughout South Seattle
Motto: “Yes!!!” (To whatever wide eyed idea you just presented her with that will improve the southend)
What do you like most about South Seattle?
The people. The ‘struggle’. You know in horticulture, the sweetest fruits are from plants that have endured some stress in order to survive. When the roots have to look harder for water and nutrients in the soil, they produce more sugar. I think that process is alive and well in the varied and vibrant communities of South Seattle. People from all walks of life seem to come together more readily here than elsewhere in the city. Conversations tend to flow easily- even when not speaking the same mother tongue. Everyone is wanting the same thing essentially which are solutions and fixes to the myriad challenges we face. We may all have different ideas about how to go about bringing the change that is needed- but it is precisely these differences in perspective that make our group dynamic so powerful. Worldly people working together to make it happen, all while embracing our differences and celebrating each other. Folks from Somalia, South America, South East Asia, Ukraine, Japan, the Philippines, the USA – making great change together. Making art and music together. Crafting policy together. Teaching children together. Building community together. It is the quintessential Great American Story. Of course, the process is not without its strife- but even that part is essential. Making our victories all the sweeter.
You live in the much maligned area of Skyway, which some call South Seattle’s red headed step child. What is the most surprising thing about it in comparison to other areas of South Seattle?
Skyway may look funny or scary or inconsequential on the outside- but true riches are tapped by scratching the surface. There are some very, very cool people and places here. Full on creative class. I am surprised and delighted that you can have roosters here. I did not realize that they are against the law in King Counties incorporated parts. There are a few in my neighborhood and it is a joy to hear them crowing on sunny mornings. The little dudes are kind of lazy actually (thankfully) so they tend to crow later in the morning rather than at the crack of dawn. Either that or they are very well trained. Unincorporated King County Roosters Rule. Another pleasant surprise is that we have among the best water standards in the entire nation in Skyway. Serious shout out to the Skyway Water and Sewer District. At what other utility around here can you call and actually have a friendly , knowledgeable person answer the phone and take your payment while chatting about the neighborhood? Its a throwback to easier times. Where I live we have well water that is so pure I now notice how bottled waters taste ‘off’. The views of Lake Washington and Mt Rainier are insane from this perspective. There is a vantage point a few blocks from me where the panorama of Lake Washington looks like Switzerland. Mt Rainier looms majestically from points all around the West Hill. We are so very lucky that this area is beautiful, relativity untouched and still quite pastoral. It is an asset to be carefully protected from the run-away train that is the overly dense urban development here in the Puget Sound region. Biggest surprise of all is that there are no current residents or any recorded history of the Duwamish Tribe up here on the West Hill. They inhabited this land long before we came along with our maps, boundaries, claims and county lines. Duwamish villages stood all along Lake Washington, the Black, Cedar and Duwamish rivers. How did they use this land up here on the hill- of which Skyway is centered? It was Duwamish hunting grounds for goodness sake. I have a hunch that if one were to follow the origins of Renton Ave South, it would trace back to a trail made and used by the Duwamish People. Somewhere there is a Duwamish burial ground up in the Earlington neighborhood. Chief Seattle’s Mother was Lake Washington Duwamish- from what I gather her people lived in a longhouse on the ground that is now the Boeing/Renton Municipal Airfield. The last Chief of the Duwamish- Henry Moses- grew up on that land. He attended Renton High School and was their star football player in the 1920s. How cool and how mind blowing is that? I feel strongly that we need to invite the Duwamish People back to the area. They would be a potent force in helping to envision and construct a new way of life here in Skyway, the West Hill and all of South Seattle.
One more surprise and then I will stop. Surprised that the Renton School District is the largest employer in Skyway. And that they are so readily engaged in helping make this a stronger community through open thinking, accountability and access. They are a huge resource. But we need family businesses here. That could change things for the better. A restaurant like the much beloved and recently closed Silver Fork on Rainier(still mad at Safeway for that land grab) , a coffee house, a bakery, a pizza place, Mom and Pop hardware store, thrift shop. Right up there by the new library that is being built. Gathering places for our ready community.
You work at Ebbets, which is a throwback jersey and vintage flannel maker, if you were going to produce throwback jerseys for some South Seattle neighborhoods what would they look like?
This is such a fun question I can hardly stand it. I am one of the founders and owners of Ebbets Field. We have been crafting products based on sports history for 26 years now. Teams most always derived their names from something specific to a town or a region. So having said that…
Columbia City Millers.
Columbia City used to have multiple saw mills. Once cut and stripped, logs would shoot down to Lake Washington- to be then transported around the region by boat or by train. Colors could be Dark Green and Blue. Logo would be a Doug Fir
Seward Park Owls.
Natch. Did you know that Owls do not poop? They regurgitate everything. And that coyotes wrongly get a bad wrap about missing cat when owls are usually the true culprit. You learn all of this on the evening owl walks in Seward Park. Colors would be brown and gold like their eyes
Nod to resident great Jamal Crawford who (I believe) coined the phrase. There is something truly special and different about the talent coming out of Rainier Beach High School. In basketball they have a drive and a talent and a vibe that is unmatched. And it keeps going on and on and on. Stress=sweeter fruit could be at play. Colors Royal Blue and Orange. Mt Rainier is the sleeve patch.
The Coast Salish- of which the Duwamish are a tribe- have stories to explain the origins of everything. These are called Transformer Stories. This name also acknowledges all of the dedicated residents that are living and working together to transform Skyway into something even better. As lastly- it ties into the giant electrical transformers cutting a swath thought the heart of the area- bringing light and heat and compromised views. That would be the logo- a giant transformer. Colors silver and black
Mt Baker Capitalists.
Sorry- I couldn’t resist. Mt Baker has the most money of all of these neighborhoods and is known for its mansions and its views. Unimaginative- I know. Colors: 3 shades of Green.
If you had the power of the goddess Athena what would you bestow upon South Seattle?
Another great question. Athena. Known as the Goddess of War. She was most adept at strategy. And was equally adept at peacemaking. It is said she created the olive tree. That is pretty powerful stuff: creator of food, shelter, fuel.. I would borrow her powers to help devise wise strategy for the future successes of South Seattle. And to help people see when it is better to extend the proverbial olive branch rather than fight over it or fight with it. A good listen reveals The Blue Scholars “The Long March” EP as Athena. I think it is the soundtrack of South Seattle. Masterful in showing the duality of our situation here. One hand open and the other closed into a fist. That’s the other thing I would do – get everyone a copy of that album, a quiet room, a great pair of headphones, an easy chair and nothing but time to listen and ponder the message and the musicality of this fine work coming out of our area. Its about 10 years old now- and just as on point today as when it first came out. Perhaps more so.
Five years from now what would you want someone to be able to say about South Seattle and Skyway that can’t currently be said now?
For South Seattle- that it is the most progressive area in Seattle with admirable success rates in housing, education and job creation programs. Envied and copied around the nation.
For Skyway- Vast open space protected from development while our central business district is forwarded as a thriving retail and service sector resulting in multi-lingual growth,education and job opportunities for our children and adult residents. And seeing the Duwamish people welcomed back to their home turf and in turn helping to forward our progress.
On October 1st 2014, individuals gathered in droves underneath the Mount Baker Light rail station in a space referred to as the Plaza, for the Artspace Mount Baker Lofts grand opening to the public. The seemingly ordinary space that is typically rushed by commuters, students and families had been transformed into an outdoor amphitheater. Rows and rows of seating visitors and residents faced the honorary stage while many more stood in bunches peering with curiosity. What exactly is Artspace and what does it mean for the neighborhood? “It encompasses everything that we stand for,” Judith Olson from Quantum Real Estate, one of the major funders for the project, expressed.
Artspace works to provide low income artists, their families and arts organizations with affordable and sustainable places to live and work. They do this with the hopes that the artists and arts organizations plant roots within the community, and thus become an inseparable force of revitalization and growth.
The Open House for the new Mt. Baker Lofts project provided visitors with the opportunity to meet the residents and to view the lofts, as well as the organizations that occupy the commercial spaces. It also provided residents with the opportunity to feature their work. Residents overwhelmingly express love for the project and their new residences, ranging in price from $428-1,281 per unit. Some of the residents have grown up in South Seattle while others are new to the area. Robert, a local who lives on the hillside just behind Mt. Baker lofts expressed concern about the whether or not Artspace is supporting the life and community that already exist in the neighborhood. Robert, who has seen many of his tenants move south to Renton because they could no longer afford rent, expressed frustration with revitalizing a neighborhood that cannot support its tenants. Two of his housemates did not make the cut after applying to live in the Mt. Baker Lofts.
Artspace has shown a deliberate investment into building partnerships with community based organizations and artist in the area. James Wong from the Vietnamese Friendship Association (VFA) feels strongly that Artspace truly cares about cultivating the history and cultural identity of the neighborhood, referring to their efforts as “preserving the culture, language, and richness here,” as VFA prepares to launch the first Vietnamese-English bilingual preschool in Seattle out of the commercial space. A capoeira studio and a center that supports artist with disabilities have moved into two of the commercial spaces as well. Tobya Art Gallery, owned and operated by Admassu Guessese, opened to feature African artists. Urban Wilderness Works, an organization that has been in operation for 10 years out of South Seattle has also moved in, sharing a commercial space with Washington Trail Association, operating a gear lending library for leaders working with groups. These are only a few of the organizations that now call Mt Baker lofts home.
While Artspace does receive 10-15 percent of their funding from private funders, public funding makes up 75-80 percent of their funding stream, making Artspace residences quite sustainable. The public funding that each project receives is a combination of resources allocated for transit-oriented or cultural preservation real estate development, as well as Tax Credits reserved for Low Income Housing and also Historic Preservation. Other funders for this project include Impact Capitol, Washington Community Reinvestment Association (WCRA), The Department of Housing Trust Fund, and 4Culture. Representatives from all of the major funders shared some remarks on their willingness and excitement to continue funding the project. Since its inception in 1979, Artspace has opened the doors 36 artist residence projects and 11 more are in development. This does not include the 223 consulting projects that they have carried out. This particular residence is a transit-oriented space with no allocated parking associated with the building.
Artspace started with the intention to address gentrification in neighborhoods around the country. They strategized a way to keep artists in the district, moving from the approach of barriers, to seeing the infinite creative and cultural wealth. As a result, Artspace experiences artists as community builders, creators, and entrepreneurs.
When I settled down to listen to Mary Lambert’s first album, Heart On My Sleeve, I knew her only as the woman featured on “Same Love” by Macklemore. Being a Seattleite hipster, I of course know all of the words to the song, and very much appreciate Lambert’s voice on the track. Therefore, it was with excitement that I clicked the first track, a song called “Secrets”. The first lyric was: “I have bipolar disorder”. Okay, I thought, A bit overly direct, but it could work. The song was upbeat, a bit like the Alanis Morrisette song I always wanted, with a catchy chorus. Although not very insightful, it was honest, and though simplistic, I definitely didn’t hate it.
The next song was more of the same – entitled “So Far Away”, this one reminded me more of Kelly Clarkson than Alanis. It hearkened back to the music I loved when I was 13, depressing lyrics matched to a bouncy melody that any bitter preteen could yell along to. “Ribcage”, her third song, featured both KFlay and Angel Haze and was a pleasant, though slight, departure from Lambert’s previously established pattern. Though the Angel Haze feature was rather unnecessary, the song’s quality matched the lyrics in a far more effective way than the first two on Lambert’s album.
Fourth in line was a slam poem called “Dear One”. This would have been absolutely perfect for the first track – dark, short, and a bit corny, it would have set the mood for the album very nicely. However, as a fourth song, it was just plain too much. The emotion in Lambert’s voice by this time added corniness rather than honesty to the track, and I found myself tuning out what I might have been interested in had it come before three depressing songs.
“Dear One” was followed by the token ballad, “When You Sleep”, which might be described as the desperate girl’s anthem. That being said, when I was in my early teenage years it would have reduced me to tears. Not just quiet tears, either, but those deliciously messy bawling-and-screaming-lyrics-in-your-mom’s-borrowed-minivan tears. Again, a hearkening back to the early 2000s in a way that I didn’t quite hate. However, this song was a bit less innocuous than the other bits of preteen fluff. With lines centered on changing for another so that they will continue to love you, it reminded me of the trend in modern pop culture that taught me and many others everything I know about the wrong way to love someone: to give up yourself so that another will love you enough to stay. This sentiment is prevalent in most music geared toward teenagers, and it makes my hair curl just a bit – if Lambert is so keen on advertising herself as a progressive, queer, women’s right-oriented young lady, then that shit has no business on her album.
The rest of the songs ranged from Avril Lavigne to Fiona Apple and back to Alanis and Kelly, carrying through the 2001 angst sound relatively seamlessly. I found myself nodding along to many of the remaining tracks, and even genuinely liking a few. The title track of the album was among the best of these; with a strong base line and catchy hook, it channeled Sara Bareilles’s vivacity and charm. Others, including another ballad entitled “Wounded Animal”, were not so strong. Regardless, the rest of the album ended without incident, and each song strung together to form a cohesive piece.
Ultimately, as I compared each track to different early 2000s female songwriters, and reminisced about the good and bad themes from my childhood favorites, I was struck with Lambert’s intelligence. This album seems marketed toward the current generation of young teenagers, which, let’s face it, is where the money is at. Though maybe not the most original writing I’ve ever heard, Lambert certainly isn’t offensive, and if her themes on love are a bit sappy and misguided, at least she isn’t promoting misogynistic views. Would I recommend this album to my music-savvy adult friends? Absolutely not. Might I buy it for my 14 year old cousin? Definitely.
The bottom line: Sounding like a mix of every female singer from 1995-2005, Lambert’s first album is rather immature, both in content and song structure. However, the work as a whole is inoffensive, and I found three or four tracks musically interesting. This CD might not make waves in music history, but would probably be a good Christmas gift for any young teenagers around the house.
Mary Hubert is a performing artist, director, and arts administrator in the Seattle area. When not producing strange performance concoctions with her company, the Horse in Motion, she is wild about watching weird theater, whiskey, writing and weightlifting.
Editor’s Note: This letter was written by the author in response to the pending construction of the King County Children and Family Justice Center building that many in the south Seattle community have deemed a “youth prison.” The Seattle City Council will be convening at City Hall Monday at 2:00pm to vote on allowing amendments to the City’s current land use codes that will aid in the development of the building. Councilmember O’Brien’s reply follows the letter.
Dear Councilmember O’Brien,
I was at the hearing two weeks ago on the zoning issues regarding the new juvenile justice center. I supported and campaigned for you in the last city council election, in no small part due to your courageous stand regarding the tunnel. While some thought it was grandstanding, I viewed your position as genuine conviction and imagination.
Have you to considered the similarity of the tunnel and juvenile jail situations?
The tunnel was approved by an electorate who saw a piece of crumbling infrastructure, and decided to upgrade it. You were convicted that the car-centric, carbon-reliant solutions were fundamentally flawed, and you called on us to have greater imagination. You worked to fight the tunnel at every turn, even in settings that were not intended to be referendums on the tunnel (specifically) or fossil fuel-based economics (generally).
Consider now the new youth jail. If anything this vote is less of an honest reflection of the will of the people than the tunnel was. A cursory read of the ballot initiative for the jail demonstrates that the language was obfuscating– it was described as a juvenile justice center for social services, and hardly mentioned the fact that is primarily a jail. Regardless of that reality, people saw a crumbling building and were told there was no option but to replace it.
I say let the youth prison crumble to dust and be eradicated from memory. Rather than replace a jail for children (which you surely know has housed black and brown children in outrageously disproportionate numbers) with a sturdier version of the same monstrosity, please issue a call for us to envision better solutions. The country of New Zealand, provinces in Canada, schools in Oakland, and municipalities around the world have replaced incarceration-based juvenile justice systems with restoration-based juvenile justice systems, and done so with incredible success.
Big Bertha sits in a money pit, and eventually will enable the release of huge amounts of carbon in the name of convenience. At least you stood against it. Can we count on you to make as courageous a stand for the sake of our youth as you did for the sake of our environment?
Rev. John Helmiere
Valley & Mountain Fellowship
5623 Rainier Avenue South
Seattle, WA 98118
Councilmember O’Brien’s Response:
While I am planning to support this land use change King County is requesting, I do not support the disproportionate arrest, sentencing and detention of youth of color. I have tried to use this land use code change to leverage an opening for concerned communities to get a seat at the table with the County—including many young people of color who will be most impacted by this new facility and who have largely been left out of the conversation to date.
I understand I am letting those same communities down by supporting this land use change, but my support for it is resulting in positive, constructive steps with the County that they were not considering even one month ago. The County is committed to conducting a racial impact analysis and is committing that the findings of that analysis will influence the design and programming that happens at the new facility.
Through this process, I am also committing the City and myself personally to be actively engaged in the racial impact analysis, including looking at specific actions that the City can take to reduce the racial disparities for youth in the criminal justice system.
The game against Washington involved some blatantly wrong calls, some poor execution, and a lack of turnovers from the defense, but still resulted in a comfortable road win. The Seahawks also remain mostly healthy, when compared to the attrition throughout the league, our team is in great shape to take advantage of the schedule getting easier, and return to the Clink for some home cooking against Dallas this week.
Dallas is on a 4 game winning streak, and even the first loss of their season at home to the 49ers featured 4 fluky first half turnovers that cover up the fact that they controlled the better part of that ballgame. Dallas features strong skill players in Dez Bryant and emerging 2nd year wideout Terrace Williams coupled with Jason Witten at TE, but the team is now based around DeMarco Murray and their strong running game. No team has more rushing attempts than Dallas, and only the Seahawks average more yards per game than the Cowboys. Their offensive line is young and extremely talented, pass protecting Romo much better this year and clearing huge holes for Murray to run through.
On defense Dallas has forced turnovers at a good clip to help cover up some of their warts. They don’t stop the run very well, and are prone to also give up the big passing play. They have rushed the passer well using a collection of little known ends and tackles, and are amongst the league leaders in QB pressures on the year. Overall they give up considerably more yardage against the pass and the run when compared to the Seahawks unit though, and should have difficulty with the efficient offense the Seahawks possess.
I expect the first quarter to be strength on strength with Dallas trying to establish the run versus the Hawks league leading run defense. Dallas will have limited success early on, and Murray who also leads the league in fumbles will put a ball on the ground in the first half leading to Seahawk points. The Hawks will grind out tough yards between the tackles via Marshawn and get at least one big play over the top for a touchdown building a two score halftime lead. In the second half Dallas will open things up some, but I don’t expect them to abandon the run. Romo will throw at least one pick, but they will score a couple of times making the final tally closer than the game would indicate. The Seattle run D stops Murray’s hundred yard game streak limiting him to 80 on the ground. Russell finishes with another strong game with over 200 yards passing and two scores to go along with two rushing TDs by the backs.
Final game prediction: Seahawks 34 Dallas 20
Reportage, Culture & Commentary From The Most Eclectic Place on Earth