At the beginning of this month, I attended a meeting of the Seattle City Council’s PLUS (Planning, Land Use, and Sustainability) Committee. The Committee hosted this meeting to hear public comments on the proposed rezone of the area around the Mount Baker Link Light Rail station. This is the area that has been identified for the location of the North Rainier Urban Village (http://www.seattle.gov/dpd/cityplanning/completeprojectslist/northrainier/whatwhy/). The rezone would change the existing zoning to a designation called Seattle Mixed-use and raise height limits to 65, 85, and 125 feet, depending on the parcel of land in question. I attended to testify strongly in favor of this proposal, as it represents the best way to develop Rainier Valley in a way that is inclusive, attractive, and future-focused.
The reason for the proposed rezone has its roots back almost 15 years. Back in the late 1990s, the Seattle Department of Neighborhoods, in tandem with neighborhood residents and other stakeholders, developed a vision for the northern corridor surrounding Rainier Avenue South. Through this plan, they envisioned development that was transit-oriented, mixed-income, and walkable. While the rest of Seattle has continued to change at a rapid pace and Link Light Rail brought much needed connectivity to the neighborhood, the status quo, with respect to zoning, has not led to the kind of development desired there. Much of the area remains low-density strip malls or underutilized buildings that fail to engage pedestrians or integrate well into their surroundings. The rezone would create additional incentives and a framework to make this happen, in a way that is consistent with the original vision.
Naturally, any plan that intends to bring large-scale change will lead to some degree of contention. Residents from all over Southeast Seattle packed the Committee hearing on a day where the temperature rose to an unseasonable 80 degrees. Many of the opponents to the planned rezone showed up early and made their concerns known loud and clear. The kinds of structures that would be built would be out of character. The new development would lead to traffic and congestion. If current levels of retail occupancy in mixed-use developments continued, new buildings would fail and too many workforce housing units would lead to unintended consequences. Many opponents also expressed concerns about the process that produced the proposed rezone. They had not been adequately informed or consulted, they said.
As someone who has been engaged with the North Rainier planning process since 2011, I was concerned by what appeared, at least very initially, to be overwhelming opposition. Thankfully as the comment period continued, a greater number of proponents began to lay out their arguments and restore balance. Ultimately, after two hours of testimony and public comments, it seemed reasonable to say that while the concerns were not entirely unreasonable, that they misguidedly defended a suboptimal status quo for fear of unknown (as opposed to likely) outcomes. At the PLUS Committee, I expressed an abbreviated version of the following opinion:
I’ve lived in both Columbia City and, before that, Mount Baker, for the past three years. In Mount Baker, I lived on Walden Street, one block from the area to be rezoned, in a mixed-use building. Currently I live in Columbia City less seven-tenths of a mile from the proposed rezone. I support this proposal because it will add a critical mass of infrastructure, people, and amenities. Currently much of this area is underutilized urban space. For many, it can feel unsafe and it is unquestionably unpleasant to navigate on foot. Anyone who has lived in the area knows, for instance, about the activity around the National Pride Car Wash. Right there, on the street, is what appears to be an open-air drug market. A year and a half ago, two people were shot at this location (http://www.komonews.com/news/local/Teens-wounded-in-South-Seattle-175528391.html). There aren’t enough eyes on the street and this kind of development does not benefit anyone.
As City of Seattle’s Planning Department notes, Seattle will add 70,000 households in the next two decades—that’s significant. If Seattle cannot build the density to accommodate these future residents, we will end up with a housing and affordability crisis much like San Francisco’s. There, the crisis has created an immense amount of discord and class conflict as rising housing costs have displaced long-time residents.
Lastly, on the issue of workforce housing, there are many assumptions being made about people who will live in income-targeted housing, as well the number of units under consideration. The current zoning proposal will require developers to include a limited number of affordable units for each of their projects, if they want to build to the maximum heights allowable under Seattle Mixed. This is known as incentive zoning, and in a city where rents have soared over the past two years (http://seattletimes.com/html/localnews/2021673014_rentincreasesxml.html), an essential tool in keeping Seattle income-inclusive. This will not entail the construction, as some seem wont to believe, entire parcels of housing for the indigent. Indeed, for the purpose of the North Rainier rezone the units in question will be targeted those individuals earning 60-80% of area median income. For a single-person household, this is an income in the mid-$30 to mid-$40,000 a year. Large numbers of white-collar workers, particularly those starting out in careers, fall into this category and I, too, qualified for and lived in workforce housing while working at what was an e-commerce start-up.
The proposed rezone of the area around the Mount Baker Link Light Rail station represents both the continuation of a neighborhood visioning process begun in 1999 and an opportunity to bring quality development to Rainier Valley. For too long, the area has suffered from underinvestment, crime, and blight. Smarter levels of density, in conjunction with the transit links already established by Sound Transit, will lead to development that is engaging at street level, unnecessary to traverse using motorized vehicles, and safe for people of all ages. Different neighborhoods (pick your favorite example) around Seattle have used rezones to create beautiful urban spaces worthy of the name. Rainier Valley, too, can rise.
Note* The Seattle City Council Land Use And Sustainability Committee will be meeting this Tuesday, May 20th to discuss the Mt. Baker Rezone: http://www.seattle.gov/dpd/aboutus/news/events/default.htm?trumbaEmbed=eventid%3D110117410%26view%3Devent%26-childview%3
Young Han is a Columbia City resident interested in economic history and the economics of technological change as well as an advocate for cooperative development, and expanding economic democracy
Most kids today grow up with their mom in the workforce. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, two-thirds of new mothers now return to paid work within a year after giving birth, usually in the first few months.
Back in the 1960s, fewer than one in five new mothers held a paying job. In those days, while the middle class was expanding rapidly, the majority of families had one breadwinner and one fulltime homemaker.
Unfortunately, we still organize our economy as if “women’s work” had little economic value and every family had a fulltime caregiver.
Women have gained tremendous new opportunities in the 50 years since Congress banned employment discrimination on the basis of race and sex. Jobs and activities once reserved exclusively for men are open. So are educational pathways. Women now make up a majority of college graduates and roughly half the workforce. Instead of earning only 60 cents to a man’s dollar, women working fulltime now earn 77 cents.
Men and women still tend to pursue different careers. Here in King County, men hold eight in ten computer and math-related jobs and three-fourths of police and fire department jobs. Women make up two-thirds of health technicians and office administrators and 90% of childcare workers. The typical woman in King County makes $15,000 less each year than the typical man.
Still, up to 40% of the wage gap cannot be explained by differences in jobs, hours worked, education or experience. Too often women get paid less than men in the same job simply because employers can get away with it.
On top of that, the United States, unlike every other advanced economy, leaves working families on their own to cope with care giving. Without uniform standards in place, four in ten workers get no paid sick leave and only half of working women get paid maternity leave – usually cobbled together from saved up sick leave and vacation.
Those with the highest pay are most likely to get paid leave benefits. They are also best able to afford the high cost of quality childcare, which can exceed college tuition – even though childcare teachers earn near-poverty wages.
Because women get paid less and have limited access to paid leave, families suffer bouts of economic insecurity. Staying home with the flu, or caring for a sick child or ailing parent too often means loss of needed income. Women go back to work before they’ve fully recovered from childbirth or established breastfeeding. They accumulate less for retirement and can’t save for their children’s education.
If women received fair pay and had access to paid sick days and to paid family and medical leave, kids would be healthier and better prepared for success in school and life. Fewer seniors would live in poverty. Local businesses would have more customers. Our communities and our democracy would be stronger.
Here’s my Mothers’ Day wish list for Washington’s women:
Fair pay. Discussing compensation with coworkers should not be a fire-able offense. Employers should have to justify pay differences on some basis other than sex or race.
Paid Sick Days. We know that Seattle’s sick leave law has extended paid leave to tens of thousands, while the city’s economy has grown faster than the rest of the state. According to the latest UW study, 70% of Seattle business owners support the law. It’s time to take it statewide.
Family and Medical Leave Insurance. Five states already have programs. Women in these states take longer maternity leaves, suffer fewer health complications, are more likely to breastfeed and take their babies to medical checkups. They are less likely to go on public assistance and more likely to be working and earning higher wages a year after giving birth. Let’s pass Washington’s FAMLI Act in 2015.
We won’t get these done by Mother’s Day – but if everyone passes this list on to their state legislators and candidates, we can give them to our moms and ourselves for next Valentine’s Day.
Marilyn Watkins is policy director of the Economic Opportunity Institute, a nonpartisan policy center focused on building and economy that works for everyone.
What a series the Trailblazers are coming off of beating the Houston Rockets. The Trailblazers went from being a young underdog to merging as a potential Western Conference Finals team. However, next up they go against last year’s NBA Finals runner up, the San Antonio Spurs. The Spurs have a lot of veterans that they expect to lead them to the promise land for another shot at the title. Vets Parker and Duncan’s experience will show against Aldridge and Lillard.
Winner: San Antonio Spurs in 6 games.
Miami Heat vs. Brooklyn Nets
The defending champs are still looking like the favorite coming off 4-0 sweep of the Charlotte Bobcats. While the elderly Brooklyn Nets went to a grueling game 7, beating the young athletic Raptors, the Nets beat the Heat four times during the season and is the only team to do so. However, with the Heat coming off a week of rest, Lebron James will be too much for the Nets
Winner: Miami Heat in 7 games
Washington Wizards vs. Indiana Pacers
The Wizards are the second hottest team in the NBA Playoffs besides the defending champs. Now they are up against the struggling #1 seed Indiana Pacers. This is going to be another tight series, but Roy Hibbert is the key. If he can get his confidence back then the Pacers can win, but it will be tough going up against Washington’s strong post players like Nene and Gortat.
Winner: Indiana Pacers in 7 games
LA Clippers vs. Oklahoma City Thunder
Both teams are battle tested from tight first round series that went all seven games. This is another heavyweight matchup between two favorites. This series X-factor is Russell Westbrook. If he can keep his turnovers down and disrupt Chris Paul’s offensive flow the Clippers are in trouble.
Police are looking for a gunman in the Skyway area after someone fired shots at a car during a traffic stop yesterday evening, according to the King County Sheriff’s Office.
Someone shot at a car that was pulled over by a King County sheriff’s deputy at South 116th Place and 72nd Avenue South, as stated by the sheriff’s office. No one was injured, but several bullets hit the vehicle while the deputy was standing at the window talking to the driver.
The male then jumped into a car and drove away, officers said. Officers and a K-9 searched the area last night but as of today were not able to locate the suspect.
Officers believe the man was shooting at the vehicle, not at the deputy, the sheriff’s department said.
“Coffee that will change the world!” This audacious response to the question of, “What do you hope to accomplish with your business?”, drips smoothly from the mouth of Tin Umbrella owner Joya Iverson, as if she were channeling the taste of the curated java she serves daily to her faithful patrons.
While it’s overly tempting to dismiss this pronouncement as hyperbole that derives from the chutzpah inherent in the archetype of an intrepid entrepreneur, that becomes almost impossible to do once the backstory of the coffee shop that could is recounted. By all accords the nearly year old coffee roastery, located in one of the more obscure areas of South Seattle, should currently be occupying a place in the rubbish heap of forgotten local businesses, whose grand opening ran neck and neck with their unceremonious closing.
Its very existence defies all of the ironclad laws of business etched in the proverbial stone of entrepreneurship. Not only does it reside in one of the most glossed over, and ethnically disparate locations that can possibly be found in South Seattle, but its founder’s prior experience in the coffee business consisted of consuming five cups a day to slog through her previous life as a virtual marketing consultant. As if that weren’t enough, the coffee shop had no product of its own to sell during the first five months of operation, and when it did, it quickly ran out of it at the most inopportune of times, as national coffee day came and went without Tin Umbrella serving a single cup. Add in malfunctioning utilities, a business partner who decided to abruptly quit, and an owner who had exhausted all of her life savings into what seemed like a sinking enterprise, while she recovered from serious traumatic brain damage, and you seemed to have a deluge of calamity on par with various biblical plagues.
Yet despite this torrent of adversity, or perhaps because of it as its founder will tell you, Tin Umbrella Coffee has not only persevered, but flourished ,while galvanizing an area that is often referred to as the forgotten stretch between Columbia City and Rainier Beach. It effectively serves as the central hub for a community that was once the epitome of urban decay, and an enticing target for the gentrification wave that has swept through much of southern Seattle.
It’s this coffee shop that has helped to transform the community of Hillman City into a place where once jaded neighbors now discover each other as friends over a cup of joe, and its diverse residents, with origins from around the globe, no longer feel worlds apart from each other. Change the world? It already has, at least a small portion of it anyway. With all it and its founder has survived, who can doubt that it might just be able to transform the rest of it?
Emerald: What stoked the belief that a coffee shop would be able to thrive in Hillman City? It wouldn’t be the first place in Seattle that most people would choose to establish a business.
Joya: Our dream was to build a coffee shop where there was none. I’ve lived in Hillman City for over 10 years and I love it here! In fact I live just two blocks away from the coffeeshop. I was tired of this area being overlooked, and seeing nothing but abandoned buildings, and bars on windows when I would go outside. I wanted to see if I could do my part in altering our surroundings.
I wanted to see this building (that houses the coffee shop) revitalized. I thought it would be so great to bring it back to something people could use. In my time in Hillman, it had been a troubled dumping spot where garbage cans, mattresses, and tires ended up. Just nothing good had happened here, but the building had this beautiful history and structure, and in my heart I wanted to believe that a little coffee could make a big difference. And there wasn’t a coffee shop here, something that most neighborhoods take for granted. We just assume that there’s good coffee in Seattle and here we are without coffee in walking distance of Hillman. It seemed like, well everyone else has it, except Hillman City. It’s a huge opportunity!
Emerald: What makes Tin Umbrella different from more “generic” coffee shops? Why shouldn’t someone in Hillman or South Seattle just take the “ritual” visit to one of Howard Schultz scads of caffeine hubs (Starbucks)?
Joya: Because, and I truly believe this as I see it running the shop everyday, it’s more than just coffee. Yes this is a coffee shop but it’s also a community space, and a place where neighbors can meet neighbors. I’ve seen some of my neighbors here, who I had never spoken to before, and we’ve figured out, “Oh wow we’ve lived a few blocks from each other for all these years and didn’t know it. I know this person who you also know.” And all that happens here! We of course, strive to have great coffee, you have to in Seattle, but we also think our place should be fun, amazing and enjoyable!
I’ll make coffee, and listen to other people have conversations while they’re in line, or at the table. Strangers engaging in conversation doesn’t always happen in Seattle, especially in coffeeshops, due to the Seattle Freeze. Since I had been here for so long with an established friend circle, I guess I never really knew what that meant until I’d hear it enough, from other people who would talk to each other about how no one actually talks to each other in coffee shops. Here they’re talking which leads them to becoming friends. They exchange information and make a playdate, to weed a garden, or get together. It’s just that cool things happen when a community connects, and Hillman City prior to this we were going to other places and now we have our own little nook.
Emerald: Tin Umbrella actually now roast its own brand of coffee which is named after the Hillman area, a complete turnaround from when you first opened and were serving coffee from other roasters. Can you share a little more about that?
Joya: The most amazing thing about this coffee shop was when we first opened, the goal was to just get the doors open, then to eventually roast our own coffee because roasting our own beans meant that by not paying that a mark up we would actually be able to sustain a coffee shop where there was none.
There’s plenty of traffic along Rainier (Avenue), but we needed to get people to stop and take notice of us, to make coming here part of their daily ritual. We knew that would be something the coffee shop would thrive on, and having a roastery would help do that. When I first looked at things I thought, oh this will be easy enough, “We’ll just build a coffee shop and a coffee roastery”, and of course it was anything but easy. There were a lot of unexpected hurdles and challenges, from outdated electrical and plumbing, getting the right people and team in place who was just as excited as the community as the community was to be here, and all the things that happen when you’re first starting out, like running out of supplies. Getting the shop up and running was more than I could imagine.
That was just the shop, the roastery was a whole other beast (laughter). Its construction kept getting pushed back, so what we did for our first 6 months here was use Olympia Coffee, who was so kind to support us while we got off the ground, which also showed me just how excited people in the community where for our shop. They didn’t care what kind of coffee we served as long as our doors were open! In the meantime we kept plugging away at our roaster and had to keep working through everything from faulty gas outlets, to rewiring the electoral system, to venting and… I’m not even capturing everything we had to go through; I’ve blocked it all out. It’s too painful (laughter). When we finally got the roaster up and running though you could smell the coffee along Rainier Avenue and within five minutes of me posting that it was up on Facebook, a local realtor, and his young son, saw the post did a U-turn from walking in the complete opposite direction and made a beeline for the shop so they could see Hillman City’s first coffee roastery for themselves. The entire community was excited!
Emerald: Can you tell us a bit about your amazing personal story, in the context of founding Tim Umbrella Coffee?
Joya: I think the funniest thing is that people always ask me what my background is in coffee. To which I reply, “nothing!” I was a five cup a day coffee drinker because I was a virtual consultant for various companies and lived on coffee and in coffee shops. One of the perks of the job was that I could work from anywhere in the world, so I ended up living for months at a time in New Orleans, then Mexico, surfing between work breaks. Then I went off to Indonesia, learned Indonesian, and would just followed my heart to wherever. It was great! I found a real passion to travel. I could actually live in a place working Monday thru Friday on my laptop, and on the weekend I could just connect with everyday people from these different places, blogging about my day to day experience off the beaten tourist path. I visited Ethiopia and Istanbul, not realizing at the time that I was picking out the best coffee producing regions in the world to visit. Ethiopia is the birthplace of coffee after all
I had came back to Hillman for a bit and had decided to rent out my house for a year and head back to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, then onto Kenya. I was learning Swahili and sponsoring a girl at the Daaja Academy in Kenya. I had written to her that I would be there soon. But before I left I had decided to head up to Mt. Baker as I’m an avid skier. So as I headed up on a two lane mountain highway another car lost control and I had a head on collision at 60 mph. The other car flipped completely over and I was doing 360s down the highway. My life was flashing before my eyes, and I was saying goodbye (in my mind) to all my friends and family. I kept saying that I wanted to live but if this was it, I lived a beautiful life. Then the airbag slapped me in my face.
Even though I had made it, it didn’t feel like it, because I had hit my head during the accident, and on top of the concussion I suffered from a traumatic brain injury, amongst a long list of other health issues, as my brain struggled to get along. I went from traveling the world to being unable to leave my house in Hillman City. I could hardly open the door, or go to the grocery store. When I got there I would have panic attacks, break downs and all kinds of other problems. I couldn’t listen to the radio it was too scary. I couldn’t listen to music, I couldn’t read, all those things were too intense.
The worst part about the whole injury was that it was all in my head, literally, so it was something no one could see. And because I couldn’t see it, I just kept thinking this was silly. I was in denial. And then within the next couple months, still concussed, I was involved in 2 more wrecks (that were thankfully less serious). The police officer at the last one said, “I think you should just go home and hide.”
That’s pretty much what I did. I just sat on my couch playing the ukulele wearing an eye mask because the light hurt my eyes, trying to make the best out of what I still had. Moment to moment was hard, but with a lot of help and time, finally my mind got calm and I was able to do more, and I asked how can you make meaning of this?How can you take something good from this? I want to choose to do something, because while I was alive I was no longer able to do my chosen profession. So I thought, “Well I like coffee, I love Ethiopia,” I love my time there and I still want to get back there,I loved my neighborhood, and I also had a background in online data analysis and marketing, and so I created these business models of what it would take to open a coffee shop, and then I texted a friend, who was coffee person, and I said, what do you think about, “Coffee to change the world?” Starting with Hillman City, and just do something big?
The world had just done something Big to me. This was my one chance, my life had flashed before my eyes and all I saw was the beauty of trying things. Things I didn’t know would work. I had already done hard things like traveling, often alone, to places that I didn’t know and learning new languages. I thought about how every step I took connected me to a person, a place or thing or a memory, and how beautiful that was, never in that slideshow (of my life flashing before my eyes) was there any regret for anything I had tried and so I was like, “You can die at any second so what are you going to do with your life?” So to me it was like, you get one big flying leap! You can do anything right now, anything! Because the only thing I’m really scared of is death. So I’m like, even if I fail, at least I would have tried and you can walk away knowing that you tried something that you didn’t think you could do. So why not open a coffee shop that was going to be only two blocks away from my house, which was about as far as I could walk at the time! My life has become about a routine of trying and trying and trying again.
Emerald: Have you applied that ceaseless trying to the operation of Tin Umbrella Coffee?
Joya: Hopefully with all my heart, yes! I have to keep reminding myself that we’re here to try, and not everything is going to work, but we’re going to try and we’re going to do what feels good and fun, and just encourage the people around us. It’s neat how many people have shared in my dream of having a coffee shop here. I live in the most amazing neighborhood! I can use anyone of the 5 or 6 languages I speak. Just the other day I ordered chai in Somali. Opening this shop has been kind of like finding my own community.
Emerald: Speaking of community, how have they supported you?
Joya: The support we’ve received has been wonderful! When you take a step in the direction of your dreams it’s scary and hazy, but everyone around me has been so supportive, and it’s neat to see how many others are doing something cool. There’s this positive energy, even when I don’t know if I have what it takes.
One example is that I had been working for months straight without a day off, and as a girl with a brain injury I have to sleep ten hours a day. so there’s a windstorm, and our newly installed sign blows down and it’s the only day I’ve had to truly sleep in months, and the girls at the shop text me and say : “We don’t want to bug you but this sign has blown down, it’s hanging by a thread” and it’s a metal pointy sign so I tell them, “I’ll be there in a second”, my ladder was already at the shop since I live two blocks away, and so I hop in the car thinking that if that sign hits someone that could hurt a customer and we need every customer we can get! (laughter)
So in the time it takes for me to get here, which isn’t too long, I see two regulars, a husband and wife, who ran home to get their own ladder, and she’s holding it as he is fixing the sign. They’ve taken it upon themselves to do all of this! I’m like “Wow!” That probably never would have happened at another coffee shop. People just jump in and contribute, I can’t explain it!
I tell everyone about International Coffee Day, when our coffee grinder broke, so we didn’t even have coffee for International Coffee Day, because by the time we got our grinder working we had ground through all the coffee that we had, so everyone was like: “You know I’ll have hot chocolate, or tea.” One woman said, “You’re more upset about this than I am,” and I was like, “Yeah, because you’re coming to a coffee shop and I’m telling you that we don’t have coffee on International Coffee Day!” but everyone of our customers was fine! People want us to succeed!
What if you got an email today asking you to click a button because there’s a terrible problem? Rather, what if you got 40 of them? Total fiction, right? Even so, if that were to happen, you have a few options. You can click on all the ones that are urgent (That’s all 40), or ignore them, or spend the day unsubscribing. But,maybe you really wish you could make a difference. Maybe you take this stuff seriously, and don’t feel you can just stand by or click buttons any longer.
Good. Now, do something. If we want better lives we can’t sit on our hands. That is easy to say and hard to do. I know; I have been there.
When I first realized it was time to act, I pushed myself out the door to a rally. I didn’t actually think it was going to help anything, unless 10,000 people were planning to join me, but I had to try something and didn’t know what else to do. So I went. I signed in, and as a result I began getting notices of local MoveOn meetings. I went to one. It was awful—truly a waste of time. At this point I could have felt justified in throwing up my hands and going back to clicking online petitions. Instead, I realized how desperately needed we all are. I remained engaged, and was soon invited to attend a leadership training. It didn’t take long until I took over those meetings and began to build progressive power by working with others in Seattle who wanted to make a difference.
For busy people, and we are, on average, busier than we’ve been in several generations, it is important to get it right. Since one of the major features of this crap economy is how it sucks away so much of our time, what we choose had better have a good chance of making a difference.
So that you can spend more time doing something you feel is effective, I’m offering a run-down of the organizing landscape as I see it. This way you don’t have to flail around like I did.
First, I am going to assume you want to work to solve the underlying problem rather than treat the symptom. In other words, do you want to feed the hungry, or fix the structure that causes hunger in the first place? Obviously I have no problem with feeding hungry people. This is important work, but thousands of people across the country happily ladle soup, and too few are actually attempting to make soup kitchens obsolete. We need you in the latter group–badly.
Here are some ways of engaging:
Electoral work: For those of you who still think we should be working to elect progressives, who will then pass laws that benefit regular people, you can always jump in on the action around election season. Pick a favorite (preferably local) candidate or issue this way: 1. Do you share the same values? 2. Is this a winnable fight? (Seriously. Please don’t squander your precious time on things you know are a lost cause, no matter how noble. You are not getting that time back.) 3. Is this candidate or issue mounting a serious campaign? (See #2) Since you are inclined to do electoral work, you may also enjoy making sure the people you help elect know your views. You can write letters to the editor, you can call the elected official’s office and talk with their staff, send email, and you can even meet with him or her either in-district or at the capital, with an appointment of course. Many issue organizations have staff on hand to help you to make the most of your communications. Reach out.
Community Organizing—three vantage points:
Coordinated Left: It is a good thing and a bad thing that there’s coordination among left wing money and power. The mainstream groups rely heavily on phone banks and other tactics people don’t enjoy delivering or receiving. The pros are that they can work together, and avail themselves of strategy and communications experts who have been doing this work for a long time. Some cons are that they are often stuck in a rut; they ask people to do things they don’t like to do, and so struggle to hang onto volunteers. They also chip away at their own success by negotiating too much. This can be illustrated by the faction in the Seattle minimum wage fight that claims a small business is defined by having fewer than 500 employees. Yeah.
Uncoordinated Left: There are many organically grown organizing groups, who reside outside of the left’s mainstream. They have pros and cons as well. They are often more democratic and welcoming of new ideas, but they are not backed by much money. They struggle to carry on. Often, they run with ideas that are less strategic, but at the same time, there is some promise to having no constraints. This group can be characterized as the ones who want the $15 minimum wage to go into effect immediately, no exceptions. This stance is admirable but dismisses out of hand some legitimate concerns. It is a breath of fresh air, though, to those of us who are tired of watching one disastrous negotiation after another.
Highly Trained Grass Roots: This is the style of community organizing pioneered by Saul Alinsky in the ‘40’s, and continues with the work of the organization he founded, the IAF (Industrial Areas Foundation). A well trained organizer becomes embedded in the community s/he wishes to engage. S/he finds out what people are struggling with, what they would like to see addressed first, and what the options are. Local people who have the most at stake are trained in breaking problems down into their parts so they become solvable issues. The strategy for tackling those issues arises from a careful assessment of the resources available, where the opposition is to be found, and what opportunities are present. In this way, for instance, a group can go from being upset about a for-profit prison in Pierce County, to realizing it depends on ICE detainees for funds, to asking local county jails not to comply with ICE requests (holding onto detainees until their immigration status is determined, it turns out, is optional), and asking local municipalities to refuse to send their prisoners to the local jails who do continue to comply with those requests. In this way, 60 local families have remained intact over the last few months who otherwise wouldn’t have. The work is ongoing, but this is winnable.
Whatever you decide to do, there are a lot of choices out there, so if your first run at making a difference doesn’t feel right, try something else. Just do something. Give me a call or send an email (I promise to click on it!) if you want to talk over the possibilities.
Sandra Vanderven is a Senior Organizer at Fuse Washington and Board President of the Backbone Campaign. She can be contacted at email@example.com
Wendy Olsen, MFT, answers all the relationship questions you were dying to ask, but just couldn’t muster up the courage to. You can email questions to editor@southseattleemerald
Q1)I’ve been involved with my boyfriend for over two years, but he still seems hesitant to commit to me. I’ve been very patient with him, however I’ve given him every indication that if he doesn’t soon show that he wants to take us to the next level (ask me to move in, engagement, at least allow me to leave his toothbrush over his house) then it might be time for both of us to move on. He doesn’t seem to be getting the hint though. Is it time for me to give him an explicit ultimatum?
Wendy: It is always best to be very clear with a partner about what your expectations in the relationship are. It sounds like it’s time that you had the conversation with him about where you want the relationship to go. Men aren’t mind readers (neither are women.) Don’t assume he knows anything that you haven’t stated very clearly. He may want something very different from you and you need to know what the differences may be. You also have to be willing to let the relationship go if you know he’ll never meet your expectations. If you stay and don’t get what you want, you’ll spend your life resenting him and feeling disappointed. Know what your “bottom line” is and maintain it.
Q2) Me and my wife are recently married. Everything has been great, except for the sex. She was a virgin before we were married due to her religious beliefs, so I’m much more experienced than she is. Most of the time sex with her is either like directing traffic or being on top of a dead fish. Don’t get me wrong, I love my wife very much but I’m just not being fulfilled sexually. I’m scared to have a conversation with her about it, as I fear she might be ashamed. How do I bring up that perhaps we can try and learn “different” things in the bedroom?
Wendy: Unfortunately, many people don’t have conversations about sex and what they want or expect sexually prior to having sex with a partner. This problem doesn’t fix itself without communication. I suggest you try talking with her from the perspective of a loving husband that is concerned that his wife isn’t enjoying their sex life. If you can begin talking with her about what she enjoys or doesn’t enjoy in love making. There’s an old expression, “sex starts in the kitchen” meaning that there is a ramp up to sexually activity prior to intercourse. Foreplay, foreplay, foreplay. Not just kissing and cuddling immediately following intercourse, but checking in with her, asking about her day, helping around the house, noticing her, etc. These are the things that women report draws them closer to their partners. Feeling loved and secure are powerful aphrodisiacs.
Q3) I’ve been a married for the last 17 years and while I’ve enjoyed being married to my husband, the doldrums have long ago set in. I’m not thinking about a divorce, mainly for our children, however I’ve been propositioned by a colleague of mine to begin a purely physical relationship. I know that it might not be the most responsible thing, but I enjoy his advances and it brings some freshness to my life. Is it wrong to be a little wild and begin something with this guy, as long as I keep it compartmentalized from the rest of my life?
Wendy: Right or wrong isn’t a question that I can answer for you. What I can tell you is that if you decide to have a sexual relationship outside of your marriage, their is a price you have to be willing to pay. Is your marriage worth risking? (Studies show that when a woman cheats, there is a 7Xs more likely chance the marriage will end in divorce.) There is no guarantee that the new relationship will remain purely physical. There is no way to guarantee that your new relationship will remain “compartmentalized.” The other thing people don’t consider when carrying on another relationship, is that there is a lot of work in keeping a secret. Don’t get me wrong, sex with a new partner can be incredibly fun. But, you have what I’ll call “extenuating circumstances.” Your comment in regards to wanting freshness in your life is also understood. My question to you is, why not explore that avenue with your husband? Many couples need a revamp in the bedroom after years together. Being noticed by someone else certainly can be alluring. But, keep in mind that the newness in all relationships wears off. You have invested a lot of love and time into your marriage. You have to decide if sex on the side is worth the potential cost, whether or not your husband finds out.