Speech given in 1998 at a rally of Taxpayers Against Nordstroms Garage
by Anitra L. Freeman
One of my favorite Seattle newspaper stories was the one which referred to the Ethics and Elections Committee finding that although the City Council had broken several local, state and federal laws in giving $24 million housing money to Nordstrom's for their garage, they had not violated their own code of ethics.
I consider that embarrassing.
City officials are proud of pointing out that Seattle spent $8.3 million this year on shelter and other programs for the homeless. There is some pride to be felt there; that is a higher amount than most other American cities spend.
With $8.3 million we have provided shelter and services for 2300 of Seattle's 5500 homeless people. 3200 men, women and children are left outside each night.
With the $24 million given to Nordstrom's for this building, we actually could bring every man woman and child in off the streets by Christmas!
More than one-tenth of the 2300 shelter-beds counted by the City of Seattle are provided by SHARE and WHEEL, organizations of the homeless and recently homeless working to solve our own problems, just like Newt says we should. These are self-managed shelters; maintaining the shelter and enforcing the rules is the responsibility of the people who use the shelter. If the shelter falls down on its responsibilities, everyone in the shelter may spend the night on the street. And when folks say "WE didn't do anything wrong; it wasn't OUR fault" we remind them, "It's YOUR shelter. You ARE responsible."
Well guess what, folks, it's YOUR Seattle. It's MY Seattle. If WE don't demand a City Council that considers violating the law to be against their ethics, if we don't demand a City government that considers a safe clean place to sleep for human beings as important as keeping a sports team here in town, we are going to see a day when everyone with an income below $70,000 a year is effectively locked out of Seattle.
Don't get mad then. Get mad now.