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Note: I retain the rights to this article originally published @ Seattle Star as an April Fools joke April 1, 2015

A former KIRO colleague claims that local shock jock Dori Monson has been a voluntary participant in a series of corporate sponsored mind control experiments. In her new book, How Dori Monson Lost His Mind, author Sarah Bumkowski explains Monson’s mental breakdown as a “terrible tragedy” that has “permanently marred” the KIRO radio personality’s decades long broadcasting career.

Official personnel records show that Sarah Bumkowski worked with Monson for three years while she was employed at Entercom headquarters in Seattle. Bumkowski’s position as his personal assistant allowed her to observe the inner workings of what she calls “The Strange World of Dori Monson”. As his intellectual faculties steadily degraded, she became concerned about the stability of his mind.

The author claims that Monson’s mental decline is a direct result of a harmful pharmacological cocktail which he has consumed on a daily basis while participating as a willing test subject in an Entercom sponsored science experiment.

Bumkowski says Monson is regularly given large doses of a horse tranquilizer, added to his morning cup of Starbucks coffee.

“The company wanted to find out if they could artificially manufacture right-wing talk show hosts to fill positions at their other conservative radio station KTTH,” she said.

Apparently, after several weeks of this experimental chemical treatment, Monson eventually went “bonkers”.

Sarah Bumkowski maintains that she was unaware of the experiments at the time, but later learned about the tests from Monson’s producer after Dori unexpectedly began to rant nonsensically about the need to use water boarding to interrogate Seattle anti-war protesters.

During that incident in 2010, Monson threw a chair out of the window of his office on the second floor of the Entercom building on Eastlake Avenue. Apparently, just outside of the KTTH booth nearby, conservative talk show host and occasional politician John Carlson suffered a black eye after being struck by an unknown projectile thrown at him by Monson. Witnesses say that after Monson’s quick apology, however, the two men reportedly hugged, shook hands, and went out to dinner together.

An innocent bystander on the street was also reportedly injured, leading to speculation about a secret financial settlement arranged by Entercom in order to avoid any bad publicity that might have been generated from a public trial.

“I was completely shocked,” Bumkowski told reporters at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer on Friday.

“I always thought he was a regular kind of guy, you know? I assumed he was a real family guy with a reasonable amount of common sense and all of that, but when he lost his cool that day and started throwing furniture around, I knew that something was seriously wrong.”

Suddenly the mild mannered broadcaster began to rage about the broken vending machines at his office, claiming they had been sabotaged in a conspiracy organized by “liberal” members of the Seattle City Council.

Soon after this incident, KIRO staff were dumbfounded when Monson went on an hour long tirade against teenage girls who show their mid sections in clothes that he called “depraved fashions that should be completely banned by an act of Congress.” His spontaneous lecture on the air caught producers completely off guard since that was not a scheduled topic for the day’s program.

Monson also reportedly started to throw darts at a photo of Michael Moore while he was live on the air talking with callers, claiming that it helped him to calm his “frayed nerves”.

Dori Monson has a reputation in Seattle for totally insulting and berating liberal guests during his show. After his passionate on air attacks, however, he always thanks the guests politely for being on his program. Bottom line: it’s very confusing! (Disclaimer: I was one of his past victims.)

Monson’s also becoming quite infamous for his increasingly irrational screech fests in which he attempts to destroy the credibility of all Seattle politicians. Monson’s favorite target lately has been Seattle City Council’s socialist member Kshama Sawant. During a recent broadcast, he described Sawant as “a completely and ineffectual idiot”.

Monson agreed with local business owner David Meinert, saying, “Sawant knows absolutely nothing about economics. She’s stupid!”

When informed by his producer Phil Vanderhoof that Kshama Sawant earned a Ph D. doctorate degree in economics from a major US university, Monson claimed that this information was “irrelevant”.

Here’s an excerpt from his latest verbal attack on Sawant:

“I really think that tar and feathering the council member would be a great thing. I also recommend putting her in stocks outside City Hall so people can throw rotten fruit at her. No, on second thought, now that I think of it, that would be much too good of a treatment for her. She should be run out of town on a rail…”

Monson’s increasingly insane ramblings have alarmed fellow radio hosts and frightened many children on the street. His recent “I Hate Seattle!” campaign turned off a lot of progressive KIRO listeners who were convinced they were listening to a neo-con shock jock on Entercom’s right-wing rant station KTTH.

He’s started a national organization called “”. The group proposes to pass a federal law prohibiting the Seattle City Council from voting on anything, especially on issues relating to the city budget.

Last week Monson was heard screaming out of the radio station window, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore! The Seattle City Council is driving me absolutely crazy!”

Dori Monson calls the council “a bunch of idiots who think they are socialists.” He castigated council members Nick Licata, Mike O’ Brien and Kshama Sawant for supporting a resolution calling for Seattle’s restaurants to include nutrition information on their menus.

“It’s a clear violation of my right to eat whatever I want!” he said on KIRO yesterday.

“Here’s yet one more example of a group of social engineers trying to control my personal life. Seattle is a super nanny state where I can’t even eat a MacDonald’s hamburger without being harassed by these Marxists on the city council who spend all of their time trying to figure out how to ruin my day.”

“Do we really want to pay these people to talk about what’s in a greasy fast food hamburger? Do we really care what they think? No! I don’t give a damn what Kshama Sawant thinks about my eating habits. This proposal is another flagrant example of their idiocy. It is a total wate of the tax payer’s money. They should keep their hands off of my dinner table and do something actually constructive for once like putting up a nice family friendly statue outside of City Hall honoring veterans and the Seattle Seahawks.”

Monson’s tirade continued, punctuated by the sound of breaking glass in the background.

“But instead, these idiots on the council will probably commission a statue of Che Guevara or Dorli Rainy and the Raging Grannies! The Seattle City Council is completely out of control and I’m just sick of it! How did these reprobates get elected? I’m convinced that all Seattle voters are high on recreational marijuana. There needs to be a serious house cleaning at City Hall, and I mean a serious house cleaning, not just around the counter tops and below the cupboards, but way back there under the old silverware in the drawer where nobody ever looks anymore. I’ll bet you there are dozens of dirty socialists and anarchists hiding under the kitchen sinks right there inside of the City Hall building and we just haven’t been told…”

Monson’s contention that the city council is controlled by a cabal of extreme leftists is legendary. This theme has been a major part of his attacks on the city’s culture.

“I’m done!” he shouted on the air last month. “I absolutely hate Seattle! I hate its politicians, I hate its activists, and I especially hate its constant annoying crowd of hippie anarchist cry babies!”

“Sawant and her group of radicals say, ‘We demand a more equitable system! We want rent control and a $15 hour minimum wage! We want to smoke marijuana and have sex with our partners in the street!'”

After delivering a spooky and unnerving laugh, Monson continued his speech.

“Well, I say to them – ‘Get the heck out of this town and go back to Eugene or San Francisco or wherever you came from. We don’t need any more socialists experimenting with laws that invade our private lives with this ‘holier than thou’ mentality which, frankly, I think is pervasive in many cities around the Northwest. What is this? The People’s Republic of Cascadia?”

Although many of his colleagues have worried about Monson’s shift to traditional backwards puritanical and juvenile shock jock rhetoric, Dori’s employers at Entercom have been very pleased with the resulting rise in his program’s ratings. The Dori Monson Show audience has more than doubled since his rapid political transformation to 1950’s era cold war dogma. Many radio industry observers now say he is attracting new listeners from rural areas of the state who have traditionally dined on a steady diet of Fox News, Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh.

During the height of the Occupy Wall Street movement, Monson angered a lot of demonstrators when he described the activists camped at Seattle Central Community College as “filthy rats”. He called upon the college to “bring in an exterminator to get rid of them”.

Entercom management distributed a press release on the day that Bumkowski’s book was published. It reads:

“The test trials were conducted with mutual consent. Dori knew exactly what he was getting into and we explained all of the possible side effects. We feel that our company has acted in good faith and we’ve heard no complaints from Mr. Monson. In fact, he seems delighted with the amazing results. We consider the experiment to be a complete success.”

KIRO’s veteran daytime host Dave Ross was unavailable for comment because he was barricaded in his home MIDI studio where he has been recording a silly ditty he wrote yesterday about Obamacare.

When current KIRO news host and former Seahawk wide receiver Steve Raible was approached by reporters for a comment he said simply, “I don’t know what happened to Dori. He never used to be like this. I thought that maybe he got kicked in the head or something while he was coaching his girls soccer team…”

Seattle doctor and mental health expert I.M. Bones told the Star that it could take years of intense psychotherapy and shock treatments before Monson can be cured of his irrational delusions.

So far, the only statement coming from the Dori Monson Show regarding the subject of Sarah Bumkowski’s book was a candid remark made by Monson when he thought he was off the air.

“Can somebody please get me some more Ketamine? It goes great with this double tall latte!”

Building Demolition Site Seattle.
Photo by Omar Willey @ Seattle Star

Note: I retain the copyright to this article. It is an April Fools Day satire article originally published @ Seattle Star April 1, 2015

Real estate developers held a press conference in Seattle today to provide the public with information regarding their new campaign entitled, “Tear It All Down!”

The political action committee is registered as The American Association of Realtors For Financial Freedom (AARFFF!). Business experts estimate that the group has already raised $300 billion to finance their political agenda. Much of the funding is coming from Amazon, Google, and several anonymous Chinese investors.

AARFFF’s press release lists three main platform issues:

Elimination of all government regulation on real estate development
Worldwide ban on rent control
“Free Trade” zones in US cities where only the top 1% of income earners are allowed to live
Spokesperson Ralph E. Liminate told the assembled reporters that the ownership of under priced real estate in the city should be considered a criminal offense. He referred to the ubiquitous wrecking ball as “our best friend”. AARFFF claims that demolition teams are the best weapon against “economically stagnant neighborhoods”.

AARFFF has declared a “war on under optimized property”. Liminate compares the situation to the Allied force’s D-Day invasion of Normandy during World War II.

“We’ve got to be aggressive and tactical. We need to line up our troops of realtors and attack the city like an invading army. We have all the advantages over our adversaries and we are proud of our supremacy. Our army is well trained and well financed. We have the money, we control the politicians and we’re just downright mean and nasty. I promise you that we will be victorious!”

“You might as well face the facts,” he said. “We are unstoppable. Our campaign slogan is ‘Resistance is Futile’…”

The AARFFF plan calls for the elimination of all restrictions on building height limits. One proposed project supported by Dubai investors involves a 1,000 story tall structure to be constructed at First and Pike. The gargantuan building project is being referred to as a “spacescraper” by commercial real estate industry websites.

Upon completion the VBBP (Very Big Building Project) would cost $12.4 billion and would qualify as the largest artificial structure on planet earth.

Due to the effects of high altitude, top floors would of necessity be equipped with pressure chambers and artificial oxygen. Architects propose a design which would include 380 restaurants, 14 malls, 25 swimming pools and 34 indoor parks with bio-engineered forests and fake mountain trails. Plastic covered snow slopes would offer top notch skiing inside the tower’s Alpine Land resort area occupying 65 floors.

Designers estimate that a mound the size of Mount Pilchuck will be required to hold all the earth excavated during the construction phase of the VBBP. One idea put forward by developers is to place all of the excavated dirt on Volunteer Park to create another artificial mountain.

One part of the plan which has received criticism is the fact that there is, of course, no plans to include any on site parking.

During an editorial board meeting earlier today at the Seattle Times, Ralph E. Liminate also outlined ARFFF’s new “Economic Freedom” program.

He shouted, “I’m not going to dick around with you here! We’re serious about these issues, dammit! Mayor Ed Murray has appointed a task force to study how poor and middle class folks might still be allowed to live within the city limits. But the fact is, we don’t need no stinking poor or middle class! Our organization maintains that we don’t need an underclass to make the economy work. We can find millions of under paid workers by outsourcing to countries that are not democracies.”

Liminate cleared his throat and proclaimed loudly, “Our constituents want total freedom to buy anything they want and to evict whomever they want, anytime they want, etc. After all, that’s the American Way. That’s what my grand daddy died for in Korea to protect.”

The AARFFF spokesperson startled Seattle Times editors when he punctuated his final remark by slamming his fist down on a pile of rent receipts.

“Frankly, the very idea of affordable housing is a shameful comment on our city’s progress. It’s an unfair restriction of my constitutionally guaranteed right to monopolize the local economy. All this talk about rent control is very dangerous! Policies like that could destroy the entire nation. The idea is simply Un-American. It’s all part of a Socialist Commie plot to weaken American family values!”

At today’s press briefing downtown at the Alaska building, Liminate blamed Socialist city council member Kshama Sawant for everything bad in the city, including the city’s loss of several large business contracts with the multinational company, Buy and Flip, Inc. He also accused her of being the cause of our recent period of rainy and foul weather.

Sawant is currently leading a strong populist political movement which has been calling for rent control. She and most of her fellow council members have directed the city government to protect Seattle’s independent art galleries, museums, bookstores and music venues.

When asked by an Associated Press reporter if he supported the preservation of historic landmarks, Liminate’s face turned red.

“I’m for the preservation of economic opportunity for real estate investors!
I’ve never seen a historic building that couldn’t be demolished if that’s what we want to do. Excuse my French, but you all know the game. Money talks and bullshit walks.”

A reporter from the Central District Examiner, Veronica Johnson, asked Liminate to comment on statements made by local low income housing activists. The Seattle Housing Justice League issued a recent report which concluded that gentrification in Seattle is causing “black flight” from traditionally African American neighborhoods, leading to racial and economic discrimination.

The ARRFFF’s spokesperson responded by saying, “I’m all for black power and all of that, but if you haven’t got enough money to invest in expensive property, then you’re talking to the wrong person. I don’t care what your ethnic background is.
I’m completely color blind. I’ll work with anyone who has the cash.”

The American Association of Realtors For Financial Freedom is a sub-committee of the group Americans For A Safe Society. ASS promotes “safe zones” in US cities including private security with military style check points. ASS’s “Checkpoint Charlie” ad campaign is designed to convince the American public that large cities can only be truly safe when rich people are the only residents allowed to live there.

The ASS group endorses profiling as a way to screen out “the bad guys”, which presumably refers to folks living in poverty, including junkies, panhandlers, street performers, and the city’s homeless population.

Extreme right-wing Christian evangelists would be tolerated inside the “safe zones” under a special provision providing “respect for the rights of some religious organizations” (as long as the preachers don’t use megaphones).

Private corporations would be allowed to rent whole sections of the city for proprietary purposes. Political activity would be prohibited and protest signs or political literature would be confiscated by private security forces.

Another provision of the plan would outlaw outdoor benches in all city parks as a way to discourage the homeless population. In addition, ASS proposes the installation of metal stakes in the park’s flower gardens and lawns as anti-homeless people devices, much like the wire stakes that are commonly used to keep pigeons off of public buildings.

Under this plan, city parks would be managed by private companies like Starbucks who would charge entrance fees of up to $20 per hour. The parks would be open to the public from 9AM to 5PM weekdays just like most commercial businesses. For a substantial fee, corporations or individuals could reserve the parks for private use for any length of time.

The ASS program would utilize sophisticated facial recognition software that can determine in mere micro seconds who is allowed to enter restricted metropolitan areas. Each face would be checked and correlated with various government and private intelligence agencies. ASS has volunteered to compile the data necessary to create a national ASS World Information Prohibition Entry list, better know as ASS WIPE.

After outlining AARFF’s agenda and some of their current political projects, Ralph E. Liminate excused himself. He stepped to the side of the stage and swallowed several white pills from a prescription bottle before he continued to berate the policies of Seattle city council member Kshama Sawant. Stepping up to the podium, Liminate had more harsh words for our local populist icon.

“Sawant is a dictator who has refused to work with the rest of the city government or corporations on these issues. She got her damned $15 an hour minimum wage so what’s the beef? Sure, all of us landlords just raised our rents immediately so it’s kind of a wash, so to speak, ha, ha. But hey, we let her get all that glory and international media attention. For all I know she might turn that talking point into a presidential campaign or something. All I’m saying is that she should just shut up and take the money like the rest of us and get over it!”

Most of the press corps were shocked by Ralph E. Liminate’s unselfconscious diatribe. He addressed Kshama Sawant’s initiatives to save Seattle’s independent bookstores and to protect its unique arts and music scene.

“You might think art, music, and books are worthwhile in some respects, but really you can get all that stuff on the internet for free now, so what exactly is her point? She keeps talking about saving hippie commune drug dens that she calls ‘artist co-ops’ and ‘music clubs’? Come on! Let’s face it – the musicians and artists in this town are already so stoned out of their heads on marijuana that they won’t even notice that their neighborhoods have been demolished.”

There was some subdued laughter among the reporters followed by a long period of silence.

While the journalists were busy tapping on their hand held mobile devices, Liminate loosened his tie and leaned over on the podium. He drank a tall glass of water. Wiping perspiration from his brow he immediately launched into another unprovoked attack on Sawant.

“To tell you the truth ladies and gentlemen, I can’t figure out why Kshama Sawant, or however you pronounce it… I can’t figure out why she doesn’t go back to India and work to improve the lives of her own people. I mean, you can hardly even understand the customer service reps we have working out there because of their foreign accents. It’s terrible.”

When informed by local reporter Sam Studcliff (Wallingford Chonicle) that Sawant is a US citizen, Liminate went ballistic.

“What? Are you talkin’ to me? What are you trying to say, buddy? Are you trying to imply that I’m against immigrants? Well, I’m not prejudiced but I am damn tired of reading all of that socialist propaganda coming out of city hall! We have to take this city back for the people who really matter, you know what I mean? Otherwise, we’re looking at another west coast version of Detroit. Are you paying attention press boys? You get my drift? You wanna live in a place where real estate is cheap but the streets aren’t safe and you got poor people living everywhere?”

When approached by this reporter at city hall, Kshama Sawant’s media liason Phillip Locker just winked and said, “This guy is crazy. That’s our official statement. And you can quote me on that.”

Occupy Seattle activists at the press conference reportedly threw Skittles candy at Liminate during his rant. Local affordable housing activist Claude McWhatso and Big Bertha band member John Stopclock responded by allegedly painting graffiti on Liminate’s brand new BMW. Under a large bright smiley face the vandals painted, “Go Back To California. You Are An Asshole!”

Resident artist, spoon bender and local celebrity Jeffery Tooshed responded to ARFFF’s press conference by calling his mother to complain about it. When he realized she wasn’t home, he talked to me instead.

Tooshed said, “I don’t know where this guy gets off attacking all the middle class and poor people. Who does he think he is anyway? Is he trying to portray himself as the vanguard of some new reactionary right-wing movement or something? Who’s paying him to say this crap? It’s so stupid it’s just ridiculous.”

He rolled a large reefer while saying, “The 1% are really out of control and the AARFFF press conference today was direct evidence of that fact. Ralph E. Liminate should remember that old saying… You know the one about people living in glass houses who throw rocks?”

Tooshed lit up his medicinal marijuana joint and took a long toke. “Man, I’m so glad I smoke pot to chill me out. If I wasn’t so stoned I’d punch him in the face.”

The InArtsNW artist co-op Seattle.

Photo by Mark Taylor-Canfield

The Problem

It's no surprise that affordable housing for artists is disappearing across the US as most cities continue to experience rapid development.

In Seattle there are three main causes for the displacement of working families, the middle class and the poor:

1) Seattle is the fastest developing city in the nation.

2) Real estate prices and rents are skyrocketing overnight.

3) Seattle has no rent control.

A petition campaign has been launched which calls upon Mayor Ed Murray, the Seattle City Council and the Washington State legislature to bring back rent control. Currently Washington State law prohibits this public policy.

Massive development in Seattle has led to the loss of many historic sites. The city's historic preservation laws are very weak. Most of the historic architecture is simply bulldozed. The Emerald Palace was one blatant victim of this failure to protect the community's cultural heritage. This beautiful theater was demolished in 1991.

To meet the requirements of the preservation ordinance, real estate developers only have to preserve the facades of some historic buildings. The legendary Troy building in the South Lake Union/Cascade neighborhood is but one sad example. In the past, the Troy was the center of a very large laundry industry where workers were instrumental in organizing the famous Seattle general strike of 1919.

Another result of this untenable situation is that many local independent music venues, galleries and artist co-ops have closed their doors. In a city that has been hyped in the national media as an innovative creative, free spirited place to live, the state of the arts is deteriorating. Although the large funders are still bankrolling the Seattle Symphony, Seattle Opera, Intiman Theater, etc., smaller independent arts organizations sponsored by volunteers are quickly disappearing. During monthly artwalks in the Pioneer Square and Capitol Hill communities, folks are finding fewer of these kinds of creative venues to visit.

In 2011 artists at the 619 Western building in Pioneer Square discontinued hosting artwalk events after several decades of sharing their creative work. This artist studio/gallery space was closed due to structural issues discovered during efforts to redevelop the Alaskan Way Viaduct on Seattle's waterfront. The Washington State Department of Transportation "evacuated" the tenants in order to stabilize the building and make it structurally sound during the city's own version of the Boston "Big Dig" tunnel project. I am referring here to Seattle's ill fated and much delayed $3 billion SR 99 tunnel, better known as "Big Bertha".

This not a new cultural phenomenon. On May 1, 2000, after serving for two historic decades as a major artwalk venue in Pioneer Square, 80 artists were evicted from the Washington Shoe Building/Jem Studios (a former shoe factory). Despite organized protests and rallies, the artists were forced to leave their galleries and studios by the building's owners - the Samis Foundation. A major exodus took place with many artists moving to the more affordable and industrial Georgetown district of Seattle, but some of those artists simply left the city altogether, moving to New York City, San Fransisco, Portland, or smaller rural communities in Washington State. Ironically, the Washington Shoe Building was not fully occupied for many years following this mass eviction of artists.

Two recent examples of this creative dislocation are the independent music/art venue The Josephine in the Ballard neighborhood, and the Summit Inn - an artist co-op on Summit street in the Capitol Hill community. The Josephine has stopped sponsoring music and art events due to complaints form the city and from the building's owner.

The Summit Inn was famous for hosting an annual block party featuring local artists and bands. Unfortunately, the apartment building has now been sold and the new owner has raised rents beyond the ability of the residents to pay.

For the last six years a huge house/co-op building on Capitol Hill has sponsored all types of art - music, theater, comedy, performance art, gallery shows, film screenings, etc. "The In" hosts 30 residents, many of whom are artists and performers. Built around the turn of the 20th century for a wealthy Seattle family, it has also served the community over the years as a half-way house and a mental health facility. Current residents at the building curate their own independent gallery. They also host free music concerts, plays, and other performance events in the basement theater.

Capitol Hill Artwalk events have become a tradition at the house every second Thursday of the month when visitors are welcome to enjoy the art and entertainment in a public setting. The owner of the building, Pete Sicov, has provided many local artists with affordable housing over the years (he also owned the Summit In and paid to have the childhood home of Jimi Hendrix moved in an effort to save it from demolition). But prospective buyers have been stopping by lately at the In to look at the property, and many of the residents are nervous about the possibility that they may be asked to move if the house is sold.

In 2012 the city forced an underground vintage shop to close at the building - Bon Voyage Vintage.

The In has recently established itself as an L.L.C. - InArtsNW. Part of the inspiration for this move has been the disappearance of so many artist co-ops and galleries over the last few years. As billions of dollars of investment funds are poured into Seattle to build endless condominiums and corporate headquarters, none of that money seems to be going to support the arts community. Where are the wealthy art collectors who could serve as benefactors for the struggling artists? Most of these creative members of the community work long hours at low paying jobs just to pay their rent.

As the cost of living increases dramatically in Seattle, most artists and musicians are feeling very alienated and isolated by the rest of the corporatized community. Seattle is home to some of the most profitable and successful corporations in the world - Starbucks, Microsoft, Boeing, etc. New billion dollar developments are being funded by Google, Amazon and other tech or bio med companies.

Ineffective Solutions

The City of Seattle has attempted various "feel good" programs to give the public the impression that the community actually supports the arts. A current program introduced by the city's Office of Arts and Culture is supposed to create a designation for some of Seattle's neighborhoods as an "arts and cultural districts", but the program does not provide  direct funding to individual artists, nor does it address the loss of affordable housing.

What the city is offering is a "toolkit" including street signs to promote the neighborhood as a community which is friendly to the arts. It amounts to a city funded ad campaign with little or no real positive effect on the neighborhood. These kinds of politically motivated programs have already been tried in many other cities, including the North Hollywood district of Los Angeles. I have heard complaints from fellow artists in LA who say that the designation of North Hollywood as an arts community has resulted in more tourism, but it has also attracted more corporate real estate developers to the neighborhood. As of this date, I don't know any artists who have benefited directly from Seattle's Office of Arts and Culture "arts and culture district" designation program.

A recent project in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Seattle resulted in the construction of a building simply called "12th Avenue Arts". According to their website, the $47 million project is funded by "foundations, corporations and private individuals". The facility includes many money making enterprises, including theater rentals at a cost of $4,000 to $8,775 for five to six weeks. I fail to see how small independent arts troupes can afford to pay for theater rentals at this price. This massive real estate development also provides "secure parking for the Seattle Police Department".

12th Avenue Arts also purports to offer affordable housing through the Capitol Hill Housing group, but there is no information on the building's website about the cost of renting an apartment. Apparently it does not even focus specifically on providing housing for artists. Nor can you find any of the specifics about the apartments in terms of square footage, design, etc. Mostly they just want you to donate money to them through their website...

In fact, walking into the main entrance on 12th Ave., you would never know that anyone lives there. It's a large institutional style building which also houses the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce, Capitol Hill Housing, and other offices. The lobby is a huge concrete space with an amazingly high ceiling and almost no furniture except for a few plastic and chrome hard backed chairs that look like they were appropriated from a college classroom. All in all, it's not a very inviting or creative looking place and it cost an enormous sum to construct. I must report that I have heard from some members of the Seattle and Portland artist community who tell me they are disappointed that the apartments at 12th Avenue Arts are so small.  

Seattle's current mayor Ed Murray has formed the Housing Affordability and Livability Advisory Committee. During his "State of the City Address" on February 17, Murray admitted that there is a growing problem with "economic inequity" in Seattle due to the massive developments taking place in the city's neighborhoods. Unfortunately, the committee will not be presenting their proposals to the Office of the Mayor until May 2015. One has to wonder just how many people will be displaced and made homeless before the city bureaucrats can begin to address this serious social and economic problem.

A proposal by the Seattle City Council would charge fees to developers to increase affordable housing units. The council’s Planning, Land Use, and Sustainability Committee is working on a linkage fee program. The Capitol Hill Seattle Blog reported on the project in 2014: "Under the initial proposal, developers in certain area could either pay a per-square-foot fee or dedicate at least 3% – 5% of the units in their project to those making below 80% of the area mean income."

The average income in Seattle is skewed due to the small number of folks making huge amounts of money. In fact, the average income in Martin Luther King County is currently $88,000 per year. According to the housing committee, 80% of the area's mean income would be $44,750 for one person and $51,150 for two people.

In an earlier effort to highlight the arts, former Mayor Paul Schell formed the Mayor's Arts Task Force to decide how the 1% hotel/motel tax could be used to fund the arts in Seattle. Myself and several other independent artists forced our way onto the task force in an attempt to represent small arts organizations. Most of the original members of the group were of course allied with the Seattle Symphony, Opera, and other large well-funded institutions.

Unfortunately, after an eight week period of meetings and discussions, all of the task force's proposals were simply shelved and our ideas were essentially ignored by Mayor Schell. Many small arts organizations complained that they were left completely out of the process. Some of us felt that the entire effort had been nothing but a big waste of our time and energy. I had the impression that we'd all been hoodwinked by a clever politician. There was no political support for our independent proposals to provide affordable housing for artists.  

US Culture Vs. European Attitudes

I was shocked by this American style apathy towards the arts because during my travels in France I was amazed by the amount of financial support available for interesting artistic and cultural events. I participated in some of these festivals and concerts as a composer. There are multiple layers of arts commissions and funding sources in every French city, beginning at the local village level and leading all the way up to UNESCO sponsored residencies and festivals.

French officials were very surprised that I was unable to find a US government arts organization to sponsor my trip to the festival. One of the festival organizers asked me,

 "Why doesn't your community support your art? It is such an honor to have your work recognized at an international music festival. Your city should be very proud of you!"

It was quite obvious to me that the French are very proud of their art and cultural heritage. Being an artist is considered a very honorable and respectable occupation. While I was residing in Bourges local businesses sponsored a free music festival, complete with blues and jazz bands and including an astonishing assortment of healthy culinary delights and excellent wines. The city and business owners donated everything for free as a service to the artists in the community and as a celebration of the town's venerable heritage as a vibrant arts community.

In that one small area of central France on the L'Yevre River one could find nine art museums and numerous beautiful Renaissance style opera houses and theaters. It also hosts a very unique artistic foundation which invited me to hear my composition performed at the beautiful Palais Jacques-Coeur - the International Institute for Electro-Acoustic Music. This institute is famous for its annual international experimental computer music and multimedia sound art concert series.

After witnessing so much support for the arts in Europe, the mayor's debacle with the Seattle Arts Task Force (Farce?) seemed like a slap in the face to me and many other independent artists.

A protest against the Mayor's actions resulted in my arrest during my own performance at Seattle's Symphony Hall (Benaroya Hall). I was on the official program that day to present the world premier of my solo piano piece. My performance had been sponsored by the Washington Composers Forum. (Sadly, a Seattle Weekly article failed to mention that I was a scheduled performer.)

As I stepped onto the stage, I was arrested by members of the Seattle Police Department. No charges were ever filed against me and I was released from jail after the concert. A rumor had circulated that I was planning to damage Benaroya Hall's $150,000 Steinway grand piano. The truth is, before my performance, I was going to stomp on and break a small toy piano I had brought with me. I planned to make the following statement, "This is what the mayor has done to small local arts organizations in Seattle."

Fortunately, my arrest made the evening TV news and it was covered by the local press. I was finally afforded an opportunity to talk with the media and the public about the shameful lack of funding for small independent arts organizations in Seattle.

But these opportunities to speak out publicly about lack of support for the arts are becoming very rare in a city that claims to be so innovative and creative. Seattle's music scene has been incredibly over hyped. When you consider just how hard it is to make a buck here playing original music, it becomes immediately clear to most musicians that Austin, Texas, Portland, Oregon or Bourges, France may be better places to go. Music industry lobbying groups like JAMPAC have a tradition of fighting the city mothers and fathers on issues related to the over regulation of local music venues in Seattle. And, let's face it, it's a lot less expensive to live in Portland where rent is still relatively affordable for most low income folks.

InArtsNW Campaign

Artists involved with InArtsNW are very aware of Seattle's recent history. They know that there has often been a lack of support for, and at times, even open opposition to independent artists, musicians and promoters in the Emerald City, and that artists face these same challenges all across the nation. In response to the recent over development and gentrification of Seattle neighborhoods, the residents at InArtsNW have organized themselves to counter the current loss of affordable live/work spaces for local artists.

They've seen the writing on the wall in terms of the struggle for survival of the creative culture in Seattle, and they have a response. These artists are aware that Seattle real estate has increased astronomically in value and that potential buyers are interested in the building. During their weekly meetings, a plan has been developed. They have launched a capitol investment funding campaign to raise $1 million.

This may seem like a radical concept to most real estate developers and high profile arts organizations, but the folks at InArtsNW are serious. They want the artists to own and manage their own building. They have stated a GoFundMe campaign which will seek help from the public through crowd source funding. Resident artist Michael Craft and artist/curator Krista Lee Wolfe both state that $1 million is their current goal and they say they are completely dedicated to this process.

Wolfe sees the role of the InArtsNW as an important venue which allows artists to reach out to the community. During our recent interview she told me,

"I'd like to see the building serve as a bridge between artists and the larger community. I often hear people new to Seattle asking, 'Where is the creative art & music scene I've heard about? Where can I go to see it?'"

Wolfe finished with an affirmative statement regarding the co-op where she lives. "Well, my answer to them is - 'The arts are still here!'"

Michael Craft puts it bluntly, "Let's face it - most artists are poor and don't have two dimes to rub together. We want to provide a place where they can live and work on their art."

He sees this effort as a model for other artists around the US who are facing the same kinds of challenges. From New York City to San Francisco art communities have been dismantled to make way for expensive real estate developments, virtually wiping out entire art and music scenes.

So what's left behind in the wake of all the wrecking balls and the bulldozers? This type of unbridled rapid development often results in an increasingly commercialized, homogenized and vapid culture.

A local joke in Seattle goes like this,

"What is Seattle's official city bird?" Answer - "The Construction Crane."  

Honestly, there is very little visual difference between a bombed out city block as seen during wartime and the effects of massive real estate developments which demolish whole blocks overnight. Structurally the result is the same - piles of concrete, bricks and twisted re bar. The South Lake Union neighborhood in Seattle is surrounded by these kinds of destruction/construction sites.

Other negative effects of over development include the loss of historic buildings and affordable housing, the displacement of entire populations of working families and immigrants, and the disappearance of creative, innovative, cutting edge neighborhoods. If the artists and residents at InArtsNW have their way, this trend will be stopped by the artists themselves and by other concerned members of the community.

To highlight their efforts to save the building, the artists at InArtsNW will be presenting multimedia shows Feb 12 (Capitol Hill Artwalk) & 14th (Valentines Day). The events, called "Heartbreak Science Fair" will feature local artists, musicians and performers, as well as some science experiments.

Curator Krista Lee Wolfe is examining the artist housing situation in Seattle as a social science experiment. What will the result be?  

Comments from previous posting of this article:

  Thirty years ago, in Seattle, (6+ / 0-)
some artist friends rented unused elementary school classrooms as their lodging/studio spaces, since their were not enough children to fill all the schools. The rooms were quiet and spacious. There were musicians, visual artists, poets, and yoga instructors.

Wonder what happened to those schemes.

Ever notice how wherever the artists congregate, eventually others want to be there, and in the process, take over the place until the artists can no longer afford to live there?

by marina on Thu Feb 12, 2015 at 03:53:34 PM PST

[ Reply to this ]

  This has been a cycle for a long time in America (2+ / 0-)
Upper-Middle-Class-to-Wealthy Neighborhood which is conveniently nearby to city center becomes engulfed by "less desirable" neighbors as city expands. The UMC2Ws move further out.

Their former homes are subdivided into multi-unit dwellings, and over time, become run-down, are subdivided into more and smaller units, become an "undesirable" neighborhood where newly arrived immigrants, minorities, and other poor live.  Rent is cheaper and cheaper, and buildings fall further into decay.

Artists looking for cheap space start moving into the neighborhood.  They open small galleries, coffee houses and other spaces to display and perform their work.  People start coming to see the artists' work.  The artists expand and fix up their spaces. Cafes and restaurants open to serve the art patrons.  Crime goes down, rent goes up.

Younger people like the area -- it's "hip and trendy" now, and still affordable.  They move in.  Rent goes up again.  Poorer people move out.

Then the Gentrifiers "discover" the area.  They buy properties and fix them up.  Some move in, but some flip the properties for a quick profit.  Property values go up, and so does the rent.

Pretty soon, there are fewer rental units because the old houses have been turned back into single-family homes, and the rent on the remaining units goes up again and again until -- artists and students can't afford them anymore.

Then the UMC2Ws move back in because it's so convenient to get to the office, and there are all these nice restaurants.

by officebss on Thu Feb 12, 2015 at 05:06:47 PM PST

[ Reply to this ]

  Bummer. Sounds similar to what is happening her... (1+ / 0-)
Bummer. Sounds similar to what is happening here in Austin.

by johnatx on Thu Feb 12, 2015 at 07:21:49 PM PST

[ Reply to this ]

It's ironic, really; by Ralphdog, Fri Feb 13, 2015 at 03:27:15 AM PST (1+ / 0-)

  I live and work in a large artist owned building (1+ / 0-)
in Somerville MA. It was a very long process, 3 years of weekly meetings, sweat equity and uncertainty. Definitely worth it and the only way most of us could own anything and have the stability needed to do our artwork.

'Earth' without 'art' is just 'eh'.

by viral on Fri Feb 13, 2015 at 06:53:18 AM PST


Continue Reading
Martin Luther King, Jr. Day marchers in Seattle.
(Seattle MLK Day Marchers - Photo by Mark Taylor-Canfield)

On January 19, marchers took to the streets in Seattle to mark the city's 33rd annual Martin Luther King Jr. birthday celebration. Organizers promoted the event as "one of the largest annual Martin Luther King Day Celebrations in the U.S."

This year's official MLK march reflected a growing movement in the US. It was a protest against racism, injustice and police brutality. March organizers and speakers referred to recent mass protests in Ferguson, Missouri and dozens of other cities - demonstrations which were organized in response to the shootings of Michael Brown, Eric Garner and other young black men by police officers.

Seattle's own recent history includes a US Department of Justice review of the SPD which found a practice and policy of the use of excessive force. (

After the shooting deaths of African American men and a Native American woodcarver named John T. Williams, dozens of local community and civil rights groups demanded investigations into allegations of police brutality and racial profiling by SPD officers. (

Community leaders have called for more citizen oversight of the local police.

The Seattle MLK Celebration Committee's website quotes Dr. King:

"Make a career of humanity. Commit yourself to the noble struggle for human rights. You will make a greater person of yourself, a greater nation of your country, and a finer world to live in."

The committee also stressed Dr. King's commitment to education and non-violence.

Thousands gathered in the morning at Garfield High School in the Central District for a traditional day of workshops and a rally.

The community workshops addressed racism, police violence, affordable housing, immigration rights, civil rights and other social justice issues. A meeting was held to discuss the creation of an African American political action committee.

The Seattle MLK Celebration Committee ( chose the theme "Fight For Your Rights!" for this year's march. (

A choir performed at the beginning of the 10 AM rally. Moderators Shaude Moore & Khaim Vassar welcomed the participants, followed by an invocation by Rev. Harriett Walden, founder Mothers for Police Accountability.(

Local community religious leaders were on hand to support the day of events.

LaShaunya Cee O'Cain sang "Lift Every Voice", known as the Black National Anthem.

Martin Luther King, Jr. County Council member Larry Gossett, former Chair of the MLK Celebration Committee, gave a presentation on the history of the Seattle MLK Celebration.

Youth protesters were honored and rally speakers included Louis Watanabe and Ferguson, Missouri resident Jelani Brown. The Chairman of the Washington State Commission on African American Affairs, Oscar Eason (, also addressed the crowd, followed by a benediction delivered by Charles Oliver.

During preparations for the noon march, music and entertainment was provided by Alex Enger, Alex Gonzalez, and Gabriel Teodros. Speakers Sheley Secrest and Darryl Johnson addressed the marchers outside Garfiied High School.  

Along the march route, Senait Brown and Seattle City Council member Kshama Sawant ( gave speeches at a youth detention center.

Pastor Riki Wells spoke at the King County Jail.

King County NAACP President Gerald Hankerson addressed the marchers outside Seattle Police headquarters. Aaron Bossett addressed economic injustice at a Yesler Terrace construction site.

The long line of marchers made their way into downtown Seattle escorted by Seattle police on bicycles and motorbikes. The demonstrators held signs with images of Dr. King while they chanted anti-police brutality and anti-racism slogans.

The marchers converged on the Federal Courthouse around 2PM, where spoken words artists Celestine Ezinkwo (, Christopher Robinson, Mike Davis, Derrick White, and poet Nikkita Oliver performed on a portable stage set up on a flatbed truck. Washington Middle School Vice Principal Tia Yarborough also performed spoken word.

Speakers at this rally included Claude Burfect, Sarah Scott, Linda Johnson, Jose' Selgado, Juan Jose' Bocanegra and Seattle public school teacher Jesse Hagopian.

Hagopian told the rally participants, "We know that Martin Luther King would have been out in the streets with the protesters in Ferguson taking the rubber bullets."

The Garfield High School teacher continued, "Martin Luther King's legacy is one of direct action - of confrontation against injustice, a man who was arrested over 30 times facing down this racist system."

Hagopian referred to the police killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri as a "lynching".

He criticized Missouri Governor Jay Nixon for invoking the name of MLK during the US national holiday honoring the civil rights leader's birthday. (

"The man who sent in the National Guard to put down the protests in Ferguson."

Hagopian was also critical of Ferguson police chief Thomas Jackson ( for speaking in honor of MLK while "ignoring the reality of what he stood for."

A man named Anthony also spoke and the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority were represented.

Ron Johnson, a former member of the Black Panthers, read excerpts from Dr. King's
"I Have A Dream Speech" to an appreciative crowd gathered outside the courthouse.

Around 2:30PM an independent group of marchers began acts of civil disobedience. They blockaded Highway 99 in the heart of downtown Seattle. Traffic blockages by protesters continued at that location and near Interstate Five at Mercer Street for several hours.

At one point, commuters began to climb out of their cars and take photos and video with their smart phones. Some of the drivers began to climb onto
the roofs of their vehicles in order to get a better look at the protest.

Seattle police blocked the entrance to Interstate Five with squad cars, so the marchers converged on the Mercer Street exit instead.

19 people were arrested at protests later in the afternoon.(

On Aurora Avenue (Hwy 99) police had to saw through pipes which the protesters had used to lock their arms together, making arrests difficult. Seattle police in riot gear with long clubs occupied Highway 99 after they finally cleared demonstrators from the area around 4:30PM.

During these acts of civil disobedience, demonstrators handed out statements which read  

“… to those those whose days are inconvenienced by our brief presence here, we remind you that the combination of anti-Black police brutality, disproportionate disciplining of Black youth by Seattle Public Schools, and rampant gentrification of historically Black neighborhoods has also been disruptive to Black communities in Seattle. Until Seattle and its police department stop brutalizing Black and Brown lives, allies will continue to engage in civil disobedience, and we will stand vocally and visibly in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.”

Protesters who blocked traffic also quoted Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. -

"The problem of racism, the problem of economic exploitation, and the problem of war are all tied together. These are the triple evils that are interrelated."

A new national movement for civil rights has gained momentum since the Ferguson demonstrations. There have been dozens of marches and rallies in Seattle since the shooting of Michael Brown. Seattle protest organizers say they will continue to rally and march against racism and police brutality.  

Jesse Hagopian declares that his Garfield High School students are determined to shine a light on the injustices of institutionalized racism. He told the demonstrators gathered at the courthouse rally,

"I'm proud to say that I've never seen a struggle erupt with such emotion and as much passion as we're seeing right now."

Will the current wave of "Hands Up Don't Shoot" protests eventually subside?

According to Hagopian the answer is an unequivocal, "No!"

"This movement is too big," he said. "There are too many people who know that black lives matter."

Police form a line in the street under a holiday sign after a grand jury returned no indictment in the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson,
Another solidarity protest was staged in downtown Seattle on December 1 to demonstrate against the grand jury decision in Ferguson, Missouri. Protesters held signs memorializing Michael Brown who was killed by police officer Darren Wilson.

At 6PM a rally was held at Westlake mall near the giant Christmas tree and across the street from the traditional holiday carousel. While the carousel’s sound system played cheerful Christmas songs (“A beautiful sight, we’re happy tonight…”) angry protesters held a rally outside the mall. Police and security closed down the mall before the rally and Seattle riot police gathered on the ground floor.

Demonstrators sat in the street at 4th & Pine, then marched east on Olive Way. Stand offs with riot police took place at 8th and Olive and at Olive and Boren. Lines of cops in riot gear with long clubs blocked streets along the way and a contingent of police officers on bicycles followed the marchers around downtown. At least one arrest was made on Olive Way.

Protest organizers spoke out on megaphones and led the crowd in chants – “Racist cops have got to go!” & “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot!”

Around 8PM 200 marchers converged again in the street at Westlake mall and blocked a bus and a taxi cab at 4th & Pine. Cab driver Omar Abdinasser joined the protesters, who took up a collection to cover his lost fares. Demonstrators passed around a hat and gave him the money.

According to Abdinasser, Seattle police told him to move his cab but he was blocked by protesters and a city bus which had stopped behind him on Pine street.  

He said, “When the police ordered me to move my taxi I told them, “Where can I go? I’m blocked in. Then I said, ‘Don’t shoot me!'”

Abdinasser says he supports the protests. “The relationship between the people and the police is wrong. It needs to be corrected all across the country.”

The cab driver then proceeded to give this journalist and several protesters a free ride home.

Protests against police brutality have continued in Seattle since a Ferguson grand jury decided not to prosecute officer Darren Wilson for the killing of Michael Brown. On November 24 local Grammy award-winning hip hop artist Macklemore joined the Seattle protests. Marchers tried to occupy Interstate 5 and police used flash bang grenades and pepper spray on demonstrators.  

A protest on November 28 disrupted the Christmas treelighting ceremony at Westlake mall. Jesse Jackson called for more protests when he met with Seattle community leaders at Mount Zion Baptist Church on November 29.

"Enough is enough,' he said. "Stop the killing."

Police brutality has been a major focus of protests in Seattle. The US Department of Justice conducted an eight month review of the SPD and found a “practice and policy" of the use of excessive force and profiling. New Seattle police Chief Kathleen O’ Toole was hired by Mayor Ed Murray to reform the department according DOJ guidelines but she has encountered resistance from some officers on the force.

In a recent Seattle Times Op-ed article, reporter Danny Westneat suggested that, in terms of the lack of prosecution of police officers, Seattle actually has a worse record than Ferguson, Missouri. Westneat cited the 2010 killing of Native American woodcarver John T. Williams and the case of Christopher Harris who was paralyzed after being injured by a Seattle police officer in 2009.


Protesters gathered in Seattle last night to demonstrate against the grand jury announcement in Ferguson, Missouri which failed to recommend prosecution of the police officer (Darren Wilson) who killed an African-American man, Michael Brown.

At 6PM demonstrators met at Seattle's Westlake Park, home of the former Occupy Seattle encampment, to protest what they say is an unjust decision by the Ferguson grand jury. At one point Seattle marchers laid down in the street in an act of civil disobedience. Seattle Police Department officers followed the demonstartors all night long as they marched through dowtown, on Capitol Hill and in the Central District.

Protesters at Westlake Park marched to Seattle Central Community College, location of the second Occupy Seattle camp. Here they met with another group who took to the streets in an all night protest.

At 10 PM protetesters attempted to occupy Interstate 5. Police blocked most of the demonstrators but a few of them got onto the freeway. Pepper spray and flash-bang grenades were deployed by SPD. Several arrests were made. Washngton State Patrol troopers were involved in this incident.

Later in the evening there was a major confrontation between approximately 150 protesters and police at 12th Ave and Pine Street. Demonstrators chanted, "Racist police have got to go!", "Don't Shoot me!" and "No Justice, No Peace!"

SPD had already blocked the streets and sidewalks near Capitol Hill's East Precinct in anticipation of a convergence at that location. Riot cops with billy clubs and bicycle cops lined up across the street on Pine to contain the protesters, which only seemed to inspire more anger in the crowd. Ironically, this confrontation actually pulled demonstrators away from the East Precint which was actually only 1/2 block away.

After a long series of confrontations, the Seattle police actually retreated and left the area. The demonstrators cheered jubilantly and considered this a victory. They proceeded to follow the police as they left the area, ending up back in downtown near the site of the original rally.

Seattle's rap/spoken word artist Macklemore joined the protest and marched with the crowd to 12th Ave and Pine. During my interview with him he kept repeating, "I'm just here for Michael Brown."

Protesters reportedly smashed a bank’s window at Madison and Boylston Avenue.

Martin Luther King County Executive Dow Constantine made the following statement regarding the Seattle/Ferguson demonstrations, “We all mourn the loss of a young man’s life. This is a moment to say what is in our hearts, with tolerance, respect, and restraint, as we were asked to do by Michael Brown’s family.”

Meanwhile, in cities across the US protesters took to the streets in solidarity with demonstrators in Ferguson.

Police reported 29 arrests in the Ferguson area. CNN broadcast live footage of fires, vandalism and looting in that city. Two St. Louis police cars were burned  along with a dozen vehicles at a car dealership in Delwood. A Conoco gas station convenience store was also set ablaze.

Governor Jay Nixon ordered more Missouri National Guard soldiers to deploy in Ferguson. Local hospitals reported 13 injuries, including at least two gunshot wounds. Police Chief Jon Belmar said he heard 150 gunshots during the protests.

In Oakland hundreds of protesters marched and held a "die in". They attempted to occupy Highway 580. At least one police car was vandalized. A Chase bank window was broken at 20th and Webster.

In Seattle, police brutality has been a major issue for the last few years after the killing of native American woodcarver John T. Williams by an SPD officer. In fact, there is a large totem pole that has been erected at Pike Place Market's Victor Steinbrueck Park to memorialize Williams. Local activists began referring to Westlake Park as "John T. Williams Park".

In addition, the US Department of Justice recently found that the Seattle Police Department has a "practice and policy" of using excessive force, and of police profiling.

Local civil rights activists have long complained about the city's civilian police review board. The Office of Professional Accountability has a reputation for being ineffective when dealing with police misconduct.

Seattle recently hired a new police chief, former Boston police commissioner and member of the national Irish national police reform commission - Kathleen O' Toole. She has  encountered resistance from 100 members of the police force who are opposed to new civil rights reforms. The police officers filed a lawsuit against the city of Seattle and US Attorney general Eric Holder in an attempt to block these reform measures.

Despite this resistance, Seattle mayor Ed Murray outlined a new series of reforms of the Seattle department a week before the Ferguson protests.

During last night's demonstrations, a community meeting was held at Garfield Community Center. Protesters marched to the forum to express their outrage over percieved racism in US police departments.

Demonstrations in Seattle continued late into the night as marchers took to the streets to express their anger over the Ferguson case and to protest local incidents of police brutality.

Photo by Mark Taylor-Canfield
Glass marijuana pipes on display at Seattle Hempfest

Seattle's Hempfest event claims to be the largest pro cannabis festival in the world. This year, event organizers are even more excited than usual. For the first time, it is now actually legal to possess marijuana in Washington State. After decades of political activity, the dream of Hempfest activists has finally come true.

Included in the 2014 festivities are "pot gardens" modeled after the traditional German style beer gardens where adults can imbibe and enjoy the effects of cannabis in regulated areas away from children. In Washington State, an individual must be over 21 years of age to legally possess marijuana. Although alcohol is mostly unavailable at Seattle's Hempfest, festival participants are safe to indulge in the effects of THC and cannabis with no interference from law enforcement agencies.

Contrary to popular belief, technically, it is still illegal in Seattle to smoke pot in public.
Most of the nation is ill-informed about marijuana policies in Washington State. The Seattle City Council passed an ordinance which includes a $20 fine. So, although it's legal to possess up to one ounce, pot is still regulated like an intoxicating alcoholic beverage. You can't drink a beer while walking down a busy city street in Seattle without risking a fine from police. It is also illegal to smoke marijuana in public bars, so the Hempfest folks decided to provide a community service by allowing people to smoke in their pot gardens.

In 2012 Washington voters approved state-wide Initiative 502, which legalized the plant and gave the Washington State Liquor Control Board the authorization to regulate the growing, distribution and sale of cannabis. The only problem here is that the WSLCB has always been known as a relatively puritanical state agency. Even after prohibition was lifted, it was still illegal to sell liquor by the glass in the city of Seattle. The result was that a preponderance of illegal speakeasys were established all over town.

In modern times, rock promoters and club owners have often complained about the tight regulation on alcohol which prohibits night clubs, and makes it hard for the music industry to hold all ages events. The point here is that the regulation of marijuana by this same state agency has led to the same kind of stiff restrictions on the growing and distribution of legal cannabis products. It has been an uneasy marriage between the WSLCB and the marijuana industry.

Because of restrictive liquor laws, music clubs and industry representatives in Seattle played a major role role in the elections of the last two mayors. Mayor Mike McGinn promised to allow clubs to stay open until 4 AM but that campaign promise was never achieved. Current mayor Ed Murray has also received a lot of support from this sector of the community. It remains to be seen whether the city can loosen up some of the liquor board's restrictions on live music and the selling of alcohol.

The usual complaint has been that Seattle could be the next Austin, Texas with its healthy music and bar scene, but local city officials and the WSLCB have made that dream impossible in the Emerald City. The teen dance ordinance was a major thorn in the side of local music promoters, inspiring the foundation of JAMPAC, a political action committee sponsored by the music industry.

So, the fact that the Washington State Liquor Control board has been given the task of regulating the pot industry seems like a disaster waiting to happen. So far, major urban areas like Seattle have fallen short in their attempts to meet the huge public demand for legal marijuana. Since July 8 when the first retail pot stores were opened, consumers have been forced to cope with long dry spells. The increasing demand for legal pot has far out stripped the market's capability to produce the quantity that would be required. Some cannabis activists blame tight regulatory standards set by the state for their inability to supply this large consumer market.  

Out of a total of 334 licenses approved, only a couple of dozen retail marijuana stores have actually opened in Washington. Despite this lack of access to legal pot, the industry has already sold over $4.3 million worth of the product, exceeding the market in Colorado where ganja is also legal. Some estimates project a profit of over $2 billion in the first five years of production in Washington state. To limit the industry to local producers, the state has created strict rules on how much pot can be grown by any one supplier.

Seattle Hempfest 2014 promises to be the most attended festival in its long history. Many folks who did not attend past events will be there this year to enjoy their legal right to possess cannabis. Glass pipe blowers, medicinal cannabis experts and marijuana advocates of all kinds are gathering in Seattle Aug. 15 - 17 to celebrate a tradition that has outlasted all previous city political administrations. It is quite obvious that legal cannabis is here to stay in Washington State.

Longtime Hempfest organizer Vivian McPeak says he never imagined that 80,000 people would be attending these events when he and his friends first came up with the idea. McPeak is not happy with the way most of the corporate media has covered the issue of legal marijuana and the war on drugs. He complains about his recent treatment by CNBC. At the last minute, the news agency cancelled his live interview from Seattle.

Given this lack of serious media coverage, it was surprising to hear Republican US Congressman Dana Rohrabacher speak at the VIP party on the first day of the marijuana festival in Seattle.

Other keynote speakers include Washington State Senator Jeanne Kohl-Wells, TV personality and travel writer Rick Steves, Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes, former Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn, and former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson.

It's clear that this movement "has legs", so to speak. The topic of legalization is an ongoing news story in the United States. Journalists and politicians will be forced to address this growing national campaign.

As Seattle's dream of becoming the New Amsterdam unfolds before our eyes, many marijuana activists are thrilled beyond belief. The news that pot usage has been accepted as a normal social activity in Seattle proves that the activists' many years of hard work have finally paid off. In spite of a controversial cannabis-related DUI law, and recent attempts by state legislators to dismantle the medicinal marijuana program, the campaign to decriminalize and legalize marijuana has met with success in Washington State.

In order to set the record straight on this political and cultural development, I cite the following facts:

1) 23 US states have adopted medicinal marijuana programs.

2) 16 states (and the District of Columbia) have now decriminalized the possession and use of cannabis.

3) According to the Marijuana Policy Project, there are currently proposals to regulate marijuana as a legal activity in 18 states and the District of Columbia.


Marijuana Policy Project


Seattle Hempfest

Teen Dance Ordinance

The US news media currently ignores most events and protests associated with the Occupy Wall Street movement.

Activists from across the nation will be gathering in Sacramento, California on July 31st, to prove that the campaign which started in New York City in 2011 is still an effective, inspired movement to promote social, economic and environmental justice.

Occupiers will be joining together to celebrate their long term mission to push for political change. They plan to network with other US and foreign activists, and they say they will continue to educate themselves on a wide range of issues affecting the United States and the world.

The Occupy movement has gone international, with active groups on every continent except Antarctica. From Paris to Melbourne, people are demonstrating against the status quo and calling for a more conscious and compassionate global culture.

Previous national conferences were held in St Louis and Philadelphia. This year many of the same themes will be explored, including the injustices caused by economic inequality, the prevalence of government/corporate corruption, the problem of student debt, new attacks on the rights of indigenous peoples, and the dangers of fossil fuels and their impact on global climate change.

These are only a few of the topics that will be discussed during Nat Gat 2014 (

Workshops and forums will be held by activists from Move to Amend and Code Pink.

Other activities will include anti-racism training, and panel discussions on Native American sovereignty, labor issues, and immigrant/refugee rights.

Nat Gat 2014 organizers are planning workshops on the following topics:

1) A Homeless Bill of Rights; 2) Proposed Robin Hood Tax; 3) The National Fight Against Home Foreclosures; 4) Campaigns For Media Reform; 5) How To Do Video Livestreaming; and 7) Jesus As A Radical Economic Activist.

Participants also plan to present a film screening, create political street theater, and stage a musical memorial. They will also sponsor a spoken word/poetry event.

Nat Gat 2014 has its own Youtube channel. There will be an online component to the conference which will allow for interactivity with people following the proceedings on the world wide web.

On August 1st Occupy activists in Sacramento will participate in a protest rally against home foreclosures.

Most mainstream political consultants and media pundits in the US were critical the original Occupy Wall Street movement. They claimed that OWS had been rendered ineffective due to the activists' refusal to form an organized political party during national elections.  

Surprisingly, activists in Detroit have now put out a call for Occupy movement candidates to run for local political office. This group calls itself the After Party.

The After Party are also promoting the idea of holding local community forums to address many of the same issues that will be addressed at the Occupy National Gathering in Sacramento. (


The first legal pot retailers have finally opened in Washington state.

In 2012 the voters approved initiative 502 which legalizes the recreational use of marijuana. The Washington State Liquor Control Board was given the responsibility of regulating the production, processing and sale of cannabis, but it's taken eight months for the state agency to develop it's licensing policies.

On July 8th, 24 pot retailers were given licenses to open for business in Washington. 334 licenses will eventually be approved across the state.

In Seattle, the first pot retail business to open was Cannabis City, a shop near downtown in the SODO district. On Tuesday hundreds of people lined up to buy legal marijuana and media from around the globe were on hand to document the event. One of the first customers was Seattle's own City Attorney Pete Holmes.

Although marijuana is still illegal on the federal level, Governors Jay Inslee and John Hickenlooper of Colorado are maintaining an open dialogue with US Attorney General Eric Holder on the subject. Marijuana retailers in Washington State are prohibited from doing business within 1000 feet of any elementary or secondary school, playground, recreation center or facility, child care center, public park, public transit center, library, or game arcade that allows minors to enter. It is still illegal to consume marijuana in public, and a controversial DUI law regulates driving a car while under the influence of cannabis.

In Washington state, it is legal for individuals over the age of 21 to possess up to one ounce of pot, but unlicensed growing of the plant is illegal. The state maintains its medicinal marijuana program under a different set of rules.

Although the Washington State Liquor Control Board states that it is currently impossible to say exactly how much revenue will be raised by the state, some estimates suggest that up to $2 billion could be generated in the first five years by the state's %25 excise tax on the production, processing, and retail sale of legal marijuana.

23 states have adopted a medicinal marijuana program. 16 states (and the District of Columbia) have decriminalized the possession and use of the plant. Currently, the recreational use and retail sale of cannabis is legal in Colorado and Washington.

The Marijuana Policy Project reports that in 2014 proposals to regulate marijuana as a legal activity have been introduced in 18 states and the District of Columbia.

Washington State Liquor Control Board: Marijuana Facts
Global News Coverage of Washington Pot Retailers
US Medicinal Marijuana Programs
Pot Legalization
NORML (National Organization for the Reform Marijuana Laws)
Marijuana Policy Project
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King County Councilmember Larry Gossett Speaks During Minimum Wage Rally at Seattle City Hall

Efforts to raise the minimum wage for workers in the US - The movement is gaining momentum as more states and communities pass laws increasing wages for the working poor.

Seattle Minimum Wage Campaign Rally At City Hall

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The latest updates on the Washington State elections show some surprising turnarounds in the vote count. The elections have have attracted national and international attention on several controversial issues.

Occupy Candidate For Seattle City Council

When I interviewed the Occupy candidate running for Seattle City Council on election night, Kshama Sawant had already conceded the race.  She tweeted that her opponent incumbent Richard Conlin could now continue to collect his pay checks form the city. A few days ago Sawant was still 1,200 votes behind Conlin.

According to the latest reports, Kshama Sawant is now leading by a total of 41 votes. Her campaign raised $30,000 from non-corporate donors.

On election night Sawant was waxing philosophical about what she had learned during the election and she was talking about future campaigns. One of the lessons she may have now learned is that a candidate should not concede until all the votes are counted.

The Seattle City Council positions are considered non-partisan but you won't find a Republican anywhere to be found among the candidates. Seattle is famous for it's tolerance for marijuana, the population's high level of education, and for it's dependence on high tech industries.

Locally based corporations include Amazon, Microsoft, Google, Boeing, Starbucks, etc.This part of the country is also home to two of the richest men in the world -
Paul Allen and Bill Gates.

Neither one of them are interested in wearing suits and ties. In other words, Seattle is a pretty relaxed and very progressive town where none of the city officials support coal trains or fast food restaurants. Seattle is green friendly and corporate at the same time - an interesting combination.

It may be surprising to some political observers that a socalist candidate could potentially win this election. Kshama Sawant's main platform issue has been support  for raising the minimum wage in Seattle to $15/hr. (By the way, the city of Seatac just south of Seattle did manage to pass a ballot measure in support of that same issue.)

Sawant has received a lot of her support from occupy activists who trained themselves on how to organize during the height of that movement.

Many political pundits and consultants around the nation have wondered why the Occupy Wall Street movement didn't produce an electoral strategy. I have been asked that same question multiple times while on the air as a journalist with Jeff Santos in Boston, Norman Goldman in LA and Thom Hartmann from Washington, DC. This city council race demonstrates that there is potential for votes among that movement.

In some of the more progressive states it has been clear from the beginning that there were quite a few progressive Democrats involved in the Occupy Wall Street movement. Some of them are using their political experience and expertise to help  local political campaigns.

Kshama Sawant is a teacher at Seattle Central Community College who has little or no experience with electoral politics. A local alternative weekly called The Stranger supported Sawant's candidacy and as far as I know, they were the first media to predict her victory.

Proposition 1 - Public Election Financing In Seattle

In another surprising turn of events, Seattle's Proposition 1 is failing by less than a percentage point. The measure to provide public funding for political campaigns in the city of Seattle is backed by pro democracy groups as a way to get big money out of local elections. The proposition could also lead to an established limit on the amount that a candidate can spend during their campaign.

Proposition 1 was leading early in the week, but now it's fate is unclear. There are 60,000 votes yet to be counted from King county alone.The election results will not be officially certified until November 26.

Coal Port/Coal Trains

In Whatcom county, four new Democrats were elected to the county commission.
All of them have stated publicly that they will vote against granting a permit for a new coal port in Bellingham. The proposed port would have exported 48 million tons of coal each year to China.

The coal controversy in the Northwest has attracted hundreds of people to public hearings and few local residents have supported either the transport or export of that fossil fuel. The election in Whatcom county has been a focus of many national media reports and is being watched closely by green technology advocates and environmental protection groups.

Initiative 522 - GMO Labeling

Intiative 522 is still failing as of this writing. Washington State's campaign to label genetically modified organisms in food was fought by a group of very wealthy and powerful bio-tech companies, chemical corporations, and the Grocery Manufacturer's Association. The "No on I-522" campaign spent millions to defeat the measure. In fact, they outspent the local food co-ops, David Bronner of Dr. Bronner's Soap, and Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream by a ratio of three to one.

Here's the latest vote counts on several important election issues:

Last updated on 11/13/2013 3:23 PM
Initiative to the Legislature 522 Concerns labeling of genetically-engineered foods
County Results
    798,990    48.27%
    856,199    51.73%
Total Votes    1,655,189

General Election

Updated after 8:15 pm election night and most weekdays by 4:30 pm until certification on November 26.

City of Seattle Council Position No. 2
Richard Conlin
49.88% - 79710 votes

Kshama Sawant
49.91% - 79751 votes

City of Seattle Proposition No. 1
49.11% - 82268 votes

50.89% - 85234 votes
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With as many as 300,000 votes to be counted from metropolitan Martin Luther King County (including Seattle) the Washington State elections have fostered both celebration and disappointment in terms of campaign hopes.

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