#occupyseattle Letter to Mayor McGinn
By Alice Dubiel at Oct 10, 2011
Honorable Mike McGinn
City of Seattle
I am writing to urge you to develop a different approach to #occupyseattle at Westlake. This protest is about unfairness issues, including injustice in city land use. I advocate approval of 24/7 occupation in Westlake Park, and your move to provide city support for public health and sanitation facilities as well as a stop to hassling protesters who wish to remain overnight in temporary shelter including tents.
I believe you are making too literal an interpretation of the law in this case. This occupation is different from Tent City, a reaction to failed housing and shelter policies in the City of Seattle. I believe the city is focusing on details instead of the intent of the protest, and this focus is counterproductive.
I agree with many advocates of the homeless: the City of Seattle’s anti-tent city laws need reexamination. What is at stake there is self-determination and rule instead of providing resources and subsidies to real estate developers. Current city policies are antidemocratic and actually thwart sustainable, attractive civic growth. However, confusing this issue with #occupyseattle issues is a failure of imagination and intent.
Young people are occupying the space of the future. We need to make this space public to facilitate their constructing a new, democratic, narrative. So much has been carved into privatized space, and nowhere is this more true than in Seattle, where even awnings create easements onto public space. Conflating umbrellas with tents in a city whose arts festival is named Bumbershoot is so laughable as to be absurd. The people need to take back Westlake, our marketplace of ideas, and I support closing Pine Street between 4th and 5th again, if only for the duration of #occupyseattle. It would be better to make it permanent.
While I appreciate your visit to #occupyseattle at Westlake yesterday, you need to take more steps. The protesters, like those around the country, need time for imagination and process. We leave a horrible legacy of debt, toxicity and danger, weapons and war, and we’re hassling them while they try to come up with solutions? I wonder why you came to Seattle. Was it the possibility of a beautifully compelling environment, with like-minded people who dream of liberty and prosperity? My family came here for the arts, both visual arts which were once very democratic and expansive, and the traditions of music, whether classical or popular, and we have many friends active in these arts whether they moved here or were born here. It is a city with enormous potential. However, governance has exchanged this for the delusions of confidence ploys, get rich quick and speculating opportunities posed by improper land use and its relationship to financial deception (also in Seattle history, I will not deny).
So much has our city government given to mercantile forces over the years that it is unfair to deny public take back of Westlake Park. Pacific Place parking was paid for with HUD money that should have gone to housing. Taxes unpaid in barter for promise of jobs allowed consumerism to run amok while not attending to public needs for infrastructure, social welfare, education and the arts. I know your administration was not the creator of these injustices. However, your office can be the co-creator of space to fight them.
Please advise me of your working process and your efforts to support #occupyseattle. I’m sure you consider yourself part of the 99% and urge you act in our interests.