Thursday, May 29, 2008

We need to respect work in this country

Last night, I attended a meeting at the Northgate Community Center. The city is considering changing the zoning in the Northgate area to allow taller buildings along 5th avenue and other areas. Northgate has been going through a lot of changes lately, with the major development south of the Mall, and the new building going up at the corner of 5th and Northgate Way. It's great to see.

I'm trying to find the information I saw last night online. On, the link to the Northgate plan from the main Neighborhood Planning page,, is a broken link. It currently goes to it is supposed to be going to

There is no mention of the meeting last night on the Northgate page. In fact, there is no calendar at all. I had to go to the Northgate Activist website to find out that the original comment period ended on May 16th, was extended to this meeting. At the meeting, they extended the comment period again to June 17th. Northgate Activist had a link to the EIS proposal. Finally!

Dang, I wish they would include the size of the PDF file with the link so we could decide whether to download it through a slow connection... This thing is 112 pages! 7.355 MB.

Page 19 in the PDF shows what this is all about. There are four options. We can do nothing, do a broad rezone with a focus on residential, do a broad rezone with a focus on commercial, or a focused rezone. The decision will likely be made based on how many jobs opportunities will be opened in the Northgate area by these options. The highest number is 12,000 jobs.

I'm not going to go into the details of the plan. It goes into Parks, Traffic, and a bunch of other details on growth projections and blah, blah. No, what I want to talk about are those 12,000 jobs.

If you walk through a store in the Northgate Mall, you see lots of things. Mostly clothing, made all over the world. Toys made in China. Jewlery made who knows where.

I think there might be a "Made in Washington" shop in the Mall, but I'm not sure. What I do believe is that 99% of the merchandise sold at the Northgate Mall are items made somewhere else. Elsewhere in the country, elsewhere in the world. It's too easy to say that everything is made in China, but who knows. What do you think the percentage is?

Those 12,000 jobs mentioned in the Draft EIS are commercial jobs. Retail, banking, investment, buying and selling over the Internet. They might even be decent paying jobs. But when I spoke to one of the representatives from the city, I asked where the industrial land is. Where are places where people can walk from home to work, and actually build something. Something beautiful. Something they can be proud of. He told me that most new industrial space now is being pushed all the way to Monroe. With probably a few exceptions that I don't know about, the only work done within the Seattle city limits is at the Port of Seattle bringing the crates to shore from the ships. Why can't we have jobs in the city that make things?

I also spoke with the developer of the property at 5th and Northgate Way, and asked him who the main leasers were going to be for at that building. Circuit City and Office Depot. More retail, and competition for the shops that are already in the area like Best Buy and Kinkos. At one point last year, we had a Public Relations retailer rent some space in one of the strip malls. It was either a franchise or a mom and pop. It didn't even last long enough for me to walk in and see what they had to offer.

Where am I going with this? This is turning too much into a rage against the machine. So let me spread this out beyond Seattle and rant about something different but related. I got an email from my father in Centralia for my birthday. He told me that he had cancelled his contractors license because the state government had changed the law so that anyone who did more than one thing in remodeling or construction required a general contractors license instead of a speciality license. More expensive bonding, more expensive insurance, more and higher fees. He's out of business. Out of a job. In an area where the people are still digging themselves out from underneath tons of mud from the storms last September.

Why can't we respect work in this country? Or even in this state? Why can't we make things that are beautiful and that we can be proud of? Why can't we hire people and pay them a living wage to do remodeling work on our homes without driving them out of business because their business is too small?!

This is painful. This is personal. This is not the future that I want to live in. We have to change this.

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