Morning Fizz: We Need to Talk About the Artists
Caffeinated News & Gossip featuring heavy political lifts, candidate slates, and Metro funding.
1. The recurring theme at last night's packed (with white people and white panelists) public meeting at the Oddfellows building on Pine St. across from Cal Anderson Park about creating an arts district on Capitol Hill to preserve arts spaces and arts organizations was this: Preserving arts spaces and arts organizations is all well and good, but it's meaningless without also preserving the artists who live in the neighborhood.
In other words: Making sure performance spaces, galleries, music venues, and indie movie houses (like the great Northwest Film Forum) can stay in the neighborhood is a nice idea, but it's an empty gesture if the artists that sustain the scene can't afford to live on Capitol Hill as well.
"This is an arts district already. It's been an arts district for thirty years," said panelist Cathryn Vandenbrink of ArtSpace. "I don't think we can legislate an arts district," she explained. "There's been a lot of emphasis on organizations, but we need to talk about the artists," saying that her partner, also an artist, once rented space in Oddfellows for $200 a month.
Preserving affordability for suis generis starving artist types that create the very vibrancy that attract developers to the neighborhood in the first place—who then create an inaccessible housing market for artists—is the cruel irony that last night's forum, hosted by affordable housing developer Capitol Hill Housing, zoomed in on.
That specific conundrum, though, ultimately doesn't feel unique or any different than the larger conversation that's taking place citywide about affordable rents and mortgages.
It all comes down to housing prices for middle-class residents, be it the undiscovered geniuses living in a group house on Capitol Hill, a teacher trying to make ends meet in Greenwood, or a nurse living in the Central District.
The specific tools for an arts district—such as having LEED-style arts certification standards that developers have to meet (like preserving a certain percentage of space for the arts)—haven't been worked out yet, but that wasn't the point last night.
The point, as articulated in the frank commentary from panelist Matthew Richter, the city's Cultural Space Liaison from the Office of Arts & Culture, was to organize political pressure on the City Council (hyper-supportive Council member Nick Licata, who created Richter's position at the city, kicked off the event) and on the mayor too (Mayor Ed Murray staffer Maggie Thompson was in the audience).
The lack of diversity at last night's event exposed the political organizing work that needs to be done.
Richter warned of the "the heavy political lift" required to get the ball rolling to make the city designate Capitol Hill an arts district which, in turn, would then create the opportunity to find ways to nudge developers to preserve housing.
And that serious political task brings us back to the snide aside in the very first sentence of this Fizz item: The lack of diversity at last night's event exposed the political organizing work that needs to be done.
2. As former OneAmerica founder and director Pramila Jayapal piles up the endorsements and the money ($82,500 raised so far) in the race to fill retiring southeast Seattle state Sen. Adam Kline's (D-37) seat, her closest rival Louis Watanabe ($28,000 raised), picked up a handy endorsement yesterday.
Democracy for America, a group that promotes progressive candidates, ID'd a state senate slate yesterday, mostly focusing on candidates in swing district turf to win back the senate from Republican-control.
For example, they endorsed Democrat Matt Isenhower in the Microsoft suburban 45th District against powerful GOP budget chair state Sen. Andy Hill. However, it's worth noting that they also tapped former tech entrepreneur and union teacher, Japanese-American Watanabe, over Jayapal, who's been getting most of progressive endorsements.
Speaking of Seattle's 37th District—Tamra Smilanich has filed to run against Democratic state Rep. Eric Pettigrew (D-37), wisely listing her party status in the liberal district as "non-partisan."
However, she's also filed to run as a Precinct Committee Officer for the GOP.
3. Keep Seattle Moving, the group that briefly started collecting signatures for a Seattle-only bus funding measure, but suspended their campaign when Mayor Ed Murray announced his own plan with broad support from labor, community groups, business, and council, sent out an email to supporters yesterday taking credit for Murray's move and getting behind a proposal from City Council members Nick Licata and Kshama Sawant to amend Murray's sales tax idea with an employer tax and commercial parking tax.
From the email:
Last week, Mayor Murray proposed a Seattle-only ballot measure to preserve Metro service in Seattle, and we’re now seeing the City Council debate making it more progressive, with a proposal from councilmembers Sawant and Licata. Given the strong popular pressure that you’ve helped apply, the City Council is acting. It’s even likely their final plan will fund more bus service than our initiative! Because of this groundswell of support, we believe we can suspend our campaign.