Editor's note: Tomorrow at 9:30 am, the Seattle City Council's government performance and finance committee will discuss legislation that would renew the downtown Metropolitan Improvement District—the Downtown Seattle Association program that pays for those ubiquitous yellow-clad "Downtown Ambassadors" with a special tax on about 60 percent of downtown property owners—and expand it into Belltown.

Proponents say the MID has been critical to improving public safety, quality of life, and cleanliness downtown; opponents call it an unnecessary tax on downtown property owners and say they can clean up their own sidewalks. In this Cola guest editorial, downtown club and restaurant owners Dave Meinert and Marcus Charles make the case for renewing and expanding the district. 

Like commercial and residential property owners, small business owners – as well as their customers and employees – have a lot to gain with the renewal of the Metropolitan Improvement District (MID) and expanding the program to Belltown in July.

Unlike other downtown neighborhoods, Belltown does not currently receive the MID’s clean and safe services – including daily sidewalk sweeping and litter collection; graffiti removal in public areas and at parking pay stations; human/animal waste and hypodermic needle removal; and regular pressure-washing of sidewalks. And it shows. 

One of the biggest benefits of the MID is that it encompasses the entire downtown area – not just one building, or one block. That’s important because if one block is clean and the next five are not, the entire neighborhood is impacted. The MID boundary along Lenora Street shows a stark contrast between the existing MID area and Belltown. Clearly, downtown will never be seen as a great place to live, work, shop and play if some of its neighborhoods are clean and safe while others are not.

Expanding the MID into Belltown is our best shot at providing Belltown businesses with the same level of consistent service as businesses in the other MID neighborhoods – an opinion that is echoed by the Belltown Business Association, Belltown Community Council and Downtown Residents Council.

As small business owners who have invested heavily in locating and growing our businesses in Belltown, we can no longer afford to address our neighborhood-wide challenges with the kind of piecemeal approach that has failed to adequately address the issues important to our customers and employees.  

While joining the MID is not going to solve all of our problems, it will take us a long way in the right direction. The MID renewal proposal includes a number of enhanced services which many of us have been requesting for years and which specifically address our most important issues:

  • New cleaning services throughout the neighborhood, including late afternoons, early evenings, and weekends.
  • More police patrols to deal with drug activity and other illegal behavior.
  • Help marketing the neighborhood and recruiting businesses for vacant storefronts.
  • Outreach services to connect the homeless and mentally ill people on our streets to services.

The entire city comes to Belltown, but we can’t clean up after the entire city on our own. Now is the time for Belltown businesses to receive the same services as the rest of Downtown; now is the time for the Seattle City Council to renew and expand the MID. 

Marcus Charles is owner and operator of the Crocodile and Local 360 in Belltown. Dave Meinert is owner and operator of The 5 Point Café in Belltown. 

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