1. A group of about 500 people broke off from yesterday’s annual Martin Luther King Day march between the Central District and downtown and headed instead to Uncle Ike’s pot shop at 23rd and Union. The shop is a fraught symbol of gentrification, selling pot in a historically African American neighborhood that’s been devastated by the war on drugs, a government policy that has led to the mass incarceration of black men. The demonstrators shut the store down for several hours, locking the doors with heavy chains. (Customers who were inside at the time left through a back door.)
The owner of Ike’s, Ian Eisenberg, was having lunch in the restaurant/bar below the store when one of his employees called him on Face Time and flipped the phone around to show him the huge crowd.
Eisenberg went outside, he says, to talk to the demonstrators, who had a flyer titled “Take a Hike, Ike! Gentrification Stops Here!” listing several demands. “Ian Eisenberg…YOU WILL” the flyer said, “Hand over 54 percent of your properties to the Community” to be used for “community controlled low-income housing.” Other demands included building a community center, paying the legal fees for people of color facing drug charges and lobbying costs to advocate for retroactive marijuana laws, and “provid[ing] funds to assist people who have already been or will be displaced by gentrification.”
Eisenberg talked to a few of the protesters one on one, but says he felt the larger crowd wasn’t interested in a dialogue. He followed up after the protest by messaging the group—the flyer was signed The Seattle Black Book Club, and he found their Facebook page—saying he’d be happy to sit down and have “meaningful conversation.” (He told me that the 54 percent demand didn’t make any sense because there would be no way to pay the mortgages on the property, and then the housing would be foreclosed.)
Eisenberg reports that he is frustrated with the narrative about his business as a force for gentrification. (The legitimate conversation about gentrification and Ike's has swerved into ridiculous antisemitism in the past.)
Eisenberg says the five properties he owns in the area—including the pot shop, a car wash, and a gas station—were all vacant except for one parcel before he bought them. “None of my properties have ever displaced anyone, they were vacant,” he says. (There was an auto repair shop in one of the properties, he says, but it wasn’t housing.) He also bought the formerly vacant lot on the southwest corner across from his shop, but has since sold it to Lake Union Partners and they are building apartments.
Eisenberg says the protesters were also accusing him of gentrifying the property behind Ike’s to the east. But that property, he notes, is owned by Capitol Hill Housing, which the affordable housing group bought from Key Bank.
You could argue, though, that his commercial properties are increasing property values and leading to more gentrification.
Eisenberg insists, though, that critics have the gentrification equation wrong: He argues that many African Americans left the C.D. before the new development boom began.
He says he told one protester it was ironic that they were chanting “by any means necessary,” the famous Malcolm X quote, on MLK Day. The protester told him that the two 60s civil rights leaders were fighting the same fight.
Speaking of 60s civil rights days. It’s also ironic that the group that lobbies on behalf of pot shops (Eisenberg is on the board) is called the Cannabis Organization of Retail Establishments, or CORE. CORE was also the civil rights group, the Congress of Racial Equality, that led the famous freedom rides to desegregate busing.
2. There’s a couple of things to add to the bizarre story that the Seattle Times posted last night about Republican state representative Mary Dye (R-9, Pomeroy) who questioned a group of teenage lobbyists about their virginity.
For starters, here’s the actual quote: "Ok, so we know you're not a virgin,” Dye said to the teen who was leading the group, according to Planned Parenthood, “now what about the rest of you?"
The group, part of Planned Parenthood’s annual teen lobby day (two years ago they schooled then senate leader state senator Rodney Tom), was lobbing for legislation that allows women to receive 12 months of birth control at a time so they’d only have to go to a pharmacy once a year.
Dye apparently had more to say. After singling out the teen leading the meeting, she continued to talk about how sex before marriage leads to "losing your soul" and that every time you do it, part of your soul is chipped away. She then singled out the only boy in the group and said boys have it easy and have a pretty good gig going because it's easy to find sex before marriage. But, Dye added, it takes away boys’ souls too.
Dye’s eastern Washington district includes the Planned Parenthood clinic in Pullman that was attacked by arsonists.
“When the teens come to Olympia,” Planned Parenthood spokesman Erik Houser says, “they know that some legislators may disagree with their support for access to abortion and birth control. What they don't expect is the level of disrespect and shame they received from Rep. Mary Dye on Monday. To be clear: inquiring into your constituents' personal sexual histories is never acceptable. In response, the teens came right back with...poise and professionalism.”
3. If you want answers about mayor Ed Murray’s policy on homeless encampment removals, such as whether residents are getting adequate notice, what the protocol is around engagement and social services, what’s the procedure around storage and destruction of personal property, and what’s the the role of law enforcement at the sweeps—tune in this morning’s city council briefing at 9:30.
Freshman city council member Lisa Herold requested the update from the mayor’s office.
The Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness and Columbia Legal Services have been asking the mayor the same questions (they sent him a letter raising their concerns last month) and evidently, Herbold wants Murray's answers on the record.