If I was going to make a movie about what has happened to my neighborhood of renters in West Seattle at Lowman Beach Park, I would call it The Four Stooges in The Case of the Missing Neighborhood.
For those of you who don’t know who the Three Stooges were, they were Larry, Moe, and Curly Joe, famous during most of the mid-20th century for very slapstick and physical comedy. Their short movies often parodied and criticized the rich and the powerful. One of my favorites was their 1938 Healthy, Wealthy and Dumb, reworked in 1952 as A Missed Fortune.
Not unlike the Four Stooges in my movie, the Three Stooges were known for habitually blaming each other or some current situation for their constant screw-ups. They were fond of saying things like “It’s all your fault puddin’ head,” “Don’t worry, we always get it right the second time,” “I beg your pardon, do you have any idea of what we are doin’?,” “I wouldn’t say yes, but I couldn’t say no,” “We must lend our neighbors a helping hand! We must lend them two helping hands, and help ourselves to our neighbors!,” and “I’m positive about the negative, but a little negative about the positive.”
My movie goes like this.
Once upon a time, there was a very unique neighborhood. It was only a couple of blocks long. Each building and all the renters, for dozens of years, were a mix of educated, funky, entertaining, loving, responsible and neighborly, beach-types. Kind of a Fremont by the sea. They got to watch sunset after wondrous sunset out of their west-facing windows, and be entertained by the sights and sounds of giggling kids, fetching dogs, partying families, euphoric kite-flyers, athletic windsurfers, extreme kite boarders, fit tennis players, crazy bicyclists, motivated runners, variegated walkers, and the occasional outdoor wedding.
The words “Another day in paradise” would often slip out of their mouths as they greeted each other. The other joke used to be “if you want to rent one of these 7000 Beach Drive SW units, you’ll have to wait for a current renter to die.”
But, then, in the years soon after the creation of the Clean Water Act and the rising dictatorship of the Washington State Department of Ecology, a dark cloud drifted over this renter’s paradise, with threats of destruction for the “greater good.”
The neighborhood contained only a few unsheepable types — you know the types who were always trying to be rational in the face of rampant irrationality. They sat on committees, did a lot of homework, and advocated for a different solution to Ecology’s and King County’s demands, but, in the end, they were betrayed, since the very thing they voted as “off limits” and “out of bounds” is taking place — the complete destruction of a renter’s paradise directly east of a West Seattle Eden called Lowman Beach Park. Not unlike how certain governments “disappear” people, this government is “disappearing” an entire neighborhood.
My movie would clearly show the lack of leadership, coordination, and community sensitivity in this tale of the missing neighborhood by the four main characters, the Four Stooges — Mikey, Dow, Tommy, and Curly Joe. You likely know them as Mike McGinn, Dow Constantine, Tom Rasmussen, and Joe McDermott. Highly influential, but totally unresponsive elected officials to the plight of the missing neighborhood, and decidedly not interested. How do I know this? I have written to them all. I have flunked them all in my report card at http://www.WhatNowWestSeattle.com. The only one of the Four Stooges to even make a public statement about the destruction of this renter’s paradise has been Dour Dow — “As a life-long West Seattleite, I am keenly aware of the importance of every home, whether rental or owner-occupied, to the identity and stability of our community,” said the Executive. “However, the alternatives all have impacts of their own.” If you can’t decipher the politically-correct double-talk in that statement, send me an email — I’ll explain it.
Just in case you may not know what a “stooge” is, here’s the definition: “a yes-person” (A person who serves merely to support or assist others, particularly in doing unpleasant work.)
In a democracy, there have to be checks and balances and leadership. Without them, the majority or the rich will always rule, to the detriment of the less powerful or the minority. In this case, the disappearance of a treasured set of residences and neighbors can be clearly attributed to the actions of a powerful lobby loosely known as the Fauntleroy Community Association. They and their cohorts were able to subvert the Community Advisory Committee’s (CAG) recommendations based on their numbers and connections and, by such force, gave King County the excuse to betray the CAG and “disappear” an entire unique and treasured neighborhood. And, the Four Stooges? They are doing what stooges do best — saying “yes.”
Lessons to be learned. 1. Clearly, none of the state, the county, or the city, are here to protect the weak and the small treasured neighborhoods. 2. Seattleites are generally compliant to a fault — they seem to be too happy to care (to get angry enough about government hurts and abuses). 3. If you want something different, more respectful of community needs and desires, you better fight for it, and fight for it hard.
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Ron Sterling, M.D. is a psychiatrist, author, and renter in the 7000 block of Beach Drive SW and has been advocating for the neighborhood and Lowman Beach Park since 2004.
If you feel the content or wording of this opinion piece seems disrespectful of certain elected officials, please keep in mind that respect is something you earn, and respect is a two-way street. Give respect and you will generally get respect. This neighborhood has been given nothing but disdain and pain.