Thursday, January 24, 2008

Who's More Accountable? Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels, Or This Jumbo Jar of Pickles?

At the risk of redundancy, I've boiled down Real Change's objection to the Mayor's campsite clearance policy to the fewest words possible, which I offer here in the interest of concision and clarity.
The Mayor’s office plans to soon extend Seattle’s parks exclusion ordinance to all public land throughout the City. This is the criminalization of basic human survival. The 2007 One Night Count clearly documents that at least 1,600 people struggle to survive outside of Seattle’s over-extended emergency shelter system.

The Mayor’s policy largely ignores the concerns raised by homeless people and their advocates and broadly extends the City’s coercive power. By enacting a major policy shift through an interdepartmental rules change process, the Mayor and his direct representatives have acted without the accountability that an authentic public process might provide. If approved, the Mayor’s policy would:
  • Extend the existing Parks exclusion ordinance to all public land, and create tools to coerce enforcement by owners of private property as well.
  • Define sleeping on these properties overnight as a criminal act.
  • Enact a uniform policy for all public property through which exclusion citations may be issued on the basis of mere suspicion. Violation of an exclusion citation is punishable with criminal penalties.
  • Delegate citation issuance authority to any chosen representative of the City.
Broad exceptions exist to legitimate the destruction of campsites and private property without advance notice. Stated commitments to human services outreach and provision of shelter alternatives remain unacceptably weak and unenforceable.
Please spread the word (download flier here) that the Real Change Organizing Project will hold a rally and press conference on January 28 outside of Seattle Center's Rainier Room from 5-6 pm, the secret sign-up period for those who wish to testify at the 6 pm "hearing," which is really just a comment period tacked onto an interdepartmental briefing.

Which brings us to this week's poll: Who behaves more accountably toward poor people in Seattle? Our developer-friendly Mayor Greg "Big Guy" Nickels, or this Jumbo Jar of Vlasic pickles? As always, vote at top right. See the results of last week's poll here.

Of last week's 1,060 unique visitors, 37 took a moment to weigh in on the very important question of the Mayor's accountability to the poor. By more than a 5-1 margin, the Jar of Vlasic Pickles is more responsive to the concerns of homeless people than Mayor Greg Nickels.


"Uta" Urban said...

Pickle Nickles Conundrum.

The pickle jar acts more accountably (in it's quiescent pickle jar way) but Nickels is technically accountable for this chilling turn.

Set me straight on the language.

Tim Harris said...

Good editorial call. I tweaked a sentence in the final paragraph to clarify.

Mary said...

Tim, thank you for your leadership on this important issue, and count me in for the rally and hearing. And I think you mean "January 28" not "February 28."

Sally said...

While sitting around at home tonight waiting to go out to count those homeless people who have not been scared too far into the background by police/city action to find, I researched those charming Vlasic pickles to check out their comparative accountability. Well, the pickles themselves may be OK, kosher even, certainly more so than Nickels, but they appear to be made in China and it's another depressing agribusiness story. If the China angle is already too much, you might want to just scroll down to the next comment and consider making your own pickles, for which you will be completely accountable (assuming you also grow the cucumbers).

Vlasic Pickles grew out of a Detroit creamery and fresh pickle business begun by Croatian immigrant Frank Vlasic, apparently a real person, and then his son Joe, also a real person, in the 1920s. Vlasic's primary product, pickles packaged in glass jars, began production during World War II, and the business rapidly expanded in the post-war years, corresponding with growth in per capita pickle consumption. A child-bearing stork was introduced as a mascot in the late 1960s, merging the stork baby mythology with the notion that pregnant women have an above average appetite for pickles. Vlasic marketed themselves as "the pickle pregnant women crave . . . after all, who's a better pickle expert?" This made the product unique and memorable. Later, during the 70's, when women were entering the workforce in force, the Vlasic stork's commercials had the theme: "With the birth rate down, I deliver Vlasic pickles instead."
Now the truly inspiring corporate history:
Vlasic's was later sold to Campbell Soup Company. Then that company's pickle division was sold to Vlasic Foods International (I don't understand either; that's what I found) in 1998, and in 2001 the corp name was changed to Pinnacle Foods Corp. Then in 2007Blackstone Group bought Pinnacle Foods Corp. (which owned a bazillion other brand names including Duncan Hines cake mix and Mrs. Paul's frozen fish) for about $2 billion. The Pinnacle ownership group who sold to Blackstone included CCMP Capital Advisors, JW Childs Associates and a group of bondholders of the former Aurora Foods, which merged with Pinnacle in 2005 as part of Aurora's bankruptcy reorganization.

Tim Harris said...

Thank you Mary, for the kind words and your eagle-eyed catch. Sometimes the writing happens faster than my brain. And thank you Sally for that fascinating history of the Vlasic pickle company, or whoever the hell they are. They're a metaphor, for something ...

Michael said...

Nickles and his clique are a bunch of
fascist swines (apologies to my porcine friends for tarring them with that ugly brush!) This attept to sweep the homeless from the neat, tidy, nearly completely gentrified streets of Seattle gives new meaning to the term 'War on Poverty' and causes me profound shame for my city.