Editorial notebook: Taking a walk through Chinatown International District with Mayor Ed Murray
Mayor Ed Murray and city leaders saw firsthand Thursday the problems faced by businesses and residents in Chinatown-International District. Now, they should do something about it, writes editorial writer Thanh Tan.
MAYOR Ed Murray was nearly mobbed Thursday evening in Seattle’s Chinatown International District by a crowd of business owners and patrons eager to participate in the city’s seventh “Find It, Fix It” walk. More than 100 people were there to shake his hand and bend his ear.
This was an important step toward establishing trust with a community that includes many immigrants from countries where they are accustomed to government working against them.
As their homes and businesses increasingly become targets for crime, their safety is at stake. They can no longer sit on the sidelines. Two days before, the mayor extended an invitation for the community to meet him for a stroll.
With clipboards in hand, city officials jotted down individuals’ concerns, which the city will follow up on within weeks: unsanitary conditions, car prowling, graffiti, seniors afraid to walk outside, loitering by people with mental illnesses and bumpy sidewalks. Broken lights in public spaces such as the Danny Woo Community Gardenhave led to a proliferation of prostitution and narcotics use.
“There’s a crowd that feels they have carte blanche over this area and not a lot of police to watch them,” said Taylor Hoang, president of the Pho Cyclo restaurant chain, as we walked up South Jackson Street where Chinatown meets Little Saigon.
Hoang was mugged outside her office six months ago in broad daylight.
Alleys are supposed to be cleaned twice a day, but trash is often left to rot. That is, until Murray announced he would be visiting the area.
In Little Saigon, business owners flanked the mayor to register their concerns about Nickelsville’s unilateral decision to move its homeless encampment to nearby South Dearborn Street.
Murray said he would be willing to sit all sides down to identify core concerns.
He must remember cultural awareness is critical. For instance, members of the Vietnamese community are extremely sensitive to representations of stars in public spaces and on city materials, especially those that resemble the one on communist Vietnam’s flag. Many of these business owners are former refugees from South Vietnam, which fell in 1975. Communist oppression prompted their exodus to Seattle.
As the walk wound down, Murray told me the city needs to change the ways it communicates with diverse neighborhoods.
“If folks here have been overlooked, we need to correct it,” he promised.
— Thanh Tan
Editorial board members are editorial page editor Kate Riley, Frank A. Blethen, Ryan Blethen, Sharon Pian Chan, Jonathan Martin, Erik Smith, Thanh Tan, Blanca Torres, Robert J. Vickers, William K. Blethen (emeritus) and Robert C. Blethen (emeritus).