Words have been my business for many years and I am always fascinated by how they are used. Sometimes words are used to say one thing and mean something quite different.
I was at a council meeting in another city and the term affordable housing came up during the discussion.
I have always thought it was a term that means different things to many different people.
For some, it means housing for low- income folks. We used to call it the projects, but no one wants to say that anymore.
For others, affordable housing means a place my kid can move into so he’ll get out of my house and give me some peace. Not an unreasonable thought.
At other times, it is a term for starter homes. I like that phrase, too – starter homes. I used to see signs all the time for homes starting at $300,000, now I see them starting at $175,000. Both prices seem nutty to me.
I remember when my grandma moved off our farm and bought a brand new three-bedroom home in Enumclaw for $9,000. She paid cash for it. I don’t know why that figure has stuck with me all these years, but every time I see these homes going for $200,000 I have to wonder what kind of economic world we have built for our kids.
At the Tukwila City Council meeting June 6, the council members, mayor and city staff took a step toward dealing with the housing and economic Gordian knot in one of the most challenging parts of the city, Tukwila International Boulevard.
The members selected the developer for Tukwila Village, located at the intersection of South 144th Street and Tukwila International Boulevard.
The council awarded the contract to Tukwila Village Development Associates, which is also known as SHAG, Senior Housing Assistance Group, a nonprofit firm based in Puyallup specializing in housing for the elderly and disabled.
After approval, those in the audience applauded and there was sense in the room something was happening.
The project features a King County Library building, a police center, a plaza, retail space and apartments for seniors. (I have to disclose in the spirit of fairness the King County Library is my favorite place in the world. That is why I am often referred to as Mr. Excitement).
After the vote approving the developer, Mayor Jim Haggerton said, “We have to get a first project started up there.”
That sums it up for Tukwila. The boulevard is very challenging problem for this city. There is no kidding around about that.
I spent some time recently on the boulevard. What I saw was behavior I used to see in South Philadelphia in the early 1970s.
When I was drafted at the end of the Vietnam War, I was sent to Philadelphia. I was about 20 and I had lived in Enumclaw all my life.
South Philadelphia was the first time I saw gangs, drug dealers and real mafia guys. It was a very tough and dangerous place.
I never told my folks. I am sure my mother would have called the president and told him to send me home right now or else. If Richard Nixon understood what or else meant he would have done it, too.
When I went up to the boulevard in Tukwila, some of those South Philly images came back.
Dealing with the type of problems like those on the boulevard takes political leaders that do not pull their heads or hide behind words that say one thing and mean something quite different. Our words can trick us or they can help us to see who we are if we stop and listen.
There are no magic words that can be chanted to fix what is happening on the boulevard, but you have to give credit to this council and city staff. There was no ducking and dodging behind words with double meanings.
Councilman Dennis Robertson wrapped it up well.
“Let’s just do it.”