The Cactus Speaks: Majority Council secrets, distortion, and exclusion

[EDITOR’S NOTE: This column by Earl Gipson is a view of SeaTac city government. It does not necessarily reflect the views of The SeaTac Blog nor its staff. We are seeking additional regular columnists to reflect different opinions and views of SeaTac residents. Those interested can e-mail us at [email protected].]

by Earl Gipson

Once upon a time in the City of SeaTac the public was engaged and invited to Council sub-committees and ad hoc committees (even allowed to comment). This was before the cabal took over and our 2011 election/Council was purchased by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and its affiliates.

Three of our Council members now up for re-election received over 100K from these groups. Go to if you want proof. That is unheard of for a city our size and exceeded all spending combined for SeaTac Council elections since our incorporation in 1990.

Previous Committees
The public was invited to the committee meetings, they were on the city calendar, and even allowed to comment. The chair of each committee was a different Councilmember and leadership was shared.

  • Land Use & Parks Committee (LUP)-ELIMINATED
  • Administration & Finance Committee (A&F)-ELIMINATED
  • Public Works & Safety (PWS)-ELIMINATED
  • Code Reorganization Ad Hoc Committee-DISBANDED (recommendations ignored by Council).

Private Meeting System
Un-elected Mayor Gregerson now establishes “work groups” (on a whim) of Council members where the Public is not invited, have no idea when or where they occur, and the Council members of the work group are not published anywhere.

The budget workgroup got us a 6.25 percent Utility Tax and the Code Enforcement workgroup has got us slogans thus far. The new Code Enforcement policies was to be revealed at the Council Retreat on Monday (June 29) at 1 p.m. when everyone is at work. They would rather not have the Public around like at a Council meeting.

Further the workgroup (or whatever they called it) for the Residential Satisfaction Survey got us a skewed report, unknown and unnamed “Community Liaisons”, and a whopping 299 participants out of a city of 27,000. Until Councilmember Fernald informed the public we had no idea this survey existed and you could do it online. The city did not promote this and really only wanted the input from the mysterious “Community Liaisons” and their targeted participants.

Even in the public meeting reviewing the survey, the liaison’s names were not revealed when Program Manager Soraya Lowry was asked (a couple of times). At the Council Meeting on Tuesday (June 23) the survey was presented as gospel. The manure keeps flowing.

I could go on but hopefully we are all getting the picture. It took me a while and I wanted to believe the Council majority had our best interests in mind. That illusion/hope left in the 2011 election and will not return until the purchased Councilmembers are replaced.

Council Majority Collusion?
Any single item from the above does not make the case. Together, quacks like a duck.

Can you spot the sociopaths?
Here are some 10 helpful hints that may help you identify a SeaTac Councilmember or so (staff-not so much, they just want to keep their jobs):

I’m not a shrink but I do watch/evaluate body language, word usage, and reactions from Council Members when someone disagrees with them in the meetings. You can’t see this on the video but if you attend the meetings you can see and judge for yourself.

We all have quirks just some far more destructive than others.

Former SeaTac Councilmember and un-elected Mayor Ralph Shape has died
Ralph Shape passed away on June 22nd.

Ralph and I verbally jousted for years but I think we both kept a sense of humor about it and mutual respect. His leadership/honesty was vital to the city and we now know that we took him for granted.

I still laugh at some of our encounters. The “potato chip incident” still makes me laugh. I was speaking at the microphone at an RCM during Public Comment and Ralph was crinkling a potato chip bag into his microphone to distract me and make it harder to hear me. I was irritated at the time but I wish others would have the guts (it didn’t and won’t phase me while speaking anyway).

Many may have thought we disliked each other but it was just our politics and we each thought we were smarter than the other. He was a good man and our City will miss him, his intelligence, and dedication to any task he took on. My condolences to his family.


6 Responses to “The Cactus Speaks: Majority Council secrets, distortion, and exclusion”
  1. Ron Bensley, Jr. says:

    Earl, both Sandy and I were present in the audience at the RCM on that particular evening when Councilmember Shape was enjoying his Lay’s chips. It’s possible, though I can’t recall for certain, that the pre-RCM committee hearings ran longer than normal (or there was a “snap” exec session), so he and his fellow councilmembers really didn’t have time for a snack break. Anyway, we recall your interchange with Ralph on that date quite vividly.

    Ralph was a supremely civil gentleman. I agree with you that he was a good man. I particularly recall Ralph’s periodic reports to the Council regarding the development of the SCORE correctional facility, as well as his interest in the fine and performing arts such as providing grant funding for the Northwest Symphony Orchestra. Any news as to whether there’s a public memorial service planned?

  2. Rick Forschler says:

    I’m going to miss Ralph. He was a sincere and hard-working member of our community. He selflessly contributed his time to SeaTac and served on the City Council with dignity. My sincere condolences to his family. Godspeed Ralph.

  3. Melissa says:

    When the citizens are speaking at the microphone the Mayor and Deputy Mayor SHOULD be listening, not laughing to each other! It’s RUDE! Most of the council is full of a group that is self righteous and self centered people..looking to improve their own career! Vote these people OUT!!!

  4. Earl Gipson says:

    It should be noted that I have asked the Attorney General if these workgroups and “private” meetings are legal. My response from Nancy Krier (ATG) is they are legal according to a 1986 Attorney General opinion:

    These committees/workgroups may CHOSE to invite the public, post the schedule, ask for public comment, but is at their discretion and no minutes seem to be required. Our current Majority Council has chosen not to use any of those options.

    Additionally I would hope the Council would at least identify the authority to create these workgroups/committees within the City Code or Council Procedures and place guidelines on them. As it stands nothing exists that places standards on these meetings, workgroups, and committees of Council Members (unless there is a quorum) and the Public is legally left in the dark as to what actually occurred in their deliberations and the basis for the decisions/recommendations that they produce. We have to take their word for it. I, for one, am not comfortable with that (our current leadership such that it is).

  5. Michael T Kovacs says:

    Memories of Mayor Shape

    2009 at a city council meeting had intresting interaction be Mayor Shape and Earl Gipson during public comment. It kind of went like this.

    Mayor Shape: Our next speaker to is Earl Gipson

    Earl Gipson: I have nothing to say

    Mayor Shape: Thats unusual for you tonight. You always have something to say during public comment (body language shows the mayor stunned by Earl passing on speaking).

    Why Earl passed not sure to this day. My wife always remembers this situation. She finds it humorous and brings it up from time to time.