Airport effectively makes SeaTac a city six times its official size, says city study


By Jack Mayne

The SeaTac City Council needs to start thinking about the city as being six times larger than its official 28,000 population because of the effects of the international airport the city limits surrounds, City Manager Joe Scorcio told the Council Tuesday (April 11).

He said the staff has come up with a new online statistical document called ‘SeaTac at a Glance’ to “get a really good handle on just how big SeaTac is as a city.”

For example, he noted that SeaTac has problems and issues “much larger than the 28,000 population,  because it has officially up to 170,000 people on a regular business day.

Jobs ‘a good thing’
SeaTac has 38,000 jobs, “which is a good thing,” and from 65,000 to 95,000 daily visitors to the airport, another “good thing,” he said, but something that bring problems with the benefits.

“SeaTac, as a city, is virtually never 28,000 people. We are a 24-hour city, we have employment throughout the evening, and we have hotel guests here every evening.

“Our baseline population is probably something in the neighborhood of 40,000 people at night,” Scorcio said, while “daytime populations can be as high as 170,000 people.”

That is how big the city is and “we need to start thinking about how we solve issues and deliver services … and the right size for city government that the population demands service from it.”

‘Inclusive’ city designation
The Council rejected 5 to 2 a move by Councilmember Tony Anderson for a resolution to make SeaTac an “inclusive” or sanctuary city. He said he has been approached by students and teachers about students born here of parents who have immigrated from overseas.

He said students feared that SeaTac Police would enforce federal immigration law and “that brings about a lot of fear.”

“We should definitely pass a resolution stating that we are an inclusive city and that all members of our community will have a right to police services, not contingent on citizenship or immigration status,” Anderson told the Council.

He suggested that the city make a statement that it will enforce laws equitably and will not enforce federal laws.

SeaTac contracts with the King County Sheriff’s Office for its police services, and Sheriff John Urquhart recently reiterated a long-standing rule that it does not enforce federal laws but may back up federal officers in certain, limited circumstances.

Anderson said he was sure the local officers were doing the right things, but “there is a perception out there, there is a fear out there that we need to address.”

‘Doing our job or not’
Deputy Mayor Pam Fernald said a piece of paper wouldn’t change anything.

“Either we are doing our job or we aren’t. I am insulted when you want me to sign a piece of paper, either we are doing our job or we aren’t,” she said at the end of the meeting during Councilmember comments.

Mayor Michael Siefkes said the issue was already handled and a city resolution is unnecessary. “It would not make a difference.”

“There is nothing that we could do that would change what the current status is,” the mayor said.

Resident Earl Gipson said, “a piece of paper does not allay fears, how you are brought up, how you were taught? That is what allays your fears.”

Former Councilmember Barry Ladenburg said the issue is not about what the county is doing, but it is about what SeaTac is doing.

Councilmember Peter Kwon said he proposed last year and the Council approved a resolution supporting ethnic diversity. He also objected to something proposed without previous notice so the matter can be investigated.

Deputy Mayor Pam Fernald, referring to the youths worried about a teacher’s comment on Donald Trump (see our story here), said in her world it was up to parents to make certain the children were safe, and that they go to teachers, school officials or whomever to ensure their safety.

She said that Anderson’s motion was unnecessary.

Only Anderson and Councilmember Kathryn Campbell voted to send the matter to committee.

Trump changes attitudes
Andrea Newman, a teacher on the Tyee Campus, told the Council of the changes in attitudes since Donald Trump has become president, and now that Congress is led by Republicans.

“Many of my students have felt the political shift in past months in ways I can only imagine. Many are low income, many are immigrants or the children of immigrants. Many are Muslims. All are SeaTac residents and all your constituents. Many are fearful and, I truly believe these children and young adults have the right to a safe existence in this city.

“Passing a safe city, a sanctuary city, a freedom city resolution or ordinance, call it as you like, sends a moral message and it is a message that would carry much weight here in SeaTac as neighboring municipalities move to make new measures as we can see in King County, Federal Way and more places…”

“I truly believe that … passing a resolution for a safe city could send a message and restore the relationship of the community.”


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