SeaTac to have meeting for tenants of international market that city wants to sell

By Jack Mayne

The SeaTac City Council has agreed to set up a meeting with the tenants of the SeaTac Center which the city has put up for sale, and residents have interpreted to mean closure of their mostly Somali owned and operated businesses.

The meeting came at the behest of City Manager Joe Scorcio because of many divergent comments from the market businesses. A date for the meeting is pending, said Scorcio.

Mayor Michael Siefkes and other Councilmembers, have alluded to outside political interests that have potentially provided the small businesses operating in the center with politically inspired bad information about closure of the facility. The city is selling the property and it will be up to the new owner to decided how the international markets are operated, changed or closed.

“It is not a meeting for the community, it is for the tenants,” said Councilmember Pam Fernald.

In addition, the Council saw a short video of the Seattle Storm women’s professional basketball team hold their annual community practice day in SeaTac:

Save the bakaara
Muna Warsame, who said she was from England, and that her aunt owns a shop in the SeaTac Center, said in a clear London accent, “I just want to express how much closing the shops in SeaTac Center will affect many families, including mine.

“Every year I have been to Seattle, I always look forward to going to the Bakaara Market in SeaTac Center and I have watched these strong women and men build their businesses and create such an amazing community which is open to everyone.

“These businesses have made their lives the true American dream,” she said. “With this job, they have been able to put a roof over their families’ heads and food on table for their families. They have all come to America to create a new life and a beginning for themselves and their families and, for you to take that away, is not right. Give them a chance to have their American dream just like other people have had.”

Anab Abdi (pictured, left) told the Council her business was started in the SeaTac international market it 2009 and “made it into what it is today.”

Don’t marginalize us
She said that the city’s desire to sell the property “marginalized” the businesses and people in the market. The city has only said that it wanted to sell the property and that no current businesses were being closed or changed and that any future change would not occur until a new owner took over and then submitted redevelopment plans for approval by SeaTac. Many of the current businesses in the market were founded and are operated by Somali refugees.

Abdi said “we just want go ahead and open dialogue with you guys and say, ‘hey, we’re here to say we don’t want to go ahead and move, our businesses are flourishing, come down and see our business and see what we are talking about.

“It’s the only space that is recognized as the most diverse in the city of SeaTac, so please don’t take that away … open dialogue with us and see what the possibilities of things we can create in terms of restructuring that space with inclusive of all immigrants within the community.”

Signatures, suffering mom
A speaker gave the city a petition with what he said were 900 signatures to save the market from being closed, although, again, the city has only opened the property once controlled by entrepreneur Gerry Kingen, to potential sale and development. The city is not nor has not said the businesses are to be closed and such a decision, if it happens at all, will be potentially years away, say city officials. No decision of closure of the market has been made, said City Manager Joe Scorcio.

Another Somali businesswoman the center who, speaking in traditional Somali Arabic with help of a translator, asked for the Council to consider the businesses that are in the SeaTac market their sole income for their families, “and we want to continue doing our business here,” said the young man acting as her translator. She said most of the people doing business in the International market haven’t the education to do other things, adding that she would have to do other things after 10 years in business, “I wouldn’t know what to do after that,” her translator said.

“With all due respect, we hope that you guys all respect and support this and we are the community here … we hope that you guys consider this and do your best in terms of fixing this …” her translator said.

Abdullahi Abdi (pictured, right), said he was “one the last born of one of the owners” of the SeaTac international market, who has two older sisters “and we all go to college.”

“I’ve see my mom suffer and to the shop every morning, seven days a week, so that she could pay for our door, for our clothes and for our college. She has paid for all of the summer classes and she has got the money from that shop,” said Abdullahi Abdi. “She is not the only one who has kids in that mall. All the mothers … who have shops have kids and they mostly pay for their kids’ colleges so I am pretty sure if they lose their shops, the kids are going to be dropouts, they are going to be working at bad places and it’s not good for them …” and would harm a community that is becoming better, people from “a country they can’t go back to.”

“Please don’t displace them. Thank you,” said Abdullahi Abdi.

Mayor attack

Earlier, during public comment period, resident Kevin Hope said he was “very disturbed at the mayor of Burien being attacked” and that he hoped to see compassion continue as the attitude for the potential redevelopment of the international market near the north city Metro transit station. Matta was threatened in Burien and a suspect has turned himself in to Burien Police. Charges are expected to be forwarded to the King County Prosecutor’s Office, recommending malicious harassment charges – a class C felony. The penalty for such a crime could be up to 5 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines.

Gregg 25 years
SeaTac City Clerk Kristina Gregg was given a service award for her 25 years with the city, nearly the entire time SeaTac has been a city.

Additionally, City Manager Joe Scorcio introduced new and promoted employees of the city, including new government relations and communications manager Kyle Moor, formerly in communications for the Washington State Patrol and with the Seattle Fire Department. Earlier in his career, Scorcio says Moor was in television news in Los Angeles and in Seattle.

Also promoted were city Victim and Crisis Intervention Advocate Brigitta Ellwein; civil engineer Colum Lang and public works program coordinator Mason Glem.


2 Responses to “SeaTac to have meeting for tenants of international market that city wants to sell”
  1. Kevin says:

    Welp, looks like I’m kinda internet famous now.

  2. yusuf osman says:

    Correction: There is no Somali Arabic language. Somalis speak Somali language.