Anger over potential sale of SeaTac Center spurs ejection of Council protestors

By Jack Mayne

The SeaTac City Council regular meeting Tuesday (Dec. 11) was disrupted by Somali immigrant opponents of a sale of the SeaTac Center to such a degree that Mayor Erin Sitterley ordered police to evict the protestors to restore peace to the Council chambers.

Previously, Council had moved consideration of the sale from the regular agenda Tuesday to a special Council meeting for Thursday night (Oct. 13) which some protestors apparently thought meant the city had halted consideration of the sale for a longer period, perhaps a year or, even, forever.

The first part of the meeting was consideration of normal Council business but that changed when Sitterley asked for unanimous consent and a single speaker opposed to the potential sale.

Audience melee
After a break in the Tuesday night regular council meeting, Mayor Erin Sitterley asked for unanimous Council consent to allow one person to speak for three minutes on the complicated and much-opposed potential sale of the SeaTac Center.

She didn’t get unanimous consent when Councilmember Pam Fernald objected.

“No, because if we start letting people run our meeting for us, we are setting a bad precedent,” said Fernald, thereby defeating the unanimous consent motion.

Fernald said the agenda is published so people know “when everything is – I say no, we would be setting a bad precedent.”

Councilmember Clyde Hill was “extremely reluctant because there was an opportunity at public comments. Again, to show good faith, I will consent” to the special opportunity for a SeaTac Center defender to speak.

Shouts of objection
A shouter asked why they were not respected and the mayor said the meeting on the subject would be Thursday, Dec. 13, followed by shouts and general audience comments. Forschler then moved to allow a person to speak but there were no seconds and the mayor said the council “would move on.”

“Come on, come on,” said one audience member and another said “you serve the people” and a man moved to the audience lectern and said he wanted to “thank the council for graciously not holding the vote today …”

The mayor ordered the speaker’s microphone turned off and the mayor said “No, no we are not going to do this.”

“Folks, we have had a respectful evening,” said Sitterley. “We have attempted to continue to do the good works of our city and we are going to continue that right now,” said Sitterley.

She ordered the public comment microphone turned off but a man continued to speak, virtually unheard. General disorder continued, even after Sitterley said the discussion on the sale of the SeaTac Center would be on Thursday, Dec. 13 in Council chambers.

Then she said people had to quiet down and observe the meeting or leave the chambers.

“Either sit down or goodbye,” Sitterley said, but conversation continued so Acting City Manager Mary Mirante Bartolo told the police to clear the room.

The issue was on the agenda, and would authorize the city manager to sign an agreement with CAP Acquisitions for the sale of properties located in the South 154th Street Station Area, declaring this property surplus to the needs of the City.

That is the location of the mainly Somali immigrant marketplace that the group is asking be left to continue.

Mourning Amina Ahmed
At Tuesday’s regular meeting, a more calm period was had by Council and visitors as they paid respects to Councilmember Amina Ahmet who died in a head-on automobile collision Saturday afternoon, Dec. 8.

“Tonight is a tough night and I would like to open with a moment of silence for our Councilmember who was lost to us Saturday. I’m a hot mess. I apologize in advance,” said Mayor Erin Sitterley as she opened Tuesday’s meeting with a memorial to Councilmember Amina Ahmed.

“I would like to speak on behalf of the Council tonight,” Sitterley said after a moment of silence. “I was very fortunate this last Friday, all the stars aligned and Amina and I were able to spend two and a half lovely hours over breakfast together. It was a meeting that was seven weeks in coming. She was a busy woman. We were able to talk at length. I was able to hear even more of her great plans for our city.

“The SeaTac City Council became whole again when Amina was sworn in on Oct. 23rd,” said Sitterley. “In fact it might be said that we were better than whole because we were better for her presence. Her unexpected and untimely passing on Dec. 8th leaves a void which will be very difficult to fill. But we are going to take our time and we are going to grieve the loss of what was and what could have been. As I was trying to put this together I found my self curiously unable to find the right words and anyone who knows me knows I am a blabber mouth so … But I got really lucky and found that Amina had written a letter to her new constituents that was to be published in our quarterly magazine and that letter was made available to me last night.”

“Rest in peace, Amina, and thank you,” the mayor concluded.

City Manager Joe Scorcio was on annual leave and could not attend the meeting, In his place Kyle Moore, the government relations and communications manager, read a statement by Scorcio.

“Over the years, many city staff have worked directly with Amina Amed. Usually she was helping someone in our community make their way through some crisis issue or misunderstood process.

“Our loss is both personal and profound. Amina touched us all in different ways in her positive presence, quiet wit and radiant humor will continue on with us,” Moore quoted Scorcio. “Countless others in our community had the support, guidance and inspiration of Amina Amed much longer than I did.

“I found her to be a great soul, one who both heard and listened then spoke and influenced with positive intentions and hopes for everyone to thrive. She always wanted to help others in our community. She will always have my utmost respect and I will hear her quiet words as I continue the good work.

“We thank her family for sharing her with us,” said Scorcio. “We are lessened by her early departure.”

Public Comment
Mohamed Kassam said Amina Amed was his niece and “I was the first mentor to her … she touched so many lives “ and at her funeral on Monday people from all walks of life came.

“Amina is not something we can replace but I hope we can continue her legacy,” Kassam said, then went on to urge the Council not to move forward to sell the area know as the International Market to a developer.

Hamdi Mohamed said Amina Ahmed was an advocate for immigrant rights and had worked with Mohamed at Refugee Women’s Alliance… “With the amount of people that are out here, you can see how loved she was,” said Mohamed, “and how many people she has touched and the sort of impact that she’s made in our city and our state.”

She commended the Council for taking the market sales issue off the agenda, again repeating the mainly Somali participants desire at the facility by small immigrant businesses. The Council did not remove the item from the agenda, but delayed that item to a special meeting to be held on Thursday, Dec. 13.

Other business
Resident Vicky Lockwood asked the Council to remove from the agenda potential agreements between the city and Sound Transit for a parking lease for 63 parking stalls at the SeaTac Center because “it needs to be redone” to better protect the city and because of vague requirements. She wondered if the city would be compensated for having the “equipment and the expertise to evacuate the trains for the light rail and if we are not, why not?” She also asked if the city was going to be compensated for the high cost of maintaining the station landscaping.

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