SeaTac Council rejects One America criticism, defends appointment of Tombs

By Jack Mayne

The SeaTac City Council has rejected criticism of a local immigrant-rights group, One America, over the appointment of SeaTac Planning Commission member Stanley Tombs to a short fill-in term on the City Council replacing Amina Ahmed who was killed in a Dec. 8 head-on car crash on South 188th Street.

Tombs will serve until November, then must run for election if he wishes to remain a SeaTac City Councilmember. Any other citizen of the city can run for the full four-year term in the Nov. 5 general election.

Tombs was appointed at a public SeaTac Council session after an executive session to consider 10 candidates.

‘Shock, Disappointment’
One America bills itself as envisioning “a peaceful world where every person’s human rights and dignity are respected, where communities appreciate differences and stand together for justice and equality, and where each person contributes to the common good.”

But on Jan. 15, One America issued a news release which was headlined “SeaTac Community Members React with Shock and Disappointment to the City Council’s Replacement of Amina Ahmed.”

The group’s news release said “the Council publicly stated that they would not make a decision on replacing the position until the first week of February and did not involve the community, so the choice was unexpected.” One America’s news release said “Kongo Bamanayi was surprised. ‘I was at the public meeting where they said they would make a decision in February. I was shocked when I found out they had already made a decision and it was a done deal.’”

The Council did decide at their Jan. 8 regular public meeting that it would select from the list from which they had selected Ahmed earlier, minus any candidates who might not want to be considered again. Indications were that the Council selection of a candidate would be very soon.

City Clerk Kristina Gregg told the Council that she checked with all the earlier candidates to see if they were still interested and “out of the 11 people, eight of them said yes, one said maybe and one said no and one had not responded by Tuesday night’s meeting. The person who withdrew from the application was citizen activist Vickie Lockwood.

No planned wait
There was no comment or decision at that Jan. 8 meeting covered by The SeaTac Blog that suggested a decision, publicly or privately, would wait until February for a decision on the Ahmed replacement.

Nevertheless, One America’s news release quoted SeaTac resident Mohamed Egal as disappointed, “but resolved to act.”

“It was a very sad moment for the City of SeaTac,” Egal was quoted by One America.

“SeaTac is a majority minority city. You cannot accurately represent people who don’t share your life experience – if you haven’t been in that situation it’s hard to relate to people who are struggling and working minimum wage. It makes us sad, but it also demands we organize so we have a city council that reflects our values and interests.”

One America’s news release said SeaTac “has become a majority-minority city with a sizable immigrant population, and the actions of the City Council strengthen the impression many hold that either their government simply doesn’t represent them, or worse: that their government is actively hostile towards their identity and concerns.”

Councilmembers dispute comments of the One America release and Tombs will be sworn-in and seated for the position on Jan. 22, 2019.

Wachtel’s sadness
Councilmember Joel Wachtel said his reaction to the One America release is “sadness for the significant disconnect in communication with people who are quoted in this article and the person who wrote it.”

Wachtel said he agrees that Ahmed was “a great community leader and a community treasure that has been taken away much too soon.

“I have known Amina for three years and found her to be the voice of reason and a shining example of what her community should aspire to be,” Wachtel said.

But the first term councilmember said he disputes the view in the One America article that “you cannot accurately represent people who don’t share your life experience – if you haven’t been in that situation it’s hard to relate to people who are struggling and working minimum wage.”

Sting of racism
Wachtel said “how does anyone know what struggles any member of the council has gone through unless they took the time to know them personally?”

He said he has “felt the sting of racism because of my religion, and I have overcome financial obstacles by educating myself. I have worked very hard to get to where I am in life because my family was not wealthy.”

Wachtel said the One America article “assumes that because the city is not making the decisions that this community wants, that we don’t represent them or are hostile to them, but that is not the case.”

Ahmed was “chosen for her strength in community building, which was supported by an extensive list of accomplishments,” but now SeaTac has different needs, and Tombs “has a professional history of land use and is qualified to address the issues that the city will be facing. In short, he was chosen for his experience and qualifications to support the councils needs to address the complex issues regarding land issues.”

‘Racist statement’
At the Jan 8 council meeting one public speaker indicated that the council should “pick someone who looks like Amina.”

“Frankly, in my opinion, that was a racist statement,” Wachtel said. “Do you choose a surgeon based on their color? Does Microsoft hire employees based on color? If you were drowning, would you accept help only from a person of the same color? The insinuation that a city council cannot represent a city of 29,000 residents which speaks more than 85 different languages makes picking an ethnically representative council a virtual impossibility.

“The appointments were never about race; it was about qualification,” said Wachtel. “The choices in both cases were about the abilities of appointed individuals. The community should understand that being involved with the city, coming to meetings, reading city publications, volunteering in the city or joining a committee, is important in developing a relationship with the people who are your public servants and the people who get things done in the city.”

Never a February date
Deputy Mayor and Councilmember Clyde Hill said “there was no indication” at the Jan 8 meeting “that appointments would be made in February, the consensus opinion advised that the appointment should be made as soon as possible.

“It appears to me that there may have been a misunderstanding regarding what was stated?”

Hill said he used the same approach to determining the appointment of Tombs as he always does.

“I saw this as an opportunity to add additional knowledge and experience to the Council collective to help with issues/actions that the council will be facing between now and the election occurring in November,” Hill told the SeaTac Blog. “I reviewed the list of items on the council plate at the time and made a self determination where council member coverage might be lean and made a decision as to who could help provide expertise/experience in addressing those areas.”

When Ahmed was chosen, Hill said “the city was deep into preparing the ’19/’20 Human Services funding. Amina was the perfect choice to help in that area due to her extensive Community/Human Service experience and the value she brought to the table in this area.”

But now Hill said the major issues facing the city are the city’s comprehensive plan updates, pending sale of city properties no longer needed and the Sea-Tac Airport Master Plan (SAMP).

Why Tombs?
Those have “impacts on the community and potential disruption to current North SeaTac Park recreational use,” Hill said. “The candidate with the highest qualifications to assist in these areas was clearly Stanley Tombs due to his service on the Planning Commission, hence my decision to support his nomination over the other candidates.

“This speaks highly of Stan’s skills and capabilities but in no means does it diminish the qualities of the other applicants. Each of these individuals bring different perspectives, experiences and interests to the table – I simply rated the qualifications against the impending city activities in the next nine months remaining before the November elections,” adding a reminder “this appointment will expire upon certification of the November election results hence the short focus period) and arrived at my choice.”

Only nine months
Councilmember Peter Kwon said because the appointment is only for nine month Tombs is the “the candidate needed to be able to hit the ground running, be already familiar with City operations, and have a strong history of dedicated continued involvement to improve our City and communities.

“Just like Amina Ahmed, Stanley Tombs has spent several years actively participating in various City committees and attended numerous council meetings, with dedication to improve our community. I really encourage everyone in our community to be more directly involved and apply for our citizens advisory committees.”

Sitterley supports Tombs
Mayor Erin Sitterley said her “brief perspective” on the Tombs appointment was her process “on my personal decision making process” in the selection.

“My process was based on the qualifications of the individuals who had applied and the needs of the city. I believe Stan (Tombs) possesses the greatest amount of knowledge and ability to hit the ground running and that is why I supported his nomination.

“A lot is being said about potential councilmembers and his/her ability to represent the entire community,” said Sitterley. “I would point out that Stan was born in what became SeaTac and has lived here and understands our city very well. His experience working in other cities is helpful. His work on the planning commission demonstrates his dedication to the development and sustainability of the city. His thoughtful and patient personality is most welcome.

“I look forward to a productive ten months for our Council and Community.”


2 Responses to “SeaTac Council rejects One America criticism, defends appointment of Tombs”
  1. Jen scaman says:

    not involve the community – Saturday Oct 13, the city council had a all-day special public meeting where they interviewed 12 applicants to fill the vacant city council position 5. That was when Amina Ahmed was picked. SO THE PUBLIC WAS INFORMED. That was only 2 month and 15 days ago.

    SeaTac is a majority minority city. But the musilum community is only a small percentage of the majority minority and is the only minority that has a problem

    city council that reflects our values and interests – decisions and not made by values and interests

    government simply doesn’t represent them, or worse: that their government is actively hostile towards their identity and concerns – there is no ‘them’ when decisions are made an the color of your skin or ethnicity does not matter

    In addition to listening to residents, there are guidelines, rules, regulations and laws that a city council must follow. There are no special guidelines, rules and regulations that say everybody has to follow these except for immigrant communities, or that everybody has to follow the same laws unless a certain part of the community doesn’t want too.

    It comes down to this. The city has followed the exact same guidelines, rules and regulations. A responsible decision is NOT based on ETHNICITY, it’s based on qualifications. instead of picking the person who is most qualified for the position, you seem to be of the mind that a person should have been chosen based on skin color or immigrant status regardless of their qualifications. Knowing that they represent only the people by immigrant status or color of skin, will be the reason they would not have a position of the council.

    Provide written proof of what the issue was/is that has caused the city to be hostile? What guidelines, rules or regulations did the city not follow? What has the city done towards the musilum immigrant community that was hostile? Can you provide one example?

    Articles attacking our mayor or council aren’t going to help the musilum immigrant community, in fact, when Peter Kwon’s name was mentioned, that just made the majority (white and non white) of the community realize that these accusations were just lies. He is that respected.

    Unfortunately, you have drawn the public attention to the businesses at the Seatac Center. Your actions against the city could have caused more harm to the businesses than anything in your favor.

    So if you want to a peaceful world where every person’s human rights and dignity are respected- You have to be respectful to be respected

  2. Jen scaman says:

    Just a FYI – Do you know what 58.6%, 59.9% and 65.1% represent? They are the percentages that the majority of the community voted for and that Erin Sitterley, Peter Kwon and Michael Siefkes beat Mia Gregerson, Sally Andrews and Dave Bush by and took over their positions . No matter how many flyers with slander was mailed, all the made up stories that were not true, hiring hundreds of door knockers that didn’t know anything about their opponents and lies after lies, the citizens in Seatac will choose the best fit for the entire city… In fact, they lost votes because of it.

    Since election time is coming up and their positions are up for election, I thought I would send a reminder to save people from embarrassing themselves