If at first you don't secede ...
About 50 people gathered Tuesday afternoon to mourn the death of a Seattle neighborhood. It was mostly a spoof... wake to protest...
Seattle Times staff columnist
About 50 people gathered Tuesday afternoon to mourn the death of a Seattle neighborhood.
It was mostly a spoof — a wake to protest Seattle government tyranny over the former city of Ballard, which was annexed 100 years ago Tuesday. The Ballard bell tower was draped in black. A sign read "R.I.P. Ballard." Even the dogs were wearing black neckbands that read "Free Ballard."
"We aren't really trying to secede," said Beth Miller, head of the Ballard Chamber of Commerce. "We're just trying to remind the city that we don't like everything that's going on and they can't take us for granted."
She handed me a bottle of water. The label read: "Seattle, We Don't Need Your Stinkin' Water!" That was why Ballard joined Seattle in 1907, because the fast-growing shingle-making capital desperately needed a drinking-water source.
The choice was, either become a Seattleite or die of thirst. It's testament to some quality of Ballardites — fierce independence? mulish stupidity? — that 47 percent chose the latter.
After a ringing of bells and some fist-shaking speeches, the mourners headed off to the Old Town Ale House to drink to the memory of it all.
But to Randi Hansen, a Ballardite for 54 years, the changes sweeping this city aren't all that lighthearted.
She was the woman who briefly delayed the construction of four townhouses a few years ago when she held a sit-in to try to save a single tree.
"I guess I'm just fed up with all the development," she said at the time. The tree was cut down anyway.
Then last year she lost her longtime apartment because the building was to be converted to condos.
When she took the microphone yesterday, there was an edge in her voice.
"Let's go for it and secede," she implored the crowd in a Norwegian accent. "We could take better care of Ballard than this city does.
"Ballard's going downhill," she said when the wake ended. "Even if we wanted to save it, I don't know if we could. The forces are too powerful."
With that, she gestured at the construction cranes that loom over the historic district.
I have been wondering about this as I go around the city. The story is the same everywhere. Explosive growth brings condos and businesses, but also soaring prices, no parking and pocked roads.
Yes, it's dynamic, it's urban progress.
But more to the point of Tuesday's Ballard wake: Do we have any influence over what's going on? Or can we only watch from a distance, as if a freight train is rumbling by?
They're trying in Ballard. One speaker talked of a group called Sustainable Ballard, which is aimed at keeping the area small and self-sufficient. It has its own guilds of volunteers to try to do the work of government that Seattle isn't doing.
Miller says nothing much has worked so far.
"They still don't pay any attention to us down at City Hall," she said.
Sam Anderson, 82, a former Ballard dentist, has a way to remedy that.
"Ballard shouldn't secede," he said. "We should invade."
Danny Westneat's column appears Wednesday and Sunday. Reach him at 206-464-2086 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
About Danny Westneat
Danny Westneat takes an opinionated look at the Puget Sound region's news, people and politics. Send tips or comments to email@example.com. His column runs Wednesday and Sunday.
firstname.lastname@example.org | 206-464-2086
Sam and Sara Lucchese create handmade pasta out of their kitchen-garage adjacent to their Ballard home. Here, they illustrate the final steps in making pappardelle pasta.
Furniture & home furnishings
POST A FREE LISTING