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Originally published Tuesday, October 22, 2013 at 8:05 PM

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A switch: Here is some good news

A few silver linings in the clouds of some recent stories.


Seattle Times staff columnist

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Mostly what I do in this space is carp about problems. Then I move on and carp about the next problem.

The net effect, admittedly, is a sense that everything is all messed up, always.

So here are a couple of hopeful turns to recent stories. They suggest what non-media-saturated people probably already know: That there really is some common sense and justice in the world (if not always in the newspaper).

The first is about FarmBoat, Seattle’s floating farmers market. Remember how it got shut down, due to, inexplicably, too many parking tickets?

The story was that one of the farmers who sometimes sold produce there had racked up $7,800 in Seattle parking tickets and fines, from years ago before the market opened. Last winter, the city and its collection agent couldn’t find this parking scofflaw. So they went after the market’s founder, boat Captain Dave Petrich, demanding he garnish the farmer’s wages.

One big problem: Farmers are not employees of farmers markets. Though Petrich explained he doesn’t pay the farmers, so there are no wages he could possibly capture, the city’s debt collector persisted, putting a lien on FarmBoat that caused the market to shutter two months ago.

Now for the good news: The city finally is backing off.

Petrich forwards news that the city’s debt collector has pledged to drop all judgments against Petrich if he agrees not to sue the city for damages.

Captain Dave says he’s grateful — to a point. He’s irked that he was ever charged for somebody else’s parking tickets. And it really rankles that to get out of a ridiculous lawsuit mistakenly filed against him, he would have to agree not to file a legitimate one back against the city.

“We’ve had some losses pile up,” he says. “So this isn’t over, yet. But I’d like to thank all the people who called or wrote the city on our behalf. I know it’s made a huge difference.”

The other news came in a case I featured last weekend precisely because it had not made the news.

That was the murder of a homeless Mexican immigrant, Alvaro Ruiz, in September. Though his body was found midafternoon outside Safeco Field before a Mariners game, his name and the story of his life and death never made it onto the TV news or into any newspaper.

Asked the director of the Casa Latina day-laborer center, who, like me, is not poor: “If it was me or you who had been killed, wouldn’t it be all over the place?”

Well, now it is all over the news — only not due to any problem. On Sunday, police tracked down and arrested one of two men believed to have beaten Ruiz to death. Prosecutors say they expect to charge him with the murder of Ruiz on Wednesday.

“Seattle police detectives worked this case very hard,” King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg said Tuesday. “It’s proof that we do not have different levels of justice depending on your income level.”

He cited the following people for refusing to see Ruiz as invisible: Seattle police Detectives Rolf Norton, Jeff Mudd, Tom Mooney and Donna Stangeland; and Senior Deputy Prosecutor Jeff Baird.

Meanwhile at Casa Latina, they have been overwhelmed with people reaching out to say that undocumented workers do count, says Emily Gaggia, the education coordinator. That, combined with the arrest, has given the indigent workers there a sense of renewed purpose.

It’s unexpected, considering one of their own was murdered.

“There’s been a silver lining,” Gaggia says, “a reminder of all the people who do care and hope to make the world a fairer place.”

Here’s to more such silver linings, in more stories, in the months ahead.

Danny Westneat’s column appears Wednesday and Sunday. Reach him at 206-464-2086 or dwestneat@seattletimes.com



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About Danny Westneat

Danny Westneat takes an opinionated look at the Puget Sound region's news, people and politics. Send tips or comments to dwestneat@seattletimes.com. His column runs Wednesday and Sunday.
dwestneat@seattletimes.com | 206-464-2086

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