In the midst of Congress’s summer recess, Senator Patty Murray visited our Capitol Hill Wednesday morning to hear from LGBTQ small business owners about issues facing Seattle’s gayborhood. Their response was fairly unanimous: the biggest concern is that it is disappearing.
As three small business owners sat down with Murray inside the Sugarpill apothecary on E Pine, the conversation quickly turned to rapidly rising rents and how they erode LGBTQ small business, displace artists, and diffuse the center of Seattle’s gay community.
For Sugarpill owner Karyn Schwartz, the recent mass shooting at an Orlando gay nightclub crystallized the issue as she said many gay people she knew in Seattle were left feeling vulnerable without a well established community to grieve with.
“It used to be that because we weren’t accepted in our families we had to ban together, and now that’s changing,” Schwartz said. “The center of gravity is different and I think people freaked out.”
Even more than the influx of Amazon employees, Schwartz said the prevalence of online retailing has dwindled the number of community-centered businesses. Marination owner Roz Edison said she has faced a similar issue with online delivery services as fewer people want to come into her restaurants, which also decreases tips.
For Edison, being gay has had little to do with successes or challenges as a business owner on Capitol Hill. “Working for a woman is more interesting to our employees than working for a gay individual,” she said. Instead, she said Seattle’s rapidly rising rents and new box-retail developments makes it virtually impossible to expand.
— Senator Patty Murray (@PattyMurray) August 10, 2016
“Two blocks down, they’ve mowed the whole street and its all six-story mixed-used buildings,” said Ryan Ceurvorst, co-owner of the small communications outfit Tango Foxtrot.
Murray’s visit was meant as a listen and learn stop, so there was no speechifying or bills to sell. Still, she has been active on several LGBTQ issues, including work on a recent bill that would effectively ban gay conversion therapy nationwide — a follow up to Seattle’s recent ban on the discredited practice.
“It takes time to get people to recognize it, which is what great about cities like Seattle doing it because that will allow other people to say ‘oh that is something you can do,’” Murray said.
During her summer recess Murray also had a primary election to contend with, which she easily won with 54% of the vote. Her next closest challenger, Republican Chris Vance, took 28% of the vote to make it to the November election. Murray did even better in King County, where she won 68% of the vote.
Despite her widespread popularity in Seattle, Murray did ruffle some feathers earlier this year. Following Washington’s presidential caucus, where Sen. Bernie Sanders won in a landslide victory, Murray dismissed calls to change her delegate support for Hillary Clinton. Clinton and Murray have long been political allies. When asked on Tuesday if she would be interested in joining a Clinton administration, Murray said, “I love my job right now. I need to be where I am to tell her what to do.”