JASON RANTZ

Rantz: Seattle business rips council incompetence in scathing viral letter

Sep 18, 2019, 5:47 AM | Updated: 5:52 am
Biscuit Bitch...
(Photo by Michael Smith/Newsmakers)
(Photo by Michael Smith/Newsmakers)

A beloved Seattle business wrote a scathing letter to the City Council for making it increasingly difficult to operate a safe and successful business. Kimmie Spice owns Biscuit Bitch, which operates three shops in Seattle, and she’s had it with a council that mistreats businesses.

“Every time I turn around, I’m paying a new tax for a sign permit or an awning or a table outside, B&O tax, sugar tax, a myriad of licenses, elevator permits, health permits, higher property taxes that are passed on in my triple net, etc. etc.,” Spice writes.

And she’s not getting much in return for a City Council that’s bleeding her dry.

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“And what do I get in return from the city? Streets that take over an hour to get less than ONE MILE from one of my shops to another to transfer my products because my commercial vehicle is not allowed to drive down 3rd Ave anymore. Construction EVERYWHERE leaving no place to park delivery vehicles and blocking the customer entrances to my businesses, making my shops filthy with exhaust and dust and making my employees feel ill all summer long.”

Spice slams the city for passing a head tax while not adequately addressing the affordability crisis or the Seattle Police Department staffing crisis. Her Belltown shop along “a notoriously sketchy block” is inundated with “junkies, panhandlers and drug dealers.”

Her letter earned a lot of attention for voicing concerns that many businesses have in Seattle. In a follow up, she apologized for some of her language, but conceded her frustration at the “hard summer” where at some of her shops staff members have been “threatened and assaulted by homeless or mentally ill people.”

Spice operates her business in the best way she can, offering higher than minimum wage jobs to staffers she cares deeply about. She gives them the best health insurance coverage she can afford, and offers paid time off for vacation. But she’s breaking because of what this council — and mayor’s office — are doing to Seattle.

How many times must we highlight the exact same problems for the city to act? This council loves to talk about their compassion, but hurt efforts underway to help address the consequences of their own failed policies.

The Navigation Team has done tremendous work trying to get homeless off the streets. How are they repaid? Councilmembers Lisa Herbold (up for re-election) cut funding to their office staff, then lied about it when it became unpopular. Councilmember Kshama Sawant (up for re-election) routinely sabotages encampment clean-ups, choosing to let homeless people live on the streets like animals. Councilmember Debora Juarez (up for re-election) backed the job-killing head tax despite polling very clearly suggesting it’s the wrong move.

On the construction side, the council and mayor’s office back bike lanes that make traffic worse and pursue infrastructure changes making driving nearly impossible. How are businesses supposed to succeed if people can’t get to them easily?

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Spice’s letters were published online as the council passed legislation to protect hotel works, while including ancillary businesses like, potentially, Biscuit Bitch. Spice indicates it’s still somewhat unclear if she’ll be forced to comply, since one of her shops is in a hotel, though she says Councilmember Lorena Gonzalez said she’s not going to be impacted.

That’s likely the takeaway the council will have to these letters. That, when it comes to hotel worker legislation, Biscuit Bitch is fine. They’ll put this controversy to bed, choosing not to address the serious problems plaguing this city. Activists will ignore the pleas of help, instead focusing on Spice’s use of the term “junkies” which critics say “stigmatized people struggling with substance abuse and others experiencing homelessness.” Good for these activists: caring about the feelings of people who won’t see the letter, while doing little to get vulnerable folks off the streets.

Meanwhile, more businesses, employees, and customers will suffer.

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Rantz: Seattle business rips council incompetence in scathing viral letter