Commentary: How I tried to save the city and became Mr. Mean
By Ben Schroeter
After the substantial media coverage of my recently filed SEPA lawsuit against the city of Seattle and One Reel, my persona has almost overnight morphed from neighborhood activist to “Mr. Mean” and my name has surfaced on blogs and comments in the local online media sources as the evil malignant tumorlike, sue-happy, tree-hugging environmental idiot du jour .
Thanks, folks … I must be doing something right.
This event has been going on for years Ben why are you complaining now?
Why did you file this lawsuit right before the event?
Do you hate fireworks?
Why are you so anti-American?
The answer is quite simple. After years of study on toxics and pesticides I’ve learned that these chemicals are much more dangerous than most of us can imagine and our mistaken idea that our government will protect us is exactly that: a mistaken idea.
Just because the City allows 50,000 people into Gas Works Park doesn’t mean it is safe…does it? I mean…they wouldn’t do it if we could be harmed right? What evidence can they provide that documents the safety in Gas Works Park ? Well…uh…I did years of research looking for it and I did not find it anywhere in their records.
What I did find is that large corporate users are given preferential treatment in park rentals and manage to have fees and rules waived so as to help them stage their events. If your kid’s soccer team seeks to get a permit to hold a party at Gas Works Park , they will be required to keep all tents, staging off the turf and driving on the grass is strictly forbidden so as to protect the grass and dirt “cap” that separates us from the toxic chemicals below. But for the 4th of July those rules are dismissed. Why? Is it somehow safer to drive on the grass on the 4 th of July?
I have tried to bring these deficiencies, errors and dangers to the media eye for a long time now but the media is looking for sensationalism and none of them took interest until I filed this thing right before the 4th . If there is one thing I did learn in my 10 years of college, it is how to create a news event that media will bite on.
And so after years of asking the city of Seattle to follow the law; after years of looking at public documents; after having to (successfully) sue the city (under the Public Records Act) to give me the documents I requested, I finally filed this suit in a manner that will allow people to actually hear and consider the issues raised.
How patriotic is that to question our government on the 4th of July? At least Stephen Colbert understood my point (see http://www.colbertnation.com/the-colbert-report-videos/232487/june-30-2009/4th-of-july-under-attack).
Read the rest of his story at Seattle PostGlobe
My last trip to Gasworks Park, with the hazard signs, was a strange reminder of how technological waste has its own half-life. The dangers involved in just rolling on that grass should be communicated in a direct, person-to-person way if the city chooses to allow these events to take place. Some basic decontamination practices should be given to all of those people going to the grass covered industrial land-fill.
I know I will never return.
Good luck, Mr. Mean!
Have a great day,
Sent from my iPhone
Visit me here: