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Does a diverse community need diverse leadership? SeaTac raises the question

A hallway inside the Bakaro Mall in SeaTac in August. The city is selling the property. Critics of the sale say it is displacing a unique immigrant community. The city says the mall will be replaced with hundreds of units of affordable housing.
Parker Miles Blohm
/
KNKX
A hallway inside the Bakaro Mall in SeaTac in August. The city is selling the property. Critics of the sale say it is displacing a unique immigrant community. The city says the mall will be replaced with hundreds of units of affordable housing.

 

 

One of the places in our region where different languages and cultures mix is SeaTac. Not the airport, the town. The census shows more than 70 languages are spoken there, by immigrants from Somalia, Ethiopia and Mexico — all over. 

 

And yet the local city council is still dominated by white men and women. A new slate of city council candidates says the city’s leadership needs to reflect that diversity.

 

 

One place in SeaTac that’s become a flashpoint for this argument is the Bakaro Mall, which also is known as SeaTac Center. For the past 15 years, this is where Somali Muslims from near and far have come to buy clothes, religious books and specialty foods, such as tilapia samosas and camel's milk.

 

The City of SeaTac owns the property. The city is selling it to a developer in for $15 million. The plan is to build hundreds of multi-family housing units with retail space on the first floor. The city says 60 percent of the units will be affordable housing.

 

In this story, the closer you look, the more complicated the picture gets. Some say the current leadership is bringing Donald Trump-style politics to a city that is majority minority. Others say local government does indeed have the best interests of its culturally diverse residents in mind, and the color of a person's skin does not determine good leadership.

 

Jennifer Wing is a Producer for our weekly show, Sound Effect.