Scumbags must share their playbooks

Dear President Trump,

This morning on my way home from dropping Laura off at the U for a graduation ceremony, I approached the arterial that borders the South end of our neighborhood as an elderly couple was making their way across the street. Upon arriving at the new corner, the woman used her cell phone to take a bunch of pictures of an abandoned coffee shop on the opposite corner. She seemed intent on getting it from several angles. This thing is an eyesore and has been for years so I have no idea why she wanted so many, or really any, pictures of it, but she definitely was into getting those shots.

I passed through the intersection and didn’t see whether she went up the block to take pictures of the adjacent abandoned, condemned buildings to the East or crossed the street to take pictures of the adjacent abandoned, condemned buildings to the North. She could have crossed back over and walked past the new construction on the Northwest corner and then taken pictures of more abandoned, condemned buildings still standing on the block to the West.

Welcome to my neighborhood.

I don’t think I’ve told you about this section of Northeast Seattle (I just searched this mega-Word document where I draft my letters to you for key words that would indicate I’ve already mentioned this, but nothing came back). It’s kind of amazing that I haven’t said anything to you about it before, but I imagine it’s because the area’s been bad the entire time we’ve lived here and I’d become inured to it.

So the deal is that there are four blocks adjacent to the neighborhood high school our daughter attended where two brothers, Drake and Hugh Sisley, bought up dozens of houses and businesses in the Roosevelt neighborhood (a 2006 article in the Seattle Weekly says they owned 54 rentals at that time), many of them in long contiguous runs and all of them perpetually trashed and decrepit decades before they were condemned. The brothers and their property “manager” Keith Gilbert (and yes, I’m naming names here), a member of the Aryan Nation who was convicted of plotting to bomb a Martin Luther King Jr. celebration, were also accused of (and Gilbert arrested for) gun-running and specifically for selling machine guns. Eight blocks from our house. Two blocks from the high school.

A few years ago the city secured a small parcel of land adjacent to the high school through eminent domain to build a city park and around that same time a developer paid off the 3.5 million dollar bill Hugh Sisley wracked up in code violations, apparently so that they could go ahead and develop the properties. Not much has happened, though, and the area is still blighted by the abandoned, condemned buildings like the one the woman was photographing this morning.

So how did the Sisleys and Gilbert manage to create a slum-hole in an otherwise prosperous part of Seattle? I can’t get to everything I’d like to read about it because I refuse to take off my ad blocker, but what I’ve gleaned about their insane long-term success at being asshole slumlords is chillingly similar to what I read yesterday in the WP about you and how you managed to get Forbes to wildly exaggerate your wealth. You scumbags must share your playbooks.

Anyway, it appears that the Sisleys became adept at exploiting the loopholes in weak laws favoring real estate owners (e.g., they were able to use a law to preserve housing stock within city limits to thwart the city’s efforts to condemn and tear down their trashed properties). They also frequently brought frivolous lawsuits and routinely intimidated and threatened those who exposed their misdeeds or attempted to bring them to heel. They essentially made themselves radioactive enough that the authorities and journalists largely adopted a hands-off stance towards them. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

May we be safe from people like you, to include you.
May we be willing to band together to hold the likes of you accountable.
May we not abandon our neighborhoods or our country to thugs.
May we counter the insidious type of warfare you wage with resolute integrity and witness.

Tracy Simpson

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