It’s Here: The End of the Seattle Urban League As We Know It
Just a few weeks after yet another State audit found yet another questionable contract between Seattle Schools and the Seattle Urban League, the UL has announced it’s selling the 14th and Yesler building they’ve called home for more than 30 years, a move many have anticipated for months.
From the Seattle Times:
“We don’t need a large building for the stuff we have,” said Wayne Porter, chairman of the league’s transitional board of directors. The board is implementing a “recovery plan to stabilize” the organization, Porter said, and selling the building is “one of many” strategies under consideration.
If the league got its asking price, it might have enough to “pay off all debts, buy a new building, put some money in the bank, and be ready to hire a new executive director,” said Paul Chiles, the league’s broker and a former board member.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out how absolutely knee smacking hilarious it is the former UL Board Chair/member is now the UL’s broker and could stand to earn a plump commission of around $150k, depending on the final sale price, for his efforts. Ok sure, he resigned from the board what- two months ago? I guess that means technically he’s in the clear on this.
At the same time, the UL has a serious public image problem- there’s no trust. With at least the appearance of impropriety as of late, you’d think they’d be a bit more intentional about giving the appearance of walking the straight and narrow to the satisfaction of the public. There’s no shortage of brokers here. They could have picked someone else. Makes you wonder why they didn’t. Perhaps Chiles is waving his commission…?
Then again, you get the sense the UL feels its demise came through no volition of its own, that they were the victims of bad press. But…if the press didn’t have so much to work with, it wouldn’t be newsworthy. *sigh*
Who knows when the building will sell; could be right away, could be months or even years (I tend to lean towards “it’s gonna be a while”).
The process of restoring the UL, if even a possibility, is a long-not-short-term process. They aren’t going to just flip the building, pay their bills, buy a new location and move on like nothing ever happened.
You get the sense they’re going to have to be someone elses tenant for a while. They’re going to have to reduce to practically nothing, perhaps with just 1 or 2 departments; housing would definitely be one.
Seattle- and even King County- is pretty damn small when it comes to this sector- and those contracting for services.
The City isn’t going to give the UL any money for anything any time soon. Same for Seattle Schools, even though they were dumb enough to award the UL a contract after the first audit bruhaha; they’ve since yanked it. It’s work with local small, women and minority owned businesses is over, unless perhaps they secure federal dollars. This leaves housing, which will also survive off federal dollars. Programs like First Time Home Owners, maybe.
Eventually, they’ll need to find a new leader who can transcend the muck and mire and regain the public trust, knowing it will have to function at a higher level of accountability oh, pretty much forever. They’ll need to show a direct correlation between every dollar coming in, and tangible outcomes. They won’t just be able to say “mentoring programs help underprivileged youth, fund out mentoring program”- they’ll have to prove their specific mentoring program gets results.
With financial support from the National UL, the Seattle branch has managed to avoid complete collapse, but that support won’t last forever. They need to generate money to push forward, or it really will be the end- hence the abrupt effort to sell.
Now we find out if they can pull it off.