Op-Ed: Why is Sharon Lee’s Picture All Over the ID?

Sharon Lee November 16, 2011 12

 

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By now hundreds of people have seen my face on flyers plastered on telephone and utility poles throughout the International District (ID). These flyers contain lies about me that have been fabricated by the Seattle Solidarity Network (SeaSol), a phony leftist “anarchist” group wishing to lead a revolution for working people.

I am Chinese American and I have been the target of a racist smear campaign by SeaSol. They have posted over 100 flyers in the ID about me and undertaken other actions attempting to defame me. As the Executive Director of the Low Income Housing Institute (LIHI), a non-profit housing agency, my staff and I have helped house tens of thousands of needy families and seniors over the past 20 years. We have a long history of providing housing to minorities, immigrant/refugees, API and other underserved households. Over 1,600 low-income families live at Denice Hunt Townhomes, Aki Kurose Village and other LIHI buildings.

Maybe there really is some truth to the saying that “no good deed goes unpunished!” For months SeaSol has been spreading lies about LIHI and me, picketing, and trying to extort money for a disgruntled former tenant. The tenant, George Berumen, had falsely accused his African American neighbor of manufacturing “huge quantities” of drugs in his unit. LIHI investigated these claims repeatedly and found that they were completely unfounded. He eventually decided, on his own accord, to leave the Frye, and when he left, he left his unit in a mess. LIHI kept $99 in deposits and cleaned the unit for another tenant. Instead of going to small claims court to make a case that his security deposit should be refunded, as the law provides for, George decided to join up with SeaSol.

LIHI does not own any housing in the International District, so when asked by a reporter from Real Change why SeaSol would plaster the ID with offensive flyers containing photos of me, they admitted: “It will show the Asian community what type of person she is.” They are out to embarrass me with their racist and poorly thought out campaign.

A key mistake SeaSol made in supporting George was to blindly take the side of one tenant against another tenant. In rental housing, it is not uncommon that problems develop between tenants—including racially motivated and false accusations. We met with SeaSol in September to let them know that the African American neighbor was being falsely accused and that George had not told the truth about leaving his apartment “clean.” We tried to reason with them. We showed them the move-out inspection report identifying the dirty areas where staff had to clean. SeaSol was caught not doing their homework. They would not acknowledge the fact that LIHI and the police investigated and found no drugs. They refused to even talk to the African American neighbor to get his side of the story!

A day after our meeting with SeaSol, in an affront to the civil rights movement, SeaSol decided to picket the opening of Gossett Place. This is a new building LIHI named in honor of King County Council Chair Larry Gossett. He was a founder of the Black Student Union at UW and dedicated his life to the advancement of racial justice. According to Seattle activist “Uncle” Bob Santos, “It is a disgrace for SeaSol to picket the opening of Gossett Place. We are here to celebrate Larry Gossett, who tirelessly fought for racial equality and for those who are under-represented.”

“It is a shame that this group wants to attack the most progressive and effective housing organization helping the homeless and people of color,” stated Beverly Sims, a LIHI board member and civil rights leader, “The agency has a multi-racial and unionized staff. SeaSol picked the wrong ‘enemy.’”

I hope other progressive people will support me and understand the danger of this reactionary campaign against us. SeaSol’s lack of integrity, their blatant racism, their distortion of the truth and their bullying tactics, all lead one to wonder if they truly have poor people’s rights at heart. Perhaps this anarchist group is connected to the far right hoping to defame progressive organizations like LIHI which have proven track records of helping the poor.

  • Debbie Dickson

    Hello my name is Debbie and when we came to Seattle Colby Bradley helped my granddaughter {Vanna} and I to get an apartment in the Lakeview….Colby and Trina really went above and betond to help us and if we do move back to Seattle we hope to rent through LIHI again…when we moved we did it the right way, a month’s notice, cleaned apartment and left on good terms with no monies owed….again we’d like to say Thank You LIHI for ALL your help….
    ~Debbie Dickson~

  • http://www.seasol.net David
  • Albertburns68

    She’s all over the ID because she’s a thief and liar. She should’ve resigned after she was caught forging evidence in order to justify stealing the old man’s deposit. Her properties are all full of drugs and crime.

  • Danger Ranger

    You were caught creating evidence. You weren’t even sophisticated or clever about it. Give the poor man his money and please give up this job for someone less greedy and evil.

  • curly

    Seasol printed an article in nw asian wkly claiming that you posted false photos that showed the toilet on the wrong side of the room

    Was the toilet on the wrong side of the room ?

    What is your response to this claim?

    ps I am leaning toward agreeing with your claim that seasol is racially motivated as they assume the issue involves the asian community as a whole by posting in the id just because you are asian, as if all Asians are supposed to get lumped together anytime an Asian person is involved in a controversy. Seasol claims they put flyers in the ID because frye is next to the id , if that is the case then why not post in the frye neighborhood rather than the id? The response from the seasol supporters below ignore or evade this issue. But that does not make it go away.

    Also has seasol engaged in this kind of personal attack in other campaigns or are they just doing it to you because they think Asians are easy targets?

    Why hasn’t Seasol addressed your claim that the police found no evidence that the neighbor was involved with illegal drugs? Why didn’t Seasol bother to ask the neighbor about his side of the story? Again, ignoring or evading won’t make these questions just disappear.

    Nonetheless I am curious about your response to the photo issue. If you put up a false photo then you are wrong to have done it. But that does not necessarily prove George did not leave a mess. It also would not justify seasol making this into a racial thing. That makes seasol just as guilty of the injustice they claim to be fighting.

    • Anonymous

      I’m a member, not an organizer, but hopefully this helps.

      Here is a video showing the toilet evidence:
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=xff8kZpddAc
      This article elaborates on the fraud as well:
      http://www.realchangenews.org/index.php/site/archives/6036/

      Do not believe for a second that this protest is racially motivated. I am Chinese American and in SeaSol. George is Mexican American and the one who is being targeted. Here is a pic from one of our protests. Notice the racial diversity:
      http://www.seasol.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=71:direct-action-makes-chase-bank-pay&catid=1:recent
      Don’t believe that? Just scroll through the other cases. Often we are standing against racial injustice.

      LIHI is going to take down fliers pretty fast around Frye. It’s partly because the I.D. is pretty public so people can learn more. If people see the posters they can give a call if they need help. Also, if you walk down Jackson, East or West, you’ll notice we don’t just stop at the end of the I.D.. But remember, not just Asian people live in the I.D..

      If you look at comments on Real Change, you’ll notice that a lot of people are disapproving of Sharon Lee for their bad experiences with LIHI. Including crack issues:
      http://www.realchangenews.org/index.php/site/archives/5987/
      According to George, neither the police nor LIHI got back to George about the fumes. There is little reason to believe Sharon on this issue since she’s made fraudulent claims and resorted to inaccurate ad hominem claims by her already: She called us ‘anarchist’ and ‘leftist’ as if those are necessarily horrible political positions to have and denote people being bad. Even though what SeaSol says nothing about anarchy in its mission statement.

      If you have any more questions, email me at zaywex@gmail.com

      • curly

        Regarding the police investigation – why not make a records request from seattle police instead of just taking the position that there was no investigation?

        Also the comment that not only Asians live in the ID seems a bit odd. Yes that’s true but obviously the ID has a major Asian connection so the question is whether Seasol stereotyped Lee as connected to the ID just because of race. You have partially addressed this. But you did not answer the question of whether anyone else has been the target of such a personal large scale flyer campaign. So the additional question remains of whether there was an assumption that Lee was an easy target because of the stereotype that Asians won’t fight back.

        Regarding your statement that Lee used the term “leftist anarchist” in a negative way. She used the adjective “phony” leftist anarchist suggesting that the group was not genuinely a leftist group. That is not the same as saying leftist and anarchists are bad, rather it is saying that phony leftists and anarchists are bad.

        If indeed there was crack next door , and Lee didn’t care about it and then she lied about the toilet then that is wrong. But Lee also raised legitimate criticisms of Seasols tactics.

        Curly

      • curly

        Regarding the police investigation – why not make a records request from seattle police instead of just taking the position that there was no investigation?

        Also the comment that not only Asians live in the ID seems a bit odd. Yes that’s true but obviously the ID has a major Asian connection so the question is whether Seasol stereotyped Lee as connected to the ID just because of race. You have partially addressed this. But you did not answer the question of whether anyone else has been the target of such a personal large scale flyer campaign. So the additional question remains of whether there was an assumption that Lee was an easy target because of the stereotype that Asians won’t fight back.

        Regarding your statement that Lee used the term “leftist anarchist” in a negative way. She used the adjective “phony” leftist anarchist suggesting that the group was not genuinely a leftist group. That is not the same as saying leftist and anarchists are bad, rather it is saying that phony leftists and anarchists are bad.

        If indeed there was crack next door , and Lee didn’t care about it and then she lied about the toilet then that is wrong. But Lee also raised legitimate criticisms of Seasols tactics.

        Curly

        • David

          Hi Curly,

          Yes, when in the course of fighting a boss or landlord who has taken advantage of some one, many times we will campaign against an individual at a company or organization – when they are ultimately responsible for fixing the wrong doing. In this case, Ms. Lee is the head of the organization that stole George’s deposit, and she is ultimately responsible for returning it.

          We are not in George’s corner over the drug angle, whatever reason George moved out is ultimately irrelevant. Landlords – private or non-profit – charge bogus cleaning fees all the time. We’ve seen this is previous fights, when we have supported many other tenants and helped them get their deposits back.

          Throughout this dispute LIHI has proven itself untrustworthy, claiming it took nine hours to clean a tiny studio apartment. On top of this they resorted to presenting fake photos of George’s apartment! Some photos to do show a few of George’s personal belongings, but nothing that could come close to taking nine hours of work. You can read more about the facts at our website: http://www.seasol.net.

          If you like, you can read a history of our past fights – that shows how we focus on individuals – at the link below:

          http://seasol.net/index.php?searchword=seasolaction&ordering=oldest&searchphrase=all&limit=0&option=com_search&history=true&Itemid=32

          Thanks.

          • curly

            Did a seasol rep make the comment claimed by lee “when asked by a reporter from Real Change why SeaSol would plaster the ID with offensive flyers containing photos of me, they admitted: “It will show the Asian community what type of person she is.” ???

            If so then I think her point about racism being behind the campaign is valid, as such a comment presumes the Asian community as a whole is involved in the issue just because Lee is Asian. As stated, making race an issue in these campaigns is wrong.

            Also one of seasols articles says

            “George Against the Giant

            In June of 2011, SeaSol was contacted by George Berumen, a former tenant of the Frye Apartments, an historic hotel managed by the Low Income Housing Institute. George met with SeaSol, became a member, and told us his story, backed by copious documentation including letters to and from LIHI. George had been wronged by LIHI. While a tenant at the Frye, his apartment was routinely filled with fumes he believed was smoke from crack cocaine, fumes that were making him feel sick. George repeatedly tried to bring his situation to the attention of the Frye manager and LIHI staff, but he says they didn’t believe him and failed to resolve the situation to his satisfaction. At this point, in April of 2011, he decided to move out into a homeless shelter rather than continue to endanger his health at the apartment.”

            This article emphasizes George’s claim about the drug issue and contradicts your statement that the drug issue is irrelevant.

            Maybe Lee did rip George off, if so then George should get his money back. But given the contradictions in Seasols investigation and reporting of the incident I am still not convinced.

          • David

            Hi again,

            First, yes, the article states that George did believe there were cocaine fumes coming into his unit. Whether or not he was right or wrong has no bearing on LIHI’s bogus cleaning fees after he moved out.

            Second, yes, one of our members, George himself, did put up posters in the ID – and he did say that quote in the Real Change article. The only requirement for being in SeaSol is wanting to stand up for other workers and tenants – we disagree on plenty of other things. I could see why people think George made a bad move, but it still has no bearing LIHI’s bogus cleaning fees after he moved out.

  • Judi Martinez

    LIHI has helped me twice in the past ten years. I have found there staff to be responsive and to handle business, especially around safety issues. Thank you so much LIHI for helping keep my family and my neighbors in safe & clean housing.