The Mayor and Seattle City Council recently announced the initial appointees selected to serve on the new Seattle Renters’ Commission. Created by Ordinance 125280 in March 2017, the 15-member commission will advise the City on priorities, policies, and strategies related to all issues concerning renters across the City of Seattle. It will also monitor and provide feedback on the enforcement and effectiveness of legislation related to renters and renter protections. All the appointments are subject to City Council confirmation.
Jack Barker is a Queer Transgender artist and corset maker, originally from New Hampshire. He moved to Seattle in 1972 and has lived here ever since, with the exception of a year in Portland. Over the past 45 years, Jack has rented lodgings in a variety of Seattle neighborhoods, including the Ave, Capitol Hill, North Aurora, the Central District, and Rainier Valley. Since 2015, he has lived in Fremont as a renter in Seattle senior housing.
Jack has been active with LGBTQ Allyship, focusing on housing and homelessness concerns of LGBTQ youth and elders and other marginalized Queers. He has facilitated classes on the challenges of aging as a Trans person at Gender Odyssey and has been an overnight monitor and volunteer supporter of “Out of the Darkness” suicide prevention walks in Seattle. Jack has also worked as a volunteer at Teen Hope shelter in Shoreline and currently cooks Monday morning breakfast at ROOTS young adult shelter in the U District.
What inspired you to serve on the Seattle Renters’ Commission?
I was inspired to serve on the Seattle Renters’ Commission because I feel that a variety of renters’ voices should be heard, including the voice of an elderly Queer trans person who has been renting apartments in this city since 1972.
How has your experience as a renter shaped your perspective of Seattle?
Moving around Seattle over the years, I’ve lived in a number of neighborhoods — made the acquaintance of and formed friendships with a lot of people whose lives and experiences are quite different from my own. This has been good for me and has helped me learn to see reason and have compassion for all my fellow beings.
What do you hope the Seattle Renters’ Commission will bring to the City?
I am hoping that we can figure out some way to halt and rewind this city’s runaway rental prices so that ordinary people of modest means who work in Seattle can actually afford to live here again.
What neighborhood do you live in and what do you love most about it?
I have lived in the Fremont neighborhood, near Woodland Park, for the last eighteen months. Prior to that, I lived five years in Rainier Valley, a couple years at the north end of Aurora, several years in Ballard, about twenty years on east Capitol Hill in the eighties and nineties, and a number of places around town before that. I have loved them all. But, here by the zoo, I enjoy listening to the big cats roar.