Grappling with Growth & Inequality

Weathered Dagguereotype of Downtown Seattle, 1880

CHANGE IS INVEVITABLE – DOWNTOWN SEATTLE, 1880

When I left Boston in 2011, I was looking for lower rents, a higher quality of life, and an independent, art-and-small-business-friendly culture. I rented a dingy, basement studio in Queen Anne for $640.

Four years later, that space goes for $850, a 30% increase.

Seattle is changing. The fastest growing city in the country is experiencing dramatic rent hikes, rising income disparity, horrific traffic, and loss of character in its defining neighborhoods. Meanwhile the Mayor and City Council are playing catch-up, apparently surprised by this growth.

I love that Seattle has a thriving economy. I love that the city attracts brilliant, productive people. But as the shape of the city changes, we have to ask ourselves who we are. If the people and businesses who make the city worth living in can’t afford to live or operate in it, then what’s the point?

We live in a city where the top 5% of earners saw an increase in their income higher than the total income of the bottom 20%. And we live in a state with the most regressive tax system in the union, the top 1% pays 2.4%, and the bottom 20% pays 16.8% of their income, respectively.

Fighting Chance Seattle sets our prices at competitive market rates; we charge what we feel is a good value for the highest level of instruction available and an individual commitment to each student. We charge what we need to charge to sustain overhead and growth in Seattle’s rapidly changing economic climate.

But our prices severely limit who can afford to train at our dojo. My Mom was a server all through my teens. She raised two kids, put herself through school, maintained the house; it was a lot for one person. I got to learn karate only because my cousin would often pay my tuition or buy my gear.

After I left home, as an adult, there were a number of times I just couldn’t afford to keep training, despite working full-time. I couldn’t afford $150 sign-up fees and long term contracts. I can still feel that disappointment.

The reality of capitalism is that the industries that generate the highest wages are not always the ones that create the culture of a city and improve its communities. We want a dojo where artists, scientists, musicians, teachers, and small-business owners can also afford to train.

It’s a tricky thing, having our values dragged across the coals of economic reality. To keep Fighting Chance as inclusive as we can, we will (at our discretion) offer a discount off of our standard tuition to a percentage of our students whose income is below the rate to qualify for Low Income Public Housing. Please email us for details.

It’s a small gesture, but it’s all we can do right now. We’ll explore ways to offer more robust scholarships and subsidized classes and seminars for the people at the very bottom of Seattle’s economic divide as we continue to grow. We hope that you want a dojo — and a city — that’s as filled with culture, that’s as diverse, as we do, and that you’ll support us in this drive.

By Jordan