A couple weeks ago, the City of Seattle had finally abandoned its illegal claims against FarmBoat for the parking ticket debts of a past farmer’s market vendor–ending a nearly year-long financial siege that prevented the non-profit Urban Public Waterfront Association from operating FarmBoat through the 2013 market season.
The three-year build-up of momentum for the Lake Union Park Floating Market aboard the historic steamship Virginia V was halted by the over zealous bureaucratic actions. The market was forced to close in July shortly after it aired on King 5 TV’s “Evening Magazine“–cutting off Seattle residents from Kitsap County farm produce delivered by sea.
Earlier this year, City parking enforcement collection officials filed a lawsuit against the founder of the floating market program, David Petrich, for not garnishing the wages of the 2012 market vendor who had racked up $8,000 in parking fines ten years earlier. Despite spending months trying to convince the City that independent merchants who sold goods to the public were not employees of the farmer’s market, the city’s collection agency obtained a judgement lien which crippled finances and forced the Floating Market to close.
The Seattle Municipal Court and ticket collection agency, Alliance One, remained adamant that FarmBoat, Petrich and his wife owed money for the merchant’s delinquent parking ticket fines until Seattle City Council members Richard Conlin and Bruce Harrell intervened to question the legal basis for the court actions. The scofflaw merchant was long gone by the time the court actions started against FarmBoat and Petrich. There would have been no way for FarmBoat to garnish anything anyway since farmer’s market merchants received their money from the public and not the market organizer.
Conner Edwards of the Freedom Foundation, an organization that helps small businesses fight bureaucracy, lobbied city officials for several weeks to raise awareness of the injustice. Hundreds of phone calls, letters and e-mails were sent out by the Freedom Foundation to make city officials aware that the Seattle Municipal Court was overreaching its authority to force FarmBoat or anyone else to pay debts that could not be garnished from the original offender.
With the siege finally over, the Urban Public Waterfront Association (organizer of FarmBoat) can get back to working on the Floating Market and other waterfront enhancement programs. However, with a year wasted in legal battles, vendors disappointed, volunteer relationships gone cold, and loss of the historic FarmBoat flagship vessel “Olympic”, it will take much effort to regain momentum. Petrich has filed a claim with the City of Seattle in hopes of recouping losses. However, to date, there has been no response from the City with regard to liability for the erroneous bureaucratic exercises that sunk the FarmBoat program in 2013.