FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Dec 29 2020
Feds did not solicit input in the Pacific Northwest before deciding to sell the building and move the region’s records
SEATTLE — Attorney General Bob Ferguson today announced he will host a remote public meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2021, so the public can share their comments on plans by the federal government to sell Seattle’s National Archives building and move the records thousands of miles away.
The federal government did not hold any meetings of its own in the Pacific Northwest, and did not consult with state, local, or tribal leaders in the region prior to announcing its decision to sell the Archives facility.
One member of the Public Buildings Reform Board (PBRB) recently said the sale would allow the Archives building to “become a part of the community, as opposed to what it is today.”
The office will record the public comments and forward them to the PBRB. Ferguson will also formally invite the PBRB members to attend the remote public hearing. The public meeting will be held via Zoom from 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Jan. 19, 2021.
Meeting ID: 838 5218 6385
Phone: 253-215-8782, 838-521-863-85#
Find your local number: https://atg-wa.zoom.us/u/kBnoJrmI5
Individuals with questions about the meeting or looking to provide assistance with the case should use this form.
“The federal government continues its complete indifference for the communities, tribes and individuals impacted by its plan to sell the National Archives facility and export archival records out of the region,” Ferguson said. “The bare minimum American taxpayers should expect is the ability to provide public comment before bearing the brunt of important government actions that cannot be undone. Unfortunately, in this matter, the federal government utterly failed to meet that low bar, which is why my office is forced to do it for them. I’m inviting Washingtonians to tell the federal government what this building, and the millions of records it houses, means to them and their communities.”
On Thursday, Dec. 4, Ferguson announced that his office recently uncovered a dramatic change in the plan for the proposed sale of the National Archives building buried in a 74-page meeting minutes document from October. During the October meeting, the PBRB disclosed that it would move to immediately sell the Archives facility, along with a “portfolio” of other federal properties, in early 2021. It had planned on selling the properties individually over the next year.
Ferguson’s legal team is finalizing a lawsuit to stop the federal government from proceeding with an expedited sale of the National Archives facility in Seattle.
Additionally, Ferguson’s office already filed four lawsuits seeking access to public records about the PBRB’s decision. Judge Robert S. Lasnik of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington will preside over the four cases. On Dec. 10, Ferguson filed a motion for summary judgment in the records case against the PBRB.
Decision to sell the Seattle National Archives building
Last year, the PBRB identified a dozen federal properties around the U.S. as “High Value Assets” and recommended their sale in a manner that will “obtain the highest and best value for the taxpayer” and accomplish the goal of “facilitating and expediting the sale or disposal of unneeded Federal civilian real properties.” Among those properties — many of which involved abandoned or unused warehouses or buildings — was the National Archives building in Seattle, a building housing critical historical documents of the Pacific Northwest, including extensive tribal records. No local, state or tribal officials were consulted in its initial selection.
In January, OMB approved a recommendation from the PBRB to sell the building on Sand Point Way in Seattle. The board’s recommendation included removing the contents of the Seattle archives and relocating them to facilities in Kansas City, Mo., and Riverside, Calif.
The Seattle archives contain many records essential to memorializing Washington’s history, including tens of thousands of records related to the Chinese Exclusion Act, records of the internment of Japanese Americans, and tribal and treaty records of federally recognized tribes throughout the Northwest. Researchers, historians, genealogists and students routinely use these records.
Washington’s tribal leaders, historians and members have noted the federal government has excluded them from most discussions on selling the building and moving documents — many of which are the only tribal treaties or maps in existence — more than a thousand miles away. Notably, tribal officials were never consulted regarding the proposed sale notwithstanding agency tribal consultation policies requiring such consultation.