City Council’s Magic Bullet for Shoplifting: The Municipal Fencing Department


At a Seattle City Council hearing on their plight, local shoplifters claimed that an unscrupulous fencing cartel was rigging prices.  “I boast wireless headphones that retail for $348 and every fence Seattle offers me the same amount, $25,” said shoplifter Henry. “What kind of drugs can I get for $25?”

Other shoplifters accused the Fencing Cartel of sanctioning socially constructed hierarchical systems of power in which shoplifters became victims of demeaning verbal assaults, overt bias, covert bias, micro-insults, microaggressions, stereotyping, and exclusions that invalidate their cultural heritage.

Upon hearing that members of the Fencing Cartel had once crossed union picket lines, Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda advocated establishing a Municipal Fencing Department to “assure that hardworking Seattle shoplifters don’t get ripped off.”

The City Council promptly endorsed this proposal, 6-3, stating that the new department would “protect this marginalized group from economic exploitation and a toxic work environment, end the tyranny of a brutal criminal gang, and not only pay for itself but actually run a surplus that could be used to house formerly homeless shoplifters in downtown condos.”

Not so fast! After creating and legalizing the new department, the program soon encountered problems. Since all experienced fences had criminal records, the Municipal Fencing Department had to recruit and train fences, supervisory fences, assistant fences, deputy fences, assistant deputy fences, neighborhood coordinating fences, community interface fences, human resources fences, product-line fences (such as Senior Packed Meat Fences and Junior Packed Meat Fences, Senior Sunglasses Fences and Junior Sunglasses Fences), not to mention  job trainers for all these positions, and trainers for the job trainers, plus members of the both the Non-Partisan Fence Oversight Commission and The Commission to Protect Fences’ Rights.

The vast potential of new jobs spurred seven union locals to claim jurisdiction, assuring councilmembers of six newly antagonistic union locals and one ungrateful one.

After two years and the expenditure of $279 million on this civic initiative, Amazon announced, now that it was legal to do so in Seattle, that shoplifters could post their wares directly on its website. Technology had made fencing in Seattle obsolete. The Municipal Fencing Department closed a week later.

With the fencing issue now moot, at their next meeting the Council ratified their new traffic plan restricting all avenues in Seattle to a single lane of one-way motor vehicle traffic, all headed north, and renaming all avenues “Jimi Hendrix Avenue.” Councilmembers then once again addressed the bitterly contentious issue of what to call themselves. Previously, they had rejected the term “Council Member” because member connoted exclusivity and elitism.  The name “Council Person” ran into objections that this title placed humans in a privileged position, noting that humans and chimps share 98.8 percent of their DNA. All primate cultures are equally valid, they argued.

This group endorsed the term “Council Primate.” No luck. “That reeks of primate privilegeism and taxonomic chauvinism,” shouted a third contingent that favored the title “Council Mammal.”

The Council finally accepted Kshama Sawant’s suggestion to commission a dozen community groups to study this issue, funded by a citywide tax increase on all local businesses that paid their employees well. “This tax will also ease Seattle’s housing shortage by driving rapacious capitalists and their pampered, overpaid employees to Bellevue,” Sawant added. Her idea was praised and tabled.

Steve Clifford
Steve Clifford
Steve Clifford, the former CEO of KING Broadcasting, has written humor for and the Huffington Post. He is the author of "The CEO Pay Machine."


  1. Good thing I wasn’t drinking coffee when I read that we’re going to commission a dozen community groups to decide what to call “councilmembers,” a title now accused of being exclusive and elitist. Anxious to see the budget figures for commission’s work and also for the city’s new Municipal Fencing Department. Gotta have some transparency here.

  2. You cannot troll “progressives.” They are utterly impervious to jokes, and irony is a concept entirely foreign to them. Humor is always viewed with suspicion. There is no quicker way to find oneself cancelled, and cast into the outer darkness.

  3. The People of 3rd and Pine
    We’ve heard from everyone in the city about the troubled intersection – except for the people who make a living there.
    by Hannah Krieg • Mar 4, 2022 at 10:14 am

    “Andre lives in an apartment thanks to a city-run housing program, but he doesn’t have a job other than selling flipped merchandise. Over the last two years, the government has forked over financial relief to taxpayers with formal jobs, but people like Andre, who work informal jobs, have not seen such benefits.”

    • Funny stuff! I don’t think Ms. Krieg was trying to be funny, but she still made me laugh when I read that article in the Stranger. At this point…. 3rd and Pine is the biggest joke in Seattle.


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