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Mar/Apr 2001 issue (#50)
Features'60s Dream Lives On
Suit Filed Against George W. Bush
"Friends in High Places"
Baby Bush Bombs Baghdad
Don't Put the Utilities Back in Charge
Biblically-Grounded Movements For Progressive Change In Washington
How to Run for City Council
Mad Cow: Coming to the U.S.?
Monoculture and Mad Cows
Itching to Ride Light Rail
Is Work Killing You?
Escaping the Globalized Gym
Seattle's Clattering Poets
A Puppetista Manifesto
Living Outside Empire
Don't Put the Utilities Back in Charge
Social Transformation Explained? Technogod
Spokane Free-speech Battle
'60s Dream Lives On
Real estate agent funds good causes
by Renee Kjartan
Real estate agent Michael Gross has for years donated half of his real estate commissions to nonprofit progressive groups, including the Washington Free Press. To thank him for his help over the years, editor Doug Collins and I took him to lunch at a downtown restaurant, where Gross explained the reasons for his unusual generosity.
"I give because I am Jewish!" he exclaimed at one point, half in jest. But deeper, historical reasons play a part, too.
Gross is a product of the `60s. Born in New York, he went to the University of Chicago where in 1968 he helped shut down the admin building for about 10 days. A female professor had been denied tenure, and in those days of the civil rights and women's movements and the Vietnam War, righting this wrong had to be done with mass action.
"Every evening we held a meeting to plan strategy during the shutdown," Gross explained, "And on day five I had an epiphany. The women ran this session and took some six hours to explain to us what we had been doing wrong. They showed how they had been the ones to make the coffee, clean up, run off the leaflets and do general fetching," he said. "I saw that, of course, they were right!" His consciousness had been raised.
After graduating, he moved to Seattle where he worked as a cook in several restaurants, did some teaching, and founded several businesses including Seattle Filmworks. He retired at age 28, and decided to buy, fix up, and sell a house. Something clicked, so he then got a real estate license, started selling houses to friends, and has always donated part of his commissions to progressive causes.
"People came to me at first because it was politically correct, but then they learned that I am good at selling. I can teach them things as well as sell their house. Actually, I don't ‘sell' houses. I advise people. I teach people how to see houses, to deconstruct their reaction to them, and to see what housing means to their lives. It's very creative to have a client [who can qualify for] $200,000, and to help them stretch this and get a house they like," he said.
So far he has given nearly $500,000 to progressive causes including the Washington Free Press, Lesbian Resource Center, A Territory Resource, PAWS, Mothers Against Police Harassment, and many more, all listed in his brochure. He said he gives to the Free Press because he likes its spirit of independent, progressive journalism.
Asked if he saw a contradiction between dealing in big-ticket items such as houses and helping progressive causes, Gross replied: "In the ‘60s, we assumed that every transaction could be humanized. We felt we could infuse ourselves into the economy, whether as attorneys, doctors, or whatever. I am trying to infuse economic activity with the human values that we all took for granted in a certain era. I think I am doing capitalism with a human face."
Thanks to Gross's generous donation, the Free Press has more resources to help stimulate human values through this paper. Thanks, Michael!
Considering buying or selling a house? Michael Gross works through the Windemere agency. He can be reached at 206-323-6960 or 206-999-9969. Tell him the Free Press sent you!