As-it-happened coverage: White Center Community Safety Coalition, July 2010
6:12 PM: More than 20 people at tonight’s White Center-South Delridge Community Safety Coalition meeting at the DSHS building in WC – including special guest Aileen Balahadia, executive director of the White Center Community Development Association, along with Vary Jackson from the King County Sheriff’s Office, Southwest Precinct’s Lt. Norm James and Community Police Team Officer Jonathan Kiehn. Sean Healy, WCSDCSC chair, is leading the meeting. Updates as we go.
‘NIGHT OUT’ REMINDER: The night for crimefighting, neighborhood-building block parties is August 3rd.
BARBECUE AT HICKS LAKE: 11 am-2 pm on August 14th.
STREETLIGHT TRACKER: Seattle City Light customers can not only report streetlight outages but also track how they’re being handled, by going to a new website. (Added: Here’s the link)
SEATTLE POLICE REPORT: Lt. James is introducing Officer Kiehn as the CPT officer for the West Seattle area that this group covers (among other areas). Next, he mentions that residential burglaries are a focus for the precinct – in Highland Park, there were 15 burglaries last month, and former CPT officer, now Detective, Jill Vanskike started investigating them, got the word out to patrol officers about what appeared to be a trend, and that led to the identification of suspects. Lt. James also is talking about a crackdown on car prowls, after encouraging people to call 911 about them. “Report everything, because we can’t be everywhere,” he reminds those on hand. He’s also letting those on hand know about the online information that SPD has added recently, including the availability of some reports, and the new incident map tools, plus the new online-reporting system launched yesterday for “low-level” crimes. (Added: Here’s the link.)
And Lt. James notes that August 21st, 1-4 pm, is the date for Picnic at the Precinct for the SW Precinct. In response to a question, Lt. James confirms that every precinct is giving two officers to the downtown/Belltown nightlife emphasis on Friday and Saturday nights – but he says they also have access to the same special emphasis on, say, Alki if they need it. Other questions include, from Dick Thurnau of Friends of Hicks Lake, who’s responsible for cleaning up after a car crash? Officer Kiehn’s reply: The tow crew that takes the wrecked car(s) away.
KING COUNTY SHERIFF’S OFFICE REPORT, INCLUDING CLUB EVO: Deputy Jackson briefed the group, saying that a special crackdown is being planned for some ongoing problems. Separately – Club Evo is still a priority for the Gang Unit, she says, and they’re working with code enforcement from North Highline Fire, the Liquor Control Board, and other agencies regarding violations – she says a “case is opening up” and the NHFD will do a site visit; if Evo is not in compliance, then action will be taken. One attendee says that he just learned Evo hasn’t had the proper, complete licensing for years – Deputy Jackson confirms that’s true, and is being addressed.
Legislative candidate and White Center/South Delridge business owner “Mac” McElroy is here and says that he’s been told the best thing to do might be to send a letter to King County Executive Dow Constantine. Deputy Jackson says that’s certainly his prerogative as a citizen. It’s also being suggested from the audience that the King County Council should be a target of letter-writing as well. Another concern voiced: “A lot of homeless people sleeping near the street” near the future Strength of Place Initiative development site at 100th/13th. Deputy Jackson says without anyone in the storefront deputy position formerly held by Jeff Hancock, there is no one to proactively address problems like that; she says the future of that position may be made public by next month.
WHITE CENTER COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT ASSOCIATION: Now executive director Balahadia is up.
(This was the intense part of the meeting – click ahead for the continuation of our as-it-happened coverage)
She says neighborhood revitalization, family development and community building are the three lines of business for WCCDA; they try to connect the dots of all the work happening in the community. She mentions the neighborhood plan featuring 8 strategies that she says were hatched by people in the community. She says the plan is updated every year and presented at the annual Community Summit, which this year will be on December 4. She says more than 400 residents and 19 projects were part of another annual WCCDA-presented event, the Spring Clean (WCN coverage here). The Casey Foundation, she says, is a primary source of their funding. She says the revitalization component was the major part of their business when WCCDA started almost a decade ago, but it’s grown from there. Local banks also are a major contributor, she says. And a national group called Impact Capital funds WCCDA, she says. This year, they’re also helping other nonprofits with growth strategy in White Center, as well as training – which they offer to some people even in lines of interest such as “how to buy a house.”
Next, WCCDA’s Nhan Nguyen is speaking. “At the CDA, we set the table, but we don’t push the agenda,” he explains. He mentions that “White Center: Growing a Global Village” is then new brand. Welcome signs will be redone with the branding – and they will be asking people for their opinions. They’re also hoping to attract “family friendly businesses” to the area. They’re working with the King County Food and Fitness Initiative. Asked what the definition of the business district was, they focused on the central area not far from 16th and Roxbury, only as far south as 102nd – but not as far as 116th, despite an expression of surprise from some in attendance who say they consider the business district to stretch that far south. And questions arise about including the West Seattle side of White Center – Balahadia says, it’s not that we’re trying to promote West Seattle businesses first, but “many of you believe that (the South Delridge businesses) are part of White Center.” McElroy says people shouldn’t get too hung up on the Seattle/Unincorporated King County line. Ultimately, “it’s a resource question,” says Balahadia. And there’s another suggestion that this initial area WCCDA is working on may eventually change.
Finally, the “elephant in the room” comes up: Some are concerned that the CDA is “pushing to become part of Seattle.” Balahadia asks, “Has the coalition taken a position?” No, came the reply. Then Barbara Dobkin, who is on the North Highline Unincorporated Area Council but stresses that she attended as a private citizen, brings up the issue of WCCDA website content rearding annexation. Balahadia said WCCDA has not taken a position. She also says she is not prepared to have an annexation decision, but was here to talk about other community issues. She shortly switches the topic back to community work, and those who are working in White Center schools; she says, “Education is one of the issues that our families care the most about.”
She moves on to say that “there are a ton of things going on in White Center – but they’re not always connected.” She declares “there are a lot of positive things happening.” She also notes that 10 people work at WCCDA – and it used to be just 1 1/2 back in 2004. “We grew because the need was there – but we’re still 10 people strong – we need to look at ourselves as united on goals we can move on.” She says she’d be happy to have another conversation about annexation, “but frankly, it’s so divisive, and really tiring, and something that I hope we can moving forward around this issue.” Then another difficult issue comes up: 14 businesses serving alcohol in a 2-block radius. Balahadia agrees that’s not family-friendly and is asked, what’s the CDA’s stance on that? Nguyen answers this: “There’s nothing wrong with an alcohol-serving institution” and points to McElroy as someone running an “upstanding institution” – while then saying that he does have a problem with overserving, or selling high-potency beverages from stores, so he’s hopeful a Good Neighbor Agreement will work as well here as it has in other areas, such as Kent. Meantime, someone in the audience says he does have a problem with anyone selling alcohol. McElroy says, “It’s very easy to look at the end result and draw a direct lane to say, ‘If we stop serving this, we won’t have this problem’” and mentions Prohibition, noting that didn’t work. He suggests that the concerned citizen “not lump us (alcohol-serving businesses) all together. … I’m looking as part of your community to make this a better community for all of us.”
Another member of the WCCDA staff asks to take a turn and says even though it’s headquartered on the Seattle side of the line, they help many families on the other side of the city-limit line. She gets emotional, saying that WCCDA has helped her family as well and feels as if “personal attack(s)” are being made against the organization, and suggests she’s feeling blindsided by the direction that the discussion has taken. “Next time you invite us to come to one of your meetings, please be honest with us (regarding what topic you want to ask about).” Now chair Healy points out that historically, a WCCDA rep used to always be on hand at the coalition meeting – but sometime back, that changed, without warning. He is saying that the group did have many issues to ask about, including the family-friendliness (or lack of same) of an alcohol-laden business district. “We’ve got like three different issues going on,” Healy points out.
He also goes on to say – qualifying that it’s a personal opinion – that he has a toddler daughter and would not like to see her continuously witnessing alcohol being consumed. Now the guy who is planning to open Company (in the business district south of Roxbury on 16th) speaks, and says that his business is going to be 21+ only, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to be “part of the destruction of the neighborhood.” Now the discussion turns to – would it feel so overwhelming, if there were more other types of businesses in addition to those? Then the issue shifts – it’s not just about the fact that alcohol is sold, but what about safety, and the atmosphere in which it is sold? The short-lived Hang Around Bar and Grill is brought up, and its proprietors’ attempt at “cleaning up” the area around the establishment (formerly The Wall, now vacant) – in an area that otherwise has trouble with prostitution, drugs, and gangs, in the opinion of the meeting-goer who’s speaking. “These aren’t neighborhood people who are most of the clientele of the place – they are being drawn from other neighborhoods, and they are making our neighborhood less … than it could be.” She suggests that the WCCDA get more deeply involved in addressing those problems (and those at Club Evo) and advocating that position.
Yet another attendee says it still sounds to him as if everyone is OK with the drunkenness problem. McElroy now refutes that and also points out that the people who are bringing new energy into the community are people like him, like Company proprietor Jesse, and Full Tilt Ice Cream proprietor Justin – and that seems to bring a discrepancy between the voiced perception that alcohol sales in and of themselves are bad, and the reality of business owners in a district with many vacant storefronts actually opening businesses and working hard in the community. He says finger-pointing “is divisive” and calls for unity. Standing next to him, a Highland Park resident who says, “Isn’t it really about the owners of the businesses and the people they hire” rather than what they sell/serve?
Another attendee then points out it boils down to the state Liquor Control Board’s enforcement – and suggests also that they bring the topic back to, what is the WCCDA doing in general, not just on this issue? Deputy Jackson steps into the discussion and reminds everyone to report the problems they see, so that there is something on the record when establishments file to renew their license. She says there have not been many official complaints about places that people griped about all the time – and that means there’s nothing on the record when renewal comes up again.
After another attendee exhorts the WCCDA to be sure that “the people” are educated about annexation – Balahadia points out that her organization hosted five community forums on the issue the last time it came up, with representatives of all sides.
Back to the alcohol issue – Friends of Hicks Lake’s Dick Thurnau points out the alcohol use in Lakewood Park and the cans/bottles he’s found, observing that it’s right next to two schools. North Highline Unincorporated Area Council’s Christine Waldman brings back the key issue – go online and report liquor violations to the state. (We’ll add that link later too.)
And another issue has surfaced – what about the library system? Shouldn’t WCCDA be more involved in its future? Balahadia agrees that’s a good point. She now finally gets to conclude her presentation, giving kudos to White Center Jubilee Days and also mentions the upcoming Pasefika Festival at White Center Heights Elementary, as well as the upcoming annual YES Foundation backpack giveaway/street festival at Mount View Elementary on August 31st and at White Center Heights on September 1st – because of some funding changes, a WCCDA rep explains, it’s been split into two days, instead of the all-community, one-day event that it was in years gone by. And she says that Holy Family School‘s street festival is coming up September 11-12th.
With that, the meeting breaks up without a formal gaveling of any kind – though it’s almost 8 pm anyway.
(The WC Community Safety Coalition usually meets on the fourth Thursday of the month, 6 pm, at the same location – 9650 15th SW.)
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