From library’s non-book freebies to Permitting Division’s noise-fighting efforts @ North Highline Unincorporated Area Council’s May meeting

May 2nd, 2024 Tracy Posted in North Highline UAC, White Center news No Comments »

By Tracy Record
White Center Now editor

Discussion of fun freebies from the King County Library System opened this month’s online North Highline Unincorporated Area Council meeting, facilitated by NHUAC’s Liz Giba.

FREE MUSEUM/ZOO/ETC. LIBRARY: Children’s librarian Destinee Sutton was the first guest. She showed everyone how the library offers more than just books – start with the “books and more” tab on the KCLS website, and you’ll even find access to free museum, zoo, and park passes! Just use your library card. MOHAI, the Seattle and Bellevue Art Museums, the Museum of Flight, Woodland Park Zoo, Seattle Aquarium, MoPOP, the Washington Railway Museum in Tacoma, the Rhododendron Botanical Garden in Federal Way, and many more. Tickets open daily at 2 pm for a day two weeks in the future, Sutton said. “Some of them go really really fast – by 2:05 they are gone,” she warned, so you want to be ready to start trying right at 2 pm. Most have rules such as one free pass per venue per person per 90 days. State-park Discovery Passes also can be obtained. Frequently asked questions include, what about student cards? You can use those to reserve passes too – go to kcls.org/students to find out about that.

LOCAL SERVICES: Permitting director Jim Chan and external-affairs director David Daw were the next guests. Giba asked about the ongoing noise concerns with live music at Tim’s Tavern in downtown White Center. Chan says Tim’s was cited for code violations and they’ve been working with the establishment, including “giving them options on how to address the violations” which include noise and operating late. They need to either “remove those violations or legally pursue a permit” for them, and Tim’s is finalizing a plan, Chan said. He said that the county looks at violations first in terms of whether they’re risks to life safety or doing environmental harm – but if neither is involved, the code “allows due process,” giving the business time to pursue fixing it. “So we have not taken any steps to stop (what they’re doing),” Chan said. Giba said outdoor live performances would not be eligible for a permit, according to a letter fro a county official, “so basically the sheriff needs to go there and issue tickets?” Chan said he’s not aware of what other actions KCSO could take, but he said that there are many venues in the county that pursue that nonpermitted use anyway – wedding venues, concert venues, etc. Tim’s could explore temporary permits, Chan said. Giba said it sounds like Tim’s has options but residents do not. Chan said “we know there’s impacts” but businesses are given the chance to “mitigate for them.” Those permits are good for up to 60 days a year, though permits can be granted for shorter periods of time: “We can limit them, depending on the impact.” So where is Tim’s in applying for a permit? “Ready for the pre-application process,” Daw said, any day now. “They’re looking at moving forward in making improvements to the property … related to the sound level of the music.” They’ve been promising mitigation for a year,” NHUAC’s Barbara Dobkin pointed out. Daw said they did install noise-muffling curtains. And the county is confident that further mandatory modifications could resolve the issue. “We are sympathetic to the noise, you are not alone,” Chan said. They try to work voluntarily with the property owner, which is what’s happening now – as opposed to “if both sides lawyer up, this could drag on for a very long time, with no mitigation.”

Then they moved on to other topics. One attendee wondered how to find out about special events coming up in White Center in general. Chan said they’re creating a calendar but in the meantime, if you email him, he can send the list of what they know of. The Permitting division is involved with private-property events; a special-use permit from another team would be involved in, say, a street festival.

NHUAC’s Pat Price asked about some beautification measures, like kiosks, that had been discussed for downtown WC. The county reps said they’d check on it.

They also asked about the microhousing demonstration project that was going to be allowed in WC; nobody pursued a permit, Chan said, so nothing’s happening. Dobkin recapped the potential proposal that one developer had suggested, 60 microstudios with shared kitchens/baths, and there was an “overlay” in which that could have happened on any purchased property. The allowance for this is expected to expire, unfulfilled, with the new comp plan, Chan added. Giba said the originally considered property was around 17th/106th.

Later in the meeting, the guests announced that a new economic development director has been hired, Jesse Reynolds, who has worked for the county in other roles. No permanent director for Local Services yet (following John Taylor’s promotion to head the Department of Natural Resources and Parks).

KING COUNTY SHERIFF’S OFFICE: Det. Glen Brannon, guest at most NHUAC meetings, joined in. He too was asked about the Tim’s issue; “it’s been noticeably quieter [lately] – I haven’t been getting any complaints recently,” he replied. He said the operators have told him they’re ending their events at 10 pm, among other changes. … KCSO is working with Sea Mar to “toughen up” the parking lot at 15th/Roxbury that’s been a draw for troubling activities; that will include fixing the lighting. … There’ve been property cleanups at the ex-Bartell Drugs building with the help of the West Seattle-based volunteer group A Cleaner Alki … Det. Brennon said they’re also looking at a cleanup for the ex-Roxbury Auto Parts store (still for sale) site. He said he’s trying to find somebody to haul away trash when cleanups are done. Daw will look into it. … He was also asked about semitrucks parked on the street. They (and other vehicles parked on the street) have to be moved at least once every 24 hours.

WHITE CENTER KIWANIS: The Kiwanis’s annual community steak dinner is coming up May 17 (portabella mushroom if you want a vegetarian option) at the White Center Eagles, with a silent auction, raising money to help “the kids in North Highline.”

NEXT MEETING: First Thursday in June – that’ll be June 6 – online, 7 pm, last meeting before NHUAC goes on summer hiatus.

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Here’s what you’ll learn at May’s North Highline Unincorporated Area Council meeting Thursday

April 28th, 2024 Tracy Posted in North Highline UAC, White Center news Comments Off on Here’s what you’ll learn at May’s North Highline Unincorporated Area Council meeting Thursday

You’re invited to this Thursday’s online meeting of the North Highline Unincorporated Area Council, which sent this preview and info of how to attend:

The Opportunity to Be Informed, Be Involved and Be Heard!

Where? North Highline Unincorporated Area Council Meeting
When? Thursday, May 2, 2024, at 7 pm

Join Zoom Meeting:
us02web.zoom.us/j/81553270155?pwd=MzdQVkxncFZXRG90ZjFTbG1LenYwZz09

Meeting ID: 841 0456 1060
Passcode: NHUAC2024 (case sensitive)

Unable to join by Zoom? Please call: 253.205.0468
Meeting ID:841 0456 1060
Passcode: 318533579
* * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Please join NHUAC at our meeting on Thursday, May 2nd at 7 pm. Through its “All Are Welcome!” community meetings, the North Highline Unincorporated Area Council aims to add opportunity to our community’s equation: The Opportunity to Be Informed, Be Involved and Be Heard!

Have you visited White Center’s beautiful library lately? If you are a frequent library user, you know that libraries do far more than just loan out books. Join us in welcoming White Center librarian Destinee Sutton to learn about some of the benefits you may be missing. (Hint: Been to the zoo lately? How about the Seattle Art Museum?) By meeting’s end, we think you will want to do yourself and yours a favor by visiting this great community resource behind Mt. View Elementary on the 1400 block of SW 107th.

Destinee will be followed by Jim Chan, King County’s Division Director for Permitting. In addition to issuing permits for land use and construction, the Department of Permitting’s responsibilities include Code Enforcement. Noise issues are bound to increase as the weather improves and you open your windows. Join us and learn what progress is being made to resolve these issues.

Last but not least, we will be joined by Detective Glen Brannon. Don’t miss this opportunity to share your concerns and learn what the King County Sheriff’s Office has been doing in our area.

Knowledge Is Power.
Learn, share, and help make North Highline a healthier community.
Thursday, May 2 at 7 pm – Invite Your Neighbors!

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Neighborhood safety, beautification, and youth engagement @ North Highline Unincorporated Area Council’s April meeting

April 10th, 2024 Tracy Posted in North Highline UAC, White Center news Comments Off on Neighborhood safety, beautification, and youth engagement @ North Highline Unincorporated Area Council’s April meeting

By Jason Grotelueschen
Reporting for White Center Now

Neighbors, leaders, and guests met last Thursday to discuss issues of youth involvement, neighborhood safety, and cleanups at the April meeting of the North Highline Unincorporated Area Council (NHUAC).  The event was held online and was facilitated by NHUAC president Liz Giba and vice president Barbara Dobkin.

Meeting highlights:

“ALTERNATIVES TO VIOLENCE” PROGRAM AT EVERGREEN AND INNOVATION: First on the agenda was a presentation about the Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP), which has been the cornerstone of a new set of trainings and programs this year at Evergreen High School and Innovation Heights Academy (formerly New Start High School), sponsored by Highline Public Schools. AVP describes its school-based programs as promoting “social emotional learning and community building in schools” to “reduce fighting, violence, and bullying.”

At the beginning of the school year last fall, about 300 Evergreen 9th-grade students and 100 staff members participated, and the following week at Innovation about 90 students and 20 staff participated. The program involves facilitator-led sessions, small-group discussions and games, and for most students and staff it’s their first interaction with their school colleagues before the school year begins. Some aspects of the program have carried throughout the school year, with additional classes and recurring discussion groups.

Roger Kluck, director of the area AVP chapter Projects for a Civil Society, said the project was originally started in the mid-1970s by a group of people in Greenhaven prison (New York), with a focus on addressing trauma and violence, based on the concept that “hurt people hurt people.” The program was successful and grew quickly, and is now offered in more than 50 countries in prisons, schools, churches, businesses, and shelters.

“Trauma alienates you,” Kluck said, citing the well-known Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) Study which found that one-third of school kids have experienced some sort of significant trauma (abandonment, abuse, parent in prison) that has an impact on their education. Kluck added that after COVID lockdowns, there was a lot of delay in kids’ social-emotional development, and his group is “working with schools to build back community building and connection.” He said the training usually starts with teachers (“a lonely business,” Kluck said), especially new teachers, followed by a 2- to 3-day workshop for students at the beginning of the school year.

Kluck said the benefit is that students build relationships and self-esteem and “go into the school year knowing people, which heads off bullying and cliques, and reduces the chance of alienation.”

Also in attendance on Thursday night was Bertram (Bert) Calcote, a long-time facilitator for AVP and the Recovery Navigator Program, who shared his own experience of getting involved with AVP and meeting Kluck at the WA state reformatory prison in Monroe.

Calcote noted that he was originally a skeptic — “I said, ‘this crap doesn’t work,’ but I went back and participated and got comfortable and realized how wrong I was.” He said that on a personal note, the program taught him how to be aware of the trauma, to rebuild relationships he had broken and to “stop playing the victim.” Calcote said his passion is talking to young people, especially young men, and showing them how to more effectively communicate and listen.

The group is also having a community meeting on April 23rd at 5:30 pm at the Burien Library, focused on bringing people together and reducing violence. Details here: projectsforacivilsociety.org/meeting-notice

Kluck said they’re always looking for helpers, and it only takes 4 weekends of training to become a facilitator. “We’re a ‘Johnny Appleseed group, we don’t want to do it all, we spread it and let it go where it goes.” Anyone interested should contact NHUAC chair Liz Giba via email at liz_giba@comcast.net.

NEIGHBORHOOD CLEANUPS (INCLUDING WHITE CENTER): 

Next up was a presentation (see the slides here) by Erik Bell from A Cleaner Alki, who has been spearheading cleanup events throughout the peninsula for the past decade, including a massive recent cleanup event in White Center in late March involving about 100 volunteers and yielding 2.5 tons of trash (yes, really).

Bell described that gathering as the first event in a new All-Hands Neighborhood Cleanup Series in cooperation with
Seattle Public Utilities’ Adopt a Street program. He noted that he and the city considered the event to be a huge success (especially because the plans and promotions came together in only two weeks), but that he also viewed it as “just the start for an area that could use a lot of help on both sides of Roxbury.” Much of the event’s cleanup activity involved the area at/near the former Bartell Drugs building (currently listed for lease) and the surrounding blocks, and Bell noted that the Rozella Building area has been a recent focus for the group as well.

Bell said that his personal involvement with neighborhood cleanups began in 2010, when he started meeting his brother on Alki Beach for Saturday morning walks, and they began cleaning up garbage that they found along the way. In the years that have followed, more volunteers have become involved, and the group began working more formally with agencies such as SDOT and Seattle Parks. Bell said it’s been gratifying to engage with the community to make a difference, and to help “create a new culture” with partner agencies who benefit greatly from the extra volunteer effort.

Bell said his group held over 500 cleanup events in 2023, and cleared 50,000+ pounds of trash and other dangerous materials out of the local environment. He characterized the group’s efforts as generally falling within three categories:

  • Trash cleanups: Generally 2 hours in length and with specific trash-pickup goals in mind.
  • “Spruced” cleanups: Clearing sidewalks, overgrowth and line-of-sight issues (and then collecting trash that becomes visible).
  • “Block Drop” cleanups: Involves leaving buckets and “trash grabbers” in targeted areas for a day, and inviting the community to use the supplies to clean on their own time. It began as a Girl Scout project (involving Bell’s daughter).

The effort of scouting for new cleanup opportunities has identified a number of “hot spots” that Bell said deserve focused cleanup work that would improve the neighborhood and “restore a sense of safety and care in the community.”

Bell said that for cleanups in unincorporated King County, one of the main problems his group has faced is the lack of a program for reporting the collected piles of trash and getting it all picked up at the conclusion of the event. For the recent White Center cleanup, for example, his group had to haul all of the bags of trash (again, 2.5 tons of it) north of Roxbury street and into Seattle city limits, where the Adopt-a-Street crews could then pick it up that same afternoon.

Several attendees of the meeting on Thursday night, including NHUAC’s Barbara Dobkin, shared ideas with Bell for contact people and resources to potentially help bridge those gaps. One of those people mentioned, Bong Sto. Domingo (who works for King County), then joined the Zoom meeting and helped make some additional suggestions and connections. Bell expressed his gratitude for the information, noting that this is the type of cooperation that is crucial for making programs like this work in a sustainable way.

Bell emphasized that his group is always looking for new volunteers, who can connect with his group via their website or Facebook page.

UPDATE FROM KING COUNTY SHERIFF’S OFFICE: Detective Glen Brannon was also in attendance at the meeting to answer questions and provide updates about community concerns.  Some discussion points:

  • White Center cleanup: Regarding Bell’s recent cleanup efforts, Det. Brannon said “the timing was incredible” because he had recently talked to some constituents (including Dr. Perez at Sea Mar health center) about the Bartell’s property and the excess trash, and then “miraculously it disappeared!” Brannon and Giba said that they had expected attendance from Bartell’s staff at the Thursday meeting, but that it didn’t happen. He noted that there needs to be agreement from the property owner in order to (for example) pursue prosecution for people committing crimes on the property. Brannon mentioned other community-supported events to clean up areas (such as an encampment cleanup on March 13th).  “A lot of our chronic areas are getting cleaned up now, and it’s because of the community getting together, saying ‘I know somebody who can help,’ so everybody should pat themselves on the back for that” but he added that there is always work to do.
  • Drug Bust: Attendees discussed the late-February drug bust by the Precinct 4 Special Emphasis Team (WCN coverage here).  Brannon said “we are blessed in Precinct 4 to have group of detectives able to work at the cartel distribution level — one of top groups making busts.” He added that the sheriff’s office works with lots of groups to help support the effort, he “can’t talk too much about it, but it’s a great group” and the recent bust yielded impressive results:
    • 71,000 M-30 Fentanyl Pills
    • 31 pounds of Methamphetamine
    • 2.76 pounds Fentanyl powder
    • 1.12 pounds of Heroin
    • $7047 cash seized
    • 1 car seized
    • 2 individuals were booked into the Federal Detention Center (FDC) pending federal charges.
  • Gun Incidents: Attendees talked about recent events such as the late-February bullets at Patrick’s Bakery and Café, and the early-March shooting near Evergreen.
  • Encampments: Brannon asked the group for input and observations regarding issues with public camping, noting that his office is always working to get affected people access to services, and they’ve seen increased participation (one particular encampment dropped from 30 people down to 6, recently).
  • Neighborhood Cooperation:
    • Brannon said his team was recently able to go to a property and recovered a stolen car and stolen motorcyles based on tip from someone, and he encouraged neighbors to report what they see. Neighbors happy with cleanup, found a car, was towed away.  Det. Brannon said Dep. Steve Johnson initiated cleanup.
    • Neighbor Leo said that he noticed that a person named “Jessica” (familiar to Brannon) and her family seem to be back in the area — they had been associated with issues such as prowling and street theft in the past. Brannon said he would be surprised if that was the case because she had been “doing really well — had found a job” but that he would follow up.
    • Attendee Roslyn Hyde (who owns property in White Center) mentioned to Brannon that she has a friend with a yoga studio on 152nd in Burien, and there was a recent incident in which a dead person was found, possibly related to people congregating and camping in the area. Brannon confirmed that he is working closely with Burien’s crime reduction unit on similar issues, because “Burien has a reputation for being a good place to be homeless” and there are “political hot-potato” discussions happening. He mentioned another example of a strip mall owner who is dealing with and encampment. Hyde also noted that her property in White Center was hit with graffiti on an old garage, and Brannon said he will follow up.
    • Other neighbors asked about occurrences in their areas (such as street racing on 1st Avenue, gunfire incidents, etc) and Brannon gave responses when possible.
  • Information Sharing: Brannon said that he continues to work with community contacts in area schools and boys and girls clubs, especially with summer coming up and more youth out and about. He also talked with meeting attendees about ideas for sharing information via electronic and physical message boards and kiosks, to keep the community informed.

COMMUNITY EVENTS:

Det. Brannon noted that Saturday, April 27th, is National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day, and that Steve Cox Memorial Park is one of the participating sites — dropoffs are encouraged from 10am-2pm. (editor’s note: the SPD Southwest Precinct at 2300 SW Webster in West Seattle is also a participating site)

Brannon also said that the next Coffee With a Cop event will be Wednesday, April 17th, at 10 am at Starbucks in White Center, and that there is an upcoming job fair June 1st from 1:30-6pm.

Darlene Sellers from King County Parks shared details about events at the White Center Teen Program (Log Cabin):

  • JobLaunch – Pathways to Healthcare for ages 16-24 on Wednesday, April 17 from 3:30-5 pm (Online event with viewing parties at the Log Cabin in WC & the Skyway Library.)
  • Annual PNTH Job Fair (30 employers) and Basketball Tournament on Wednesday, June 5 at Steve Cox Memorial Park.

Sellers also shared a recap of Cultural Connection Night, held March 22nd at the Log Cabin: posted online here.

Meeting attendee Roslyn Hyde (who owns property in White Center) invited everyone to a free networking event on Thursday, May 9th from 7:45 am-9:15 am, focused on entrepreneurs and local business owners. Event details here.

NEXT MEETING: NHUAC meets most months on the first Thursday, online at 7 pm, so the next meeting will be May 2.

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THURSDAY: Here’s who you’ll hear from at April’s North Highline Unincorporated Area Council meeting

March 31st, 2024 Tracy Posted in North Highline UAC, White Center news Comments Off on THURSDAY: Here’s who you’ll hear from at April’s North Highline Unincorporated Area Council meeting

Announced by the North Highline Unincorporated Area Council:

The Opportunity to Be Informed, Be Involved and Be Heard!

Where? North Highline Unincorporated Area Council Meeting

When? Thursday, April 4, 2024, at 7 pm

Join Zoom Meeting:
us02web.zoom.us/j/81553270155?pwd=MzdQVkxncFZXRG90ZjFTbG1LenYwZz09

Meeting ID: 815 5327 0155
Passcode: NHUAC2024 (case sensitive)

Unable to join by Zoom? Please call: 253 215 8782

Meeting ID: 815 5327 0155
Passcode: 476621393

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

You are invited! Please join NHUAC on Thursday, April 4th at 7 pm via Zoom. Join us and learn about what is happening in the White Center (North Highline) community. This month’s meeting will begin with Sandy Hunt, who will share the latest information about the Alternatives to Violence Project that the Highline School District is sponsoring at Evergreen High. Learn about new ways to get involved, including an in-person forum later in the month.

Sandy will be followed by Erik Bell of A Cleaner Alki. A Cleaner Alki is a volunteer organization focused on reducing waste and blight with weekly cleanup and sprucing activities. Erik will share the background and news about A Cleaner Alki, including a project in White Center. Thanks to Erik and A Cleaner Alki!

We’ll also be joined by Detective Glen Brannon. Don’t miss this opportunity to learn about what the King County Sheriff’s Office has been dealing with in our area and share your concerns.

Knowledge Is Power. Learn, share, and help make North Highline a healthier community.

Thursday, April 4 at 7 pm – Invite Your Neighbors!

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Encampment, music, trees, more @ North Highline Unincorporated Area Council’s March meeting

March 8th, 2024 Tracy Posted in North Highline UAC, White Center news Comments Off on Encampment, music, trees, more @ North Highline Unincorporated Area Council’s March meeting

By Tracy Record
White Center Now editor

Though neither was an official agenda item, two longtime issues were addressed during Thursday night’s North Highline Unincorporated Area Council meeting, held online and facilitated by NHUAC’s Liz Giba – an encampment in the “White Center Bog” area, and noise concerns from outdoor music at Tim’s Tavern.

Here’s how the meeting unfolded:

HIGHLINE FOREST: Sandy Hunt and Andrea O’Ferrall from Defenders of Highline Forest spoke to NHUAC first. “Mature trees are really important to us,” Hunt began, explaining the group’s purpose – explained on their website kctreeequity.org. It began in defense of North Sea-Tac Park, facing the port’s development plans for it and trees that would be removed as a result. “With Highline as the geographical effort, we’ve worked on expanding our efforts … and what we want to do,” in areas including Des Moines, SeaTac, Tukwila, north Boulevard Park, Normandy Park, and Burien. “We are a small but mighty crew,” able to accept donations, talking to neighbors about potential tree loss. The port’s new land-stewardship plan doesn’t “eliminate the destruction of trees that’s in the works,” Hunt warned, so they are keeping up the pressure and encouraging people “to fight for the trees in their neighborhood.” O’Ferrall says that as they canvass neighborhoods, “people are shocked because they don’t know what’s going on.” Life expectancy is lower in the airport-adjacent communities, and removing trees isn’t going to help that. In Q&A, one person said they’d talked to a county official who said that tree maintenance is costly. Giba observed that the county Housing Authority seems to have “taken out a lot of trees.” NHUAC’s Barbara Dobkin noted that aircraft noise has increased in White Center, and that’s one way the port affects residents this far north. She also pointed out that developers have “clear-cut” various properties in recent years.

JOHN TAYLOR: This King County official, a frequent NHUAC guest, came to this meeting wearing a different hat. Until a month ago, he led the Department of Local Services – and now he’s in charge of the much-larger Department of Natural Resources and Parks, pending County Council confirmation. He didn’t have “major updates” but noted that Local Services has again launched the participatory-budgeting process. The “community needs list”-related engagement is on hold because this is the “short” budget year – one year – rather than a biennial budget. For DNRP, after a few weeks on the job, he said, he’s still learning the basics – otherwise: He noted a “problematic” encampment in the White Center Bog that was being removed. “That’s a stormwater facility … the biggest reason (not to allow an encampment) is water-quality issues.” (Later in the meeting, the topic came up again, with more details.)

On the topic of trees, he said the funding crisis limiting street trees is a real thing – they need to be watered until they’re well-established, for example. He also addressed the “clear-cutting” to which Dobkin had referred – it’s not a violation of code, he explained, because the county code wasn’t written to differentiate between rural and urban sensibilities. But a study is in the works, to be delivered later this year “that will hopefully have some code changes recommended to deal with trees … in the rural context and the urban context.” The county has a goal of planting 3 million trees and already has planted 1 million, he added. “It’s very much on our minds at King County.”

In Q&A, Giba asked if Taylor was “surprised” by the new job. “I wasn’t surprised, because I applied for it … when (predecessor) Christie True stepped down,” he replied. Dealing with the balance of natural and built environments is a passion of his, he added. The department includes wastewater, trash, parks – “some of the parks I’m proudest of are in White Center” – and much more. “It’s about 2,000 people, $3.5 billion budget – quite a bit bigger than the Department of Local Services.” And, he said, it’s well-resourced because much of its funding comes from sources other than property taxes. Hunt asked about the ivy choking trees all over the county and wondered if there’s been a study. “I’m not an arborist,” said Taylor, but: “I’m aware … that it’s not good for our forests, that it’s invasive, but it’s not classified as a noxious weed.” But there’s no plan to deal with it? Hunt asked. Bottom line – no. Later, someone else brought up having heard previously of a volunteer group taking action against ivy.

Another attendee asked whether the county had a way of tracking “informal stormwater management” like roadside ditches. Taylor said that sort of thing is probably in the county’s inventory, provided it’s not on private property. The attendee said he was indeed wondering about something on his own property; Taylor speculated that would have been built at the same time as his house, and he could consider himself lucky to have that in place to deal with the runoff. Other questions had more to do with Taylor’s past job than current one; Giba wondered if a section of 102nd would ever get a sidewalk. Taylor was noncommittal but did say that the county had devoted more to pedestrian needs recently than before, particularly in White Center and Skyway. (The new director of King County Roads is Tricia Davis; Taylor suggested inviting her to a future NHUAC meeting.)

KING COUNTY SHERIFF’S OFFICE: Det. Glen Brannon elaborated on what Taylor had mentioned: “We no longer have a homeless encampment on 13th – took care of that today.” That operation was three months in the making, he added. For a long time the camp had been somewhat “under control,” until he went on vacation for a while, and then it got “out of control,” with a realization that it was a threat to water quality, so that’s why the decision was made to remove it. About 10 campers were left; none have yet accepted shelter, he said, so they might be moving to other parts of the area. “My goal is to get these people off the streets,” he insisted. Meantime, he had stats that Giba had previously suggested. In a three-year analysis, he said, major crimes are down from 2020-2021, while less serious crimes are “holding steady.” “On average, we’re doing better on the violent crimes” – down about 30 percent – and not so bad on the less-violent crimes. Giba wondered why; Brannon didn’t have a clear explanation. “What else is new?” Giba asked. Brannon said that besides the encampment clearance, the alleyway off 16th/17th is a focus, and they need property owners’ help.”Little Caesar’s has been an epicenter of stuff going on,” he said, adding that he intends to talk to the business’s ownership/management.

The recurring topic of noise concerns from live music at Tim’s Tavern then was brought up. Basically, nothing new, said Brannon, but he intended to work nights and check out the situation. Was code enforcement involved? Maybe, Brannon speculated. It was subsequently noted that Tim’s had been served with a code-enforcement letter more than a month ago; Brannon explained that usually that starts a process in which the recipient has time to come into compliance. Then a surprise: Co-proprietor Matt from Tim’s Tavern turned up online, offering to answer questions. “We’re just doing what we’ve always done,” he said. “The shows vary in volume because the bands vary in style.” Regarding the early-February code enforcement letter, he said the county sent it to their property management company, and it wasn’t routed to them until February 6th, close to the response deadline, and they’ve been “playing phone tag with the county guy” ever since. “We’re willing to meet with him and see what compliance issues we have, if any.” Until they hear back, “we’re kind of in this limbo area.” Matt said they’ve been working on finding sound-muffling curtains, as discussed at a NHUAC meeting last year, and just got them but they need some alterations and hanging, which should take about two weeks. Then, he said, they’ll be hung on the west side and in front, in hopes that’ll control some of the sound from “bouncing off the buildings.” Brannon offered to stop by the venue Friday and talk with them in person. They also invited anyone from the community with concerns to come meet with them. Co-proprietor Mason said “it’s definitely not our intent to offput anyone with our audio.” Giba then said that county code does not allow outdoor music; the Tim’s duo said they weren’t aware of a rule like that.

Returning to other KCSO topics, one attendee wondered about the regional uptick in carjackings. Brannon said yes, it’s a thing, but he doesn’t have “scientific proof” of why – he speculates it might have to do with “incarceration rates.” He noted that there were two that day alone in Seattle (in the Skyway area). He also noted the State Legislature’s passage of a bill lifting some restrictions on police pursuits – right now they’re allowed in armed carjackings but now that will apply to auto thefts or other types of crime too. Another question was from someone who thought they heard gunshots the other night. Does it help to report them? Do they get followed up on? Brannon said yes, and in fact KCSO now has a Gun Violence Reduction Unit (as does Seattle PD, for that matter). He said that increased gang activity likely plays into it. Regarding reporting, “yes, please report it,” he stressed. He said they do analyze the casings they find – and can cross-reference them between incidents around the region. “It helps us solve these crimes, helps us find out who these people are … The vast amount of these shootings are being done by a very small number of people … maybe 20 in King County.”

Price said there are ongoing issues in the White Center Library parking lot. A Library Guild volunteer recently got fuel stolen from a vehicle while there. What could the library do? Cameras? Signs? Brannon said KCLS has not participated in some of the programs KCSO has suggested, such as trespassing people who cause trouble, and that’s been limiting what deputies can do.

FULL TILT LOSS: Before adjourning, Giba offered a tribute to the late Justin Cline of Full Tilt Ice Cream, remembering him as a “real community advocate (who) really cared about the White Center community” and a “great guy.”

NEXT MEETING: NHUAC meets first Thursday, 7 pm, online, most months, so the next meeting will be April 4.

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North Highline Unincorporated Area Council hopes to see you Thursday night

March 4th, 2024 Tracy Posted in North Highline UAC, White Center news 3 Comments »

The next meeting of the community council for White Center and vicinity is just a few days away – online – and here’s what’s planned:

The Opportunity to Be Informed, Be Involved and Be Heard!

Where? North Highline Unincorporated Area Council Meeting

When? Thursday, March 7, 2024, at 7 pm

Join Zoom Meeting:

us02web.zoom.us/j/83514652969?pwd=UDlJSlJ3MnF3UzBkaHIzNHRPQXc2UT09

Meeting ID: 835 1465 2969
Passcode: NHUAC2024 (case sensitive)

Unable to join via Zoom? Please call: 253 215 8782

Meeting ID: 835 1465 2969
Passcode: 258392147

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

You are invited! Please join NHUAC on Thursday, March 7th at 7 pm via Zoom. NHUAC aims to keep you in touch with the people who are doing things and making decisions that affect the White Center/North Highline community. This month’s meeting will begin with Sandy Hunt and Andrea O’Ferrall. They will share information and answer questions about Defenders of Highline Forest. Never heard of Highline Forest? Join us and learn!

Andrea and Sandy will be followed by John Taylor, director of King County’s Department of Local Services from its beginning in 2018 until last month. Local Services’ responsibilities include managing land use, issuing permits, enforcing code, and maintaining roads. The county’s news release about John’s transition to the Natural Resources and Parks department describes him as a “proven leader to reinforce King County’s reputation as a trusted environmental steward and manage one of the largest metropolitan natural resource agencies in the country.” We look forward to hearing what John sees in the future for our community and its interactions with these two important connections to our local government.

We have a lot to ask Detective Glen Brannon about from gunfire that hit Patrick’s Café and Bakery to a major drug bust that included 71,000 M-30 Fentanyl pills, 31 pounds of Methamphetamine and 1.12 pounds of heroin. Don’t miss this opportunity to share your concerns and thanks with Detective Brannon.

Knowledge Is Power.

Learn, share, and help make North Highline a healthier community.

Thursday, March 7 at 7 pm – Invite Your Neighbors

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Here’s what happened at the North Highline Unincorporated Area Council’s first 2024 meeting

February 1st, 2024 Tracy Posted in King County, Libraries, North Highline UAC, White Center news 5 Comments »

By Tracy Record
White Center Now editor

Moments ago, the North Highline Unincorporated Area Council wrapped up its first meeting of 2024, facilitated by NHUAC’s Liz Giba.

KING COUNTY LIBRARY SYSTEM: For the third consecutive meeting, NHUAC had guests from KCLS. This time, trustee Verna Seal, who just joined the KCLS board last year, was first up. (She spent more than a decade and a half on the Tukwila City Council, until 2021.) “I love libraries .. so when this opportunity came up, I saw it as a way to give back,” she said, explaining that the board deals with policy, not operations. She’s one of just two people on the board who are from South King County. She invited questions; Giba asked, “How much money is the board in control of and how is it determined how much goes to each area?” Seal didn’t have specifics but said the system’s budget is $100 million-plus. They get a proposed budget and then review it, ask questions, etc., before eventually voting to approve a final budget (she noted you can see it online). Regional manager Mary Sue Houser added that the board meets at 5 pm on the last Wednesday of each month and anyone can attend online or in person (in Issaquah).

NHUAC’s Pat Price, who’s on the White Center Library Guild, said they’d love to see the board out here. Houser said that once the schedule and locations are finalized – maybe not until the new executive director Heidi Daniel is on board (she starts March 11) – they’ll make sure everyone knows.

Houser talked about programming for kids – including 10:30 am Thursday story times – and a LEGO Block Party at 3 pm February 16. (Check the library website for event listings.) Tax season just started – only 10 returns done so far but Houser said they’ve already found $15,000 in refunds for patrons.

Seal said that while she’s just one board member and can’t directly order changes – like “more hours, everybody wants more hours” – she can advocate, and ensure that issues are discussed. You can contact her and the rest of the board by email (find the address here).

ANNOUNCEMENTS: NHUAC’s Barbara Dobkin announced that King County Parks has volunteer opportunities – including work this Saturday at Dick Thurnau Park and other upcoming events at Glendale Forest and North Shorewood Park, all 9 am-noon work parties. (Find out more about the events, and how to volunteer, by going here.)

KING COUNTY CODE ENFORCEMENT: Tom Campbell, code-enforcement officer with the county Department of Local Services’ Permitting Division, was invited to talk about a couple White Center-area cases. First one, a residential property on 19th SW, where an “inoperable vehicle filled with garbage … had been there for a long time.” The occupants had “bagged the garbage and moved it to their driveway,” he said, but they decided what more they could do via the abatement process. They found the owner, he said, and “she agreed to remove the garbage within one week.” They gave her vouchers so she could take it to the transfer station. As for the inoperable vehicle, the owners plan to have it taken to a scrapyard and will move a vehicle that still works into its place on a gravel pad. “So that should get it cleaned up,” he said, noting that the trash had become an issue for neighbors because it was attracting rats. He explained that they have authority to do “abatement” on this kind of situation and to place a lien on the property to recover costs – but that requires court action, and can “take a fairly lengthy period of time,” so they tried instead to locate the owner first, and were successful via an online search. If she doesn’t keep her commitment, then they can pursue court action, Campbell explained.

He said NHUAC also had asked about the outdoor music from Tim’s Tavern, a frequent topic at meetings last year, with nearby residents hearing it inside their homes. “An outdoor performance center is not allowed in (this kind of) business zone,” he said, so they’ve pursued a code violation there, and also the fact the outdoor seating was constructed without a building permit. “There may also be an occupant load issue,” he said. “We do have an active enforcement case there,” just opened last week, and they’ll be following up. Today they sent a violation letter to Tim’s, he said, and the only way to resolve it is to “stop the activity, stop the use as an outdoor performance center.” If they don’t comply, but appeal it, there’ll be a hearing, and if the violation stands, there would be a compounding daily fine for however long the violation continues. Beyond that, Campbell said, eventually the county could seek “injunctive relief.”

Campbell was also asked about the stripped vehicles and trash at 2831 SW Roxbury, the former Roxbury Auto Parts (which has a sale pending, according to its online listing); he promised to look into it.

With situations like 19th SW, he was asked, what can be done about repeat violations? Campbell said they’re working with the King County Council to review policies that tend to drag these things out. He said people should be aware that code enforcement is funded by the county General Fund and that’s facing a budget crunch, so money woes may affect this kind of work. “We’ve had a position taken away, so we’re down some staff in code enforcement … one of the things we’re going to have to prioritize is the types of violations” that they pursue. Some smaller-level problems may not get immediate action, he warned – they may have to prioritize even more than they do now. They already have a large backlog of ‘very substantive code violations,” he said, that they’re working on.

The 19th SW situation might not have been prioritized if not for everything from the rats to the various people who contacted Permitting about it, Campbell said, including the County Executive’s Office.

Dobkin asked if other downtown White Center businesses also are supposed to not be allowed to have outdoor music; Campbell said he’s not certain about the boundaries of the “community business” district but anyone within it is prohibited from that use. Dobkin said there are rumors that other venues are planning it, with encouragement; Campbell said he’ll look into that too. Dobkin said, “I’m not trying to close a business …. but when it interferes with our life, that’s when it’s a problem.” The King County Sheriff’s Office had been dealing with the Tim’s situation previously, and storefront Det. Glen Brannon said he had lots of background to share with the Permitting Division.

Campbell then was told the Blu Grouse on 17th SW also is a concern, with outdoor music during good weather. Campbell said he’ll check into it, including whether the venue is in the district where this use would be banned.

How can businesses be educated that this is not an allowed use? King County’s Bong Santo Domingo, who’s also with Local Services, was asked, since he’s working with a new alliance involving local businesses. Campbell suggested that assembling and distributing a flyer with what’s not allowed and what is allowed in the business district might be a good idea.

Discussion then turned to concerns that special-event music also was running too loud and too long; longtime residents said they had never had a problem before the past year or so.

KING COUNTY SHERIFF’S OFFICE: Then it was Det. Brannon’s turn. He elaborated on the ex-Roxbury Auto Parts building situation. He said the building was sold a year ago but it fell through (a plumbing company was going to move there); now another sale is pending, as we mentioned above, and he says his understanding that it’s going to be “some kind of car wash facility.” The owner doesn’t have the resources to tow the abandoned car(s) but they have been working to keep squatters out. Regarding the ex-Bartell Drugs building, which is owned by a California woman, it’s up for sale, he said, and it’s been burglarized and vandalized, so they’re trying to get it fenced. The “encampment on 13th” is still an issue, he said, and it’s being reviewed by King County higher-ups, though right now he says it’s only home to two full-time residents, with others coming and going. It might take two months “to get through all the bureaucracy it has to go through,” he cautioned. He talked about other sites he’s tracking, including one behind Little Caesar’s.

Brannon was asked about the much-reported regional enforcement inspections by Liquor Control Board agents and other law enforcers, which drew outcry because several venues were LGBTQ+. White Center’s Lumber Yard Bar was among them. Brannon wasn’t aware of the situation and the usual LCB rep wasn’t present. It was noted that reports also said Roxbury Lanes and Southgate Roller Rink had been visited as well. The regional reports mentioned Seattle Police and LCB involvement; why not KCSO? Brannon said LCB “has its own authority” and doesn’t require other law-enforcement approval or involvement, but he’ll look into it.

He received compliments for the department’s huge drug bust in Burien, and was asked about the most-recent freeway shooting; he said that largely was a State Patrol investigation, but said in general it’s related to gang activity – “young kids shooting each other.”

COUNTY COUNCILMEMBER’S ASSISTANT: Chris Lampkin from new King County Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda‘s office introduced himself and invited everyone to let their office know about issues of concern.

NEXT MEETING: NHUAC usually meets the first Thursday of the month, 7 pm, online – watch nhuac.org for updates.

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First North Highline Unincorporated Area Council meeting of 2024 set for Thursday

January 28th, 2024 Tracy Posted in North Highline UAC, White Center news 2 Comments »

When a new month begins on Thursday, a new year begins for the North Highline Unincorporated Area Council. Here’s the announcement of what’s planned for its first 2024 meeting:

The Opportunity to Be Informed, Be Involved and Be Heard!

Where? North Highline Unincorporated Area Council Meeting

When? Thursday, February 1, 2024, at 7 pm

Join Zoom Meeting:
us02web.zoom.us/j/83052224933?pwd=OWk1ZkNsRmF4NkJiWWlVWXJIY0g5UT09

Meeting ID: 830 5222 4933
Passcode: NHUAC2024 (case sensitive)

Unable to join via Zoom?
Please call: 253 215 8782
Meeting ID: 830 5222 4933
Passcode: 665861784

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

You are invited to join NHUAC’s first meeting of 2024 at 7 pm on Thursday, February 1st. NHUAC aims to keep you abreast of changes and in touch with the people who are making decisions that affect North Highline.

Last October, the King County Council appointed Verna Seal as one of seven Trustees of the King County Library System (KCLS). Trustee Seal is a former Tukwila City Council Member who retired after 16 years of service. She will join us on Thursday to discuss KCLS along with Mary Sue Houser, Olympic Regional Manager.

We will also be joined by Tom Campbell, who became Code Enforcement Manager for the Department of Local Services about one year ago. He will discuss the progress being made on some problem properties in our community and answer your questions.

Last, but certainly not least, Detective Glen Brannon, will make his first presentation of the year at Thursday’s NHUAC meeting.

This is your opportunity to share your concerns and thanks with Detective Glen Brannon, Code Enforcement Manager Tom Campbell, and Trustee Verna Seal. Don’t miss it!

Knowledge Is Power.

Learn, share, and help make North Highline a healthier community.

Thursday, February 1 at 7 pm – Invite Your Neighbors!

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New fire chief, crime/safety issues, more discussed at North Highline Unincorporated Area Council’s 2023 finale

December 13th, 2023 Tracy Posted in King County Sheriff's Office, Libraries, North Highline UAC, White Center news 2 Comments »

By Tracy Record
White Center Now editor

The last North Highline Unincorporated Area Council meeting of 2023 was held online Thursday night (December 7). Here’s what happened:

LIBRARY UPDATES: Mary Sue Houser, a divisional manager for King County Library System – overseeing six branches including White Center, Greenbridge, and Boulevard Park – was the first guest. She reminded everyone that KCLS is now “fine-free” – if you have an overdue item, just take it in! (They will charge if you lose something, though.) Some hours have expanded, too (as reported here). She recapped the Freedom to Read celebration that was discussed at the last meeting, and mentioned the Welcoming Centers, “a place for people who are new to the country … anyone who has just gotten here and needs help.” Language-speakers are available to offer resources and answer questions. These are at six libraries (none in North Highline). NHUAC’s Liz Giba asked if a Welcoming Center could be added at WC Library; Houser said she’ll be sure it’s “on the radar.”

FIRE CHIEFS: After more than 31 years of service, Chief Mike Marrs is leaving. He’s been District 2 chief since 1999. He thanked everyone for their support, particularly the renewals of the Medic One levy every six years. He talked about how previously one in five people woule survive a heart attack in Seattle/King County – even at that, better than other cities, but a goal was set for three in five to survive, and that goal’s been met and surpassed. Ongoing training and policies help. 85 percent of calls are medical, a lot of them are heart attacks, and so, many lives are being saved, He also expressed gratitude for voters approving the Benefit Charge. It’s not based on property value but rather on the size of structure that needs to be protected, Marrs explained. And since it’s a fee, for example, the Housing Authority has to pay it too, rather than getting an exemption. “I think we’ve put that money to good use.” He noted that his role running Fire District 2 expanded to include North Highline around 2010, part-time as a stopgap measure, and “we just slowly migrated to where we came together.” After years of sharing personnel and equipment, and increasing efficiencies and cost savings, they originally realized it was time to “fully integrate” everything. In 2019, it all melded into a four-station fire department. They’ve been able to purchase new fire engines, a new aid car, and “with the funding we’re saving in other areas,” next year they’ll be able to return a full-time aid car to Station 18 in White Center. He also said he’s proud of “the workforce we have right now.” He said his “one litmus test” for hiring has been “who do I want to show up at my house at 2 o’clock in the morning when my house is on fire?” Marrs said he feels his legacy includes those people – who go out on calls 12,000 times a year.

In Q/A/comments, the chief was thanked for his advocacy for the North Highline fireworks ban. He didn’t have any stats about its effectiveness, though.

New Chief Jason Gay then introduced himself – 49 years old, father of two (20-year-old Marine and 16-year-old high school sophomore). He is a Marine Corps veteran, focusing on avionics, and went into aerospace after getting out, got a mechanical engineering degree, staying in that industry for a long time. Then he moved on to firefighting – “best choice I ever made” – and Marrs hired him in 2005. He went to school again for a Fire Administration degree and has been working his way up, becoming a lieutenant, then captain, for 10 years, then acting battalion chief for 6 years, and eventually went into the logistics office. More studies ensued; he pursued an online masters in Public Administration, and in October he became Fire Chief.

Chief Gay says his vision for the department is: financially responsible, well-funded, deep ties with service community, values its employees – helping them via education, professional development – he wants the department to be known for leadership and stewardship, among other things, Marrs, he said, has shown “you can be conservative and provide a fantastic service to the vommunity.” He “wants to be a good steward of tax dollars for the community.” He also noted the health risks firefighters face – like cancer risk – and wants to protect them as best he can. “There’s a lot of work we can do in continuing to ratchet our service to the community.” Stations 18 and 19 are undergoing remodeling to serve a diverse workforce – he notes that about 9 percent of the workforce is women, including two “line firefighters.” He said the department’s staff is relatively new – less than five years firefighting for almost half of them.

NHUAC’s Pat Price wondered about a timeline for the Station 18 remodel (that’s where NHUAC long met in person) being complete. Chief Gay said crews will be mobilizing right after Christmas and the 18 and 19 remodels should be complete by early May. “At that point we’ll have a wonderful meeting room to go back to,” he said.

NHUAC’s Barbara Dobkin wondered how the increased density affects the department. “Obviously our call volume is rising,” said Gay. They’re mapping things now and the upcoming added aid car at Station 18 will be part of addressing that. What about higher buildings? They have a ladder truck, which can get them up to seven stories, he noted. They also were asked about alternative responses, which have been explored by multiple jurisdictions around the region.

KING COUNTY SHERIFF’S OFFICE: White Center Storefront Detective Glen Brannon began by saying “things are looking good in our neck of the woods.” He was asked about the disappearance of the Burien encampment in a triangle along Ambaum Boulevard; they had to disperse because of Burien’s camping ban, and many are now at a church in Burien that has an official camping/shelter program. Some have probably headed into White Center, Brannon believes. He mentioned working with The More We Love group, which has a contract with Burien to address encampments. He also mentioned that they’re working with Community Passageways and so they’ve got a lot of new resources to work with people on the street.

An attendee who recorded video of illegal dumping asked if Brannon had any interest. Send him the video, Det. Brannon said. (glen.brannon@kingcounty.gov) He also asked about mail thieves. To charge somebody with mail theft, they have to have at least seven pieces of mail from different people, Brannon said.

He was asked about a crash in White Center, on 16th SW near Saar’s, the previous evening. It was a pedestrian hit by a driver; not life-threatening injuries.

A Block Watch captain gave props to Det. Brannon for handling some things his neighbors in Top Hat were worried about.

Det. Brannon said he wants to hear from Block Watches – and from people interested in starting one.

Then a WC resident said he’s concerned about dangerous driving and wondered about speed enforcement. Det. Brannon offered to come hang out in his neighborhood (a cut-through section of 17th) and try to be a deterrent/enforcer.

What about the former Bartell building, and trash/graffiti problems? He said he’ll look into that, and also noted that a new tenant is being actively sought.

Regarding the ongoing outdoor-music-venue noise concerns, Det. Brannon said he got the monitoring equipment he talked about at the last NHUAC meeting and has already tested it. He promised that enforcement is planned. “We’re done letting these guys get away with that.” He explained how the equipment records readings and times.

Also briefly discussed – the ongoing search for businesses to move into the storefronts that suffered fire damage. A variety of other issues came up too. Regarding gunfire heard from neighborhoods, Det. Brannon said that factors include a “gang war starting up,” and that they know who’s doing it – people driving around shooting into the air – “we just have to catch them.” He said someone high-ranking in a gang was killed recently, with a funeral coming up in less than a week, and a lot of retaliatory gunfire seems to be happening.

NEXT MEETING: NHUAC will skip January and be back the first Thursday in February.

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Here’s what’s planned for December’s North Highline Unincorporated Area Council meeting

December 3rd, 2023 Tracy Posted in North Highline UAC, White Center news Comments Off on Here’s what’s planned for December’s North Highline Unincorporated Area Council meeting

This Thursday, take a little time out of your schedule to dive into what’s happening in your community. You don’t even have to leave your home – the North Highline Unincorporated Area Council meets online at 7 pm Thursday – here’s the preview:

The Opportunity to Be Informed, Be Involved and Be Heard!

Where? North Highline Unincorporated Area Council Meeting

When? Thursday, December 7, 2023, at 7 pm

Join Zoom Meeting

Meeting ID: 820 0154 8577
Passcode: NHUAC2023 (Case Sensitive)

Unable to join via Zoom? Please call: 253 215 8782
Meeting ID: 820 0154 8577
Passcode: 332771534

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

You are invited to join NHUAC’s last meeting of 2023 at 7 pm on Thursday, December 7th. 2023 has been a year of transition in our community. One of NHUAC’s goals is to keep you abreast of changes and in touch with the people who are making decisions that affect North Highline.

Due to our unincorporated status, the King County Council serves as our local government. King County Councilmember Joe McDermott will be replaced after more than a decade. We met Councilmember Elect Teresa Mosqueda and shared pertinent data about North Highline with her at NHUAC’s October meeting. NHUAC will continue to provide opportunities for discussions with her as she moves forward as our representative on the King County Council.

Last month, we learned that the King County Library System’s Executive Director, Lisa Rosenblum, was retiring. She has been a positive force in improving our relationship with KCLS by improving service and saving the Boulevard Park Branch. In October, Verna Seal of Tukwila was appointed as Trustee by the King County Council. To talk about the future of KCLS, Trustee Seal will join us on Thursday along with Mary Sue Houser, Olympic Regional Manager.

The North Highline Fire District is vital to everyone that lives, works or visits North Highline. In 2019, after extensive contract negotiations, the NHFD contractually consolidated with Burien’s King County Fire District #2. The consolidation allowed the districts to improve cost sharing, increase efficiencies and firefighter training and share KCFD#2’s Fire Chief. The consolidation has been an undeniable success under Chief Mike Marrs’ leadership. After 34 years of service, Chief Marrs is retiring. Join NHUAC on December 7 to thank Chief Marrs and welcome his successor, Chief Jason Gay.

After serving as White Center’s Storefront Deputy since 2015, Deputy Bill Kennamer retired from the King County Sheriff’s Office in April after 25 years of service. His successor, Detective Glen Brannon, will make his final presentation of the year at Thursday’s NHUAC meeting.

Knowledge Is Power

Learn, share, and help make North Highline a healthier community.

Thursday, December 7 at 7 pm – Invite Your Neighbors!

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From libraries to law enforcement at North Highline Unincorporated Area Council’s November meeting

November 3rd, 2023 Tracy Posted in North Highline UAC, White Center news 1 Comment »

By Tracy Record
White Center Now editor

The King County Library System was the star of the show at November’s North Highline Unincorporated Area Council meeting, held online Thursday night – not just because its departing executive director was there, but also because of a spirited presentation by two KCLS employees dedicated to your “Freedom to Read.”

KING COUNTY LIBRARY SYSTEM: Lisa Rosenblum – KCLS’s soon-to-retire leader – was a special guest. She was asked which accomplishments gave her the most pride. “For the staff to understand that we work for the taxpayers and we need to be accountable for their dollars,” she began. “Every department under my watched has been changed,” with stricter financial rules, more technology, adding peer navigators and a social worker, among other things. She also said that “managing a very large library system during COVID” was a big accomplishment too. “None of the staff got sick from community spread in our libraries.” She also is proud of making KCLS “fines-free” – not a big hit on revenue, despite what you might think. “The persons most affected by fines are the least able to pay them,” she said they’d learned. (They do charge people eventually for unreturned books.) They’re the second-largest digital lender in the country, fourth-largest in the world, so that library users have choice. “Most people want choice now in their libraries, so we budget for choice” – and they’ve won three budgeting awards, she added. This year KCLS also was a nominee – the only one in Washington State – for a major national award.

NHUAC’s Liz Giba asked some specifics about Rosenblum’s workstyle. How does she work with the board? They’re a governing board and her bosses, who delegate the job of running the system to her. “I work with them to see … what are their big vision items … They tell me what they’re interested in, and I try to present to them some of the exciting programs and services we offer.” In turn, they tell her what the community’s interested in.

Who do you talk to if you have concerns? Email the board – find the address here – Rosenblum said. As for who’s succeeding her, “I’m not involved in replacing me,” but the board is hard at work on it, she said. Though her original announcement was for a November 30th retirement, she’s now staying on until mid-December.

Accompanying her was regional manager Mary Sue Houser. She’s relatively new in that job.

Rosenblum was asked about the KCLS role in matching people to resources – and explained those go far beyond books. She spoke of noticing early on how people came into the libraries to stay warm and dry. Their staff wasn’t necessarily trained to provide social services. So now they have peer navigators as well as community partnerships, such as visiting nurses and resource fairs. “It has a lot of really positive ripple effects,” Houser said. The system has four navigators, who are based at various libraries – the nearest one is based at the Burien Library. “It travels a lot by word of mouth,” explained Houser.

Rosenblum also talked about “welcome centers,” which offer resource assistance in various languages. “Most people feel that a library is a safe space, a comfortable space,” and feel good about visiting them to get help like that.

Later in the meeting, NHUAC’s Pat Price, active with the White Center Library Guild, asked if the board would return to its pre-pandemic tradition of meeting at some library locations. They have resumed that, she was reassured, and KCLS will provide the schedule of its occasional on-location meetings, Houser said.

CELEBRATE FREEDOM TO READ: Brenna Shanks and Melissa Mather, also from KCLS, came to talk about this initiative. The library system came up with a definition of “intellectual freedom.”

They point out that First Amendment rights aren’t just about “the person speaking,” they’re also about “the person listening.” And you get to decide your information needs. The library doesn’t share your information needs with anybody. “Looking at access as a right, as a freedom,” in other words.

How serious is the censorship movement in our state? an attendee asked. Not as “dire” as elsewhere, they replied, while detailing some “interesting developments.” They’re trying to track such things as “passive banning behavior” – hiding books or removing books, for example. They hope to use such things as opportunities to talk, which isn’t what’s happening with major national movements, they said. They also showed the definition of libraries as “limited public forum”:

Rosenblum – who said she stayed to listen “because I love this presentation” – noted there was a protester outside a KCLS board meeting the other day. “And we allow that,” in the spirit of the initiative. Shanks explained that this “freedom” doesn’t mean protecting a material, but instead protecting your right to see it:

They also work to ensure the libraries are for everyone:

And that means those interested in controversial material, too:

“If someone has asked for an item, we don’t ask why they want it, we don’t ask whether they’re for or against it,” but they’ll do their best to get it, Shanks said. They also discussed the criteria for where materials are placed in their collections. “This is what you’ll see in a lot of these book bans – ‘we don’t want this in the teen area,'” etc., said Shanks.

This can be “nuanced,” she said. “It’s a living conversation all the way around.” That includes “inclusive vs. exclusive.”

They noted that there can be conflicting opinions – they’ve even had a call for banning the Bible because of its anti-LGBTQ passages, for example. Overall, they warned, book bans are on the rise:

So what can you do?

KING COUNTY SHERIFF’S OFFICE: White Center’s Storefront Det. Glen Brannon said “it’s been another good month.” More categories of crime are down than up:

Regarding the uptick in kidnappings, he said that’s not necessarily the kind “you see in the movies” – it’s “any time somebody’s forced to go someplace they don’t want to go.” Commercial burglaries, vandalism, and auto theft are up – re: vandalism, he said it’s because more graffiti vandalism is being reported, and he took credit for some of that.

He discussed how White Center is dealing with the new state drug laws – diversion through LEAD is.a big part of them. The jail’s not taking misdemeanor bookings, so they can arrest and file charges “but as part of the process at the time, I do a warm handoff to a diversion expert” – such as a social worker “who starts working with them to start getting better.” If a person pursues the services, they might not get charged. Det. Brannon says that’s in keeping with law enforcers’ real roles as “peace officers.”

NHUAC’s Barbara Dobkin asked about a “drive-by shooting on 21st last weekend.” Det. Brannon said it involved a house with a person who had some criminal background but had been “doing good” until recently. He didn’t have any specifics otherwise – there were no “victims” since neighbors called in to report hearing shots but nobody at the house called to report anything personally. An attendee was concerned about a vacant lot “behind Little Caesar’s” where people seemed to be camping. Det. Brannon talked about how when you move people along, they just move a bit further. Another neighborhood concern brought an explanation that they can’t just arrest people for trespassing any more – “I have to do a lot more growling and a lot less arresting.” Is there a way to use ambient tactics to discourage people from lingering? Yes, but it’s not so easy – and “the question is, where are they going to move to next?”

Asked if KCSO was seeing an increase in 3D-printed “ghost guns,” the detective said no, guns are more often coming from thefts and burglaries. Also, “we are seeing a lot of modified firearms.”

On gangs, he said, they’re not really fighting over White Center right now – “moving through” but not battling for turf.

On another topic, the recurring issue of loud music from Tim’s Tavern and other venues came up. “This is really a disturbance of our lives here,” said Dobkin, asking what neighbors could do “if the sheriffs can’t manage this issue.” Brannon said there are specific ways in which they are required to measure noise, and they didn’t have the equipment, but just got approval to buy it. He also said that when last he visited Tim’s two weeks ago they were installing insulation, but that may not have worked. So he’s warning them that he’ll be using new equipment and will if necessary “start writing tickets.” He says he’s hoping to procure the equipment within a month. (A discussion of zoning and codes ensued.) But, he warned, he asked the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office who will then handle the cases – and he says he was told “they’re both in murder trials right now.”

An attendee complained about vandalized cars being “dropped” on 1st SW in Top Hat. Det. Brannon said there’s someone in the area ‘trying to make a living flipping cars.” He’ll check on the current situation.

NEXT MEETING: First Thursday at 7 pm most months – watch for confirmation when that gets closer.

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THURSDAY: Library, public-safety updates @ North Highline Unincorporated Area Council

October 29th, 2023 Tracy Posted in King County Sheriff's Office, Libraries, North Highline UAC, White Center news Comments Off on THURSDAY: Library, public-safety updates @ North Highline Unincorporated Area Council

The Opportunity to Be Informed, Be Involved and Be Heard!

Where? North Highline Unincorporated Area Council Meeting

When? Thursday, November 2, 2023, at 7 pm

Join Zoom Meeting:
us02web.zoom.us/j/82395634169?pwd=QTZ1S3Y5Tk9ydWNYYnQvZjhJelRudz09

Meeting ID: 823 9563 4169
Passcode: NHUAC2023 (Case Sensitive)

Unable to join via Zoom? Please call: 253 215 8782
Meeting ID: 823 9563 4169
Passcode: 696893428

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

It’s November and time to exercise the right and responsibility to support our democracy by voting. Last month’s Candidate Forum featured candidates Sofia Aragon and Teresa Mosqueda, who are competing to represent our area on the King County Council. If you couldn’t attend, you can read the White Center Now post here.

This month’s meeting will focus on other important ways we support our democracy – reading and libraries. Our guests will include King County Library System’s (KCLS) Executive Director, Lisa Rosenblum; Mary Sue Houser, Olympic Regional Manager; Brenna Shanks, a Selection Librarian for the Teen Collection; and Melissa Mather, a Public Services Librarian from the Skyway branch.

Before Director Rosenblum joined KCLS in January of 2018, its relationship with our area had been quite tumultuous. She has been a positive leader for KCLS. When she visited NHUAC about three months in, the long-waited renovation of the Boulevard Park branch was settled. It reopened in May of 2019. A true success for our community, democracy, and Lisa Rosenblum!

KCLS understands that the freedom to read is fundamental to any democracy and protected by our First Amendment right. Last month, KCLS started a year-long campaign to create awareness and encourage conversations on the topic. Brenna Shanks and Melissa Mather will share Celebrate the Freedom to Read with us and Mary Sue Houser will answer questions specific to our library region.

Last, but surely not least – White Center’s Storefront Deputy Glen Brannon will update us!

Knowledge Is Power

Learn, share, and help make North Highline a healthier community.

Thursday, November 2 at 7 pm – Invite Your Neighbors!

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From crime to politics, here’s what was discussed at fall’s first North Highline Unincorporated Area Council meeting

October 9th, 2023 Tracy Posted in North Highline UAC, White Center news 2 Comments »

By Tracy Record
White Center Now editor

The North Highline Unincorporated Area Council returned from summer hiatus with an online meeting illuminating issues from crime to the King County Council District 8 election.

The meeting facilitated by NHUAC’s Liz Giba started with announcements, including a political forum.

HIGHLINE SCHOOL BOARD RACES: Sandy Hunt dropped in to make sure everyone knows the League of Women Voters is presenting a Highline School Board forum tomorrow (Tuesday, October 10th) – here’s the info:

It’s happening in person. Hunt said that this is one of the “most important School Board (elections) we’ve had in a long time,” so you’re urged to go find out more about the candidates.

KING COUNTY SHERIFF’S OFFICE: KCSO Storefront Detective Glen Brannon and Community Resource Officer Nate Hammock – who also can be found at the Steve Cox Memorial Park office – appeared. Brannon said crime trends are “having a rough year” – up consistently from last year – “that kind of reflects coming out of COVID.” Lower-priority crime is trending “closer to normal” – He wanted to clarify “what you can expect from us and what you’ll see as time goes on,” including “the co-responders program.” Precinct 4 has funded six positions – mental health professionals paired up with deputies – to “really start doing more outreach” as most of the crime in WC is “survival crime – people shoplifting … to live.” He said throwing those people in jail “doesn’t work” so they are working with people to ‘get them out of the circumstances forcing them to do those crimes.” Two teams are out at work at the moment and a third time is riding with the Fire Department, while KCSO is hiring another team. Co-respondr cars work 7 days a week, starting at 8 am, contacting people early, with another one reaching out close to bedtime, and the third team filling in gaps. “I am a big fan of this.” He goes out with the teams when he can and develops relationships with people on the street. He said the ability to put people in jail “has not changed … for most property and misdemeanor crimes we still do not have the ability to take people to jail.” But they have LEAD. He jokes “they took away my stick but I’m going to hit you with the biggest carrot I can” – and that’s LEAD. That leads to referrals to counselors rather than prosecutors IF the suspect enrolls in services within 30 days and starts working on “getting their life better.” If they do, then they drop the potential charges.

Regarding KCSO staffing, “we are still down number-wise but for the first time in three years we are below the 100 mark” – fewer than 100 vacancies – less than half what it was a year ago. “We’re getting good people … and I’m very excited about it.” Within 2 to 6 months that should start reflecting in numbers of units on the street. “King County is a great place to work,” he said.

Does that mean the WC area might get another position? It’s staffed with two deputies but has funding for three, the detective said, adding that Sheriff Patti Cole-Tindall sat down with command staff and looked at where calls were the highest and that shifted more staffing to Precinct 4 (Burien etc.). What about diversity? That’s going pretty well, Det. Brannon said, noting that he’s working with “a young deputy” who speaks five languages.

An attendee asked about an “open-air drug market” near his neighborhood, near the 16th/107th mini-mart. “We do have a vibrant transient/homeless population in WC and we have for a long long time,” the detective acknowledged, saying it’s a situation they’ve long been working on, and that he never drives by that area without stopping to talk to anyone he sees. The co-responders are part of that.

Regarding the music-noise situation plaguing some neighborhoods west of downtown WC, Det. Brannon said a stage redesign and noise-deadening curtains are still supposedly in the work, and he is buying a decibel meter to help with enforcement. He says four bars are playing outdoor music; two are wrapping up for the season, and he’s working with the other two. But he said if they have to “get to the ticket-writing stage … we’re going to break some ground” because prosecutors say they’ve never pursued those kind of charges before. The tickets start at $125 and can scale up quickly, he added.

(WCN photo: Memorial for bus-shooting victim)

Major Mark Konoske was asked about the fatal shooting on a bus near 15th/Roxbury. “There was a variety of evidence available that we’re following up on … I’m optimistic we’ll end up catching some people … there are leads we’re following up on.”

Regarding burglaries in the area, He stressed the importance of reporting anything out of the ordinary – “call us and we’ll send a car out.” NHUAC’s Barbara Dobkin said that phoning things in can be frustrated – there was an obvious abandoned-likely-stolen car in her neighborhood and was told that it had to be there for three weeks before anything could be done (even though she saw suspicious activity around it) – finally it was taken, likely re-stolen, she said. Det. Brannon said whoever she spoke with misspoke, because vehicles on the street in unincorporated King County are supposed to be moved every 24 hours. Call it directly to his attention if they’re not getting traction some other way, he said.

CANDIDATE FORUM: Sofia Aragon and Teresa Mosaueda, finalists for the King County Council District 8 seat that Joe McDermott is leaving, were the guests. NHUAC’s Giba made it clear that the organization does not make endorsements but does work to inform citizens, and that was the reason for the forum. The candidates were given up to three minutes to answer questions. Mosqueda lives in North Delridge and Aragon lives in Shorewood. Each first received a chancr to introduce herself.

ARAGON: She is Burien’s current mayor. Her education involves two bachelor’s degrees and a law degree. Her experience includes the mayoral service and the challenges Burien has been dealing with – homelessness, drug use, housing, public health. She has lived all over the county including unincorporated areas so “I have an appreciation of the reliance on the county” by areas such as North Highline. She’s running because regional leaders “can do better.” Her goal to be “to focus on common-sense solutions.” She is an “immigrant child from the Philippines who grew up in South Seattle” and was inspired by her mom to become a nurse. As a mayor, she’s been taking action to combat the surge in drug-related deaths.

MOSQUEDA: She is chair of the Finance and Housing Committee on the Seattle City Council. Her experience has been in health and workers’ issues. She has worked to ensure the LEAD and Co-LEAD programs got investments, and programs similar to what was discussed earlier in the NHUAC meeting. She said she has worked to increase the Health One team in the Seattle Fire Department. “I have been on the forefront of helping to increase investments in our dual dispatch system,” and she said she looks at every investment “through the health lens,” which is why she wants to move to the King County Council. She has a Masters in public administration, and an undergraduate degree, and is a third-generation Mexican-American hoping to be the first Latinx to serve on the King County Council.

How much time did you spend in North Highline in the year before filing?

MOSQUEDA: She said her family spends some time in White Center, including the library, and looks forward to learning more about the area and its concerns.

ARAGON: She says the area has a “very lovely business district … that’s been hit hard” and she has dined there. She has also gotten prescriptions filled at area drugstores. She says she’s in the area “several times a week.”

Giba showed some stats showing that the area faces many health and economic and educational challenges.

She also showed stats comparing the area with Burien and West Seattle.

“The inequity continues throughout the entire 34th [Legislative] District.” So, she asked, if they agree that segregation is a problem on those many counts.

MOSQUEDA: She said she wishes people would see this data and “take to the streets” … absolutely we have a problem where economic (and other) segregation exists today,” as evidenced by that data. She said redlining maps of the past can be overlaid and you can see where those problems persist today. “Segregation persists in our community and it’s limiting where people can call home” She said shes worked in Seattle to look at public policy through that sort of lens, including an ordinance “recognizing racism as a public health crisis.” What she’d like to do on King County Council:

-create more affordable housing
-direct investments into food-security programs
-direct investments into climate justice

“This is a crisis,” she declared, and “exactly why I want to go to the county.”

ARAGON: She agreed it’s a problem and said that in Burien they look at whether certain populations “are isolated” and try to bring them together. Latinx is the largest population, she said, “and we have create a number of cultural events to really celebrate that heritage” as well as looking at services including being sure people can access them in Spanish language. That includes recruiting Spanish-speaking police officers, she said. “in the county we could do a better job,” maybe creating an economic-development office, she said. Looking at how North Highline “can maintain its uniqueness” while finding a way it can “grow and thrive,” too, she said. She also said that COVID put inequities in the spotlight along with “what are the things we’re doing and not doing to exacerbate these disparities,” such as providing services in Seattle but expecting people to make it there from around the county to access them.

Giba asked about 1,300 tax-exempt units with more than 1,700 bedrooms – as of 2018 – in North Highline. Many are occupied by children. Services rely on local taxes but tax-exempt properties aren’t contributing, she noted

She said the area needs better policies, not just programs, to deal with struggling schools serving those children. Giba named three local schools that are “over the tipping point.”

NHUAC’s Amelia C asked a question about economic and racial diversity.

ARAGON: Yes, they’re important, “it’s the changing nature of our world” and we need to embrace it. Regarding housing, she said mixed-use is a good model and policies encouraging those are good, as well as Habitat of Humanity-type housing models, and housing that serves 50% AMI, as well as supportive housing for the chronically homeless. Mary’s Place will be expanding in the Shorewood area of Burien, too. “All of that needs investment by governmental entities.”

MOSQUEDA: Yes, economic and ethnic diversity – and “all forms” of diversity – are an important goal. Gender, age, more. “We need to be welcoming and creating policies that welcome everything,” including recognizing that King County is about half POC and a fourth immigrant. Making sure that everyone has a place to call home is vital. Income diversity, too. LGBTQIA representation, to more. She also noted that the “upside-down nature of our tax code” is to blame for some of the problems Giba had spotlighted to open the question. She also noted she’s “led on gun violence strategies.” She says many issues are “intersectdional’ and will require “an intersectional approach.”

Amelia also asked what each would do to ensur tax-exempt housing was equitably distributed throughout the county, not just concentrated in North Highline.

MOSQUEDA: We should not be relying on property tax to fund public schools – “that’s just doubling down on the segregationist approach.” Washington’s tax system is the most regressive in the nation, and working to right that is vital.

ARAGON: Lobbying for the nurses association, she had advocated for a more equitable tax structure. She agreed that the current tax code is “highly problematic.” She said that there should be a way to see whether an area in need of more investment “can be first in line.” There’s a lot of strategies to focus on pepole already in crisis but kids need to be given tools to stay “out of that path.”

If elected, will you sponsor King County to use fact-based opportunity analysis?

ARAGON: She embraces data-driven decisionmaking. “The solutions also need to be community-based,” she said.

MOSQUEDA: “Fact-based policy is my jam!” she exclaimed. She believes in decisions “rooted n proven strategies.” She gave a few examples of ‘fact-based policies I’ve invested in over the years. One is investing in the youngest children. She also talked about how rent increases just after the pandemic found Mary’s Place seeing a dramatic increase in families showing up in need of housing – and voting to increase affordable housing is something on which she has focused.

NHUAC’s Dobkin asked the next questions, showing a map of zoning changes from the King County Subarea Plan. It’s changed from R-6, six units per acre, to R-18. The neighborhood is primarily single-family homes but intended to change, with inclusionary zoning. What is the candidates’ understanding of IZ?

MOSQUEDA: Seattle has done a lot of work on that, she said. It’s a “both/and” approach for building more housing to serve both people who are here and people who are coming here because it’s a great place to be. She said including greenspace is vital. New buildings need to reflect the neighborhood – some neighborhoods even have old pre-existing apartment buileings that blend in, or if not, “can be re-created … so that more people can live in our region.” She says that not creating more housing is ‘an environmental-justice issue” because then people have to live further out, commute farther to jobs, or live in housing that paves over green spaces.

Dobkin followed up that IZ is usually used to “integrate lower-income people into higher-income neighborhoods … so how does IZ in a lower-income neighborhood work”? Mosqueda said that it’s a matter of diverse “price points,” and ownership opportunities as well as rentals. She said it’s important that IZ not displace existing low/moderate-income residents.

Where else has IZ been built in King County? Dobkin pressed. Mosqueda mentioned Yesler Terrace.

ARAGON: She said it’s not just a matter of integrating with “high income” but also with “market rate.” Overall, she thnks it’s a “great concept” but some details need to be worked out, such as “what percentage” of units need to be affordable? Should there be affordable housing countywide? It’s important to place it strategically around the region. She said Burien has a history similar to North Highline – “we always felt as if things were being done to us.” She said it’s a plus that she’s used to dealing with that. She also understands the importance of having a discussion with a community before coming up with a plan like this. Infrastructure is important too.

Dobkin went on to talk about what she called “destructive” construction that’s led to a “tremendous amount” of tree-cutting without infrastructure to support increased density – no sidewalks, “rural” streetlighting, etc. “We don’t have enough parks (or) greenspace.” Though the county assured residents it wouldn’t happen overnight, people are already buying up property. So, what steps woud the candidates take to support current and future improvements to facilitate the density increase?

ARAGON: She reiterated that her experience with Burien’s unique challenges mean she’s suited for working on issues like that.

MOSQUEDA: She said it’s important to recognize that policies can be felt by communities like this as just piling on to burdens they already bear, situations in which they historically have not been heard, have not been at the table. To “right that wrong,” communities need to be brought to the planning “table.” Specific discussions about trees, sidewalks, etc. are vital, and she understands that previously, it seemed like “development going rogue.” She said there’s a county effort to do an inventory of greenspace. She agrees that streetlighting is a key component of community safety. Seattle City Light needs to show that area the same urgency for responsiveness and investment, and she can bring her experience of having worked on a committee overseeing it. She also talked about regulating short-time rentals.

The floor was opened to community member questions, but there were none. So Giba asked another question: Since KCSO deputies can’t book suspects into jail for crimes like theft and vandalism, what do you think of that and what steps will you take to improve public safety?

ARAGON: The talk of “defunding police” a few years ago was harmful. The system has racism and bias, but that can be improved. What she heard in the question is that current laws aren’t being enforced “and that IS problematic … (so) we need to address the officer shortage.”

MOSQUEDA: Much of what KCSO discussed earlier in the meeting is needed, along with hiring additional officers, which she has supported in Seattle. But “fewer people … are coming to that profession” so it’s important to help free up officers from responses that don’t require armed law enforcement. She wants to ‘double down” on programs like LEAD and Co-LEAD, and Community Passageways, “to come and help people instead of arresting them.” But “we also know that our jail is at capacity … and understaffed” and has bad health conditions, so King County Executive Dow Constantine is “trying to close down that jail and find safer places for people to go.”

NEXT MEETING: (corrected) November 2nd. (That’ll be five days before voting ends in the general election, on November 7th.)

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THURSDAY: Join NHUAC’s conversation with the King County Council District 8 candidates

October 2nd, 2023 Tracy Posted in Election, North Highline UAC, White Center news 1 Comment »

This Thursday’s the big night – with two weeks to go until voting begins, the North Highline Unincorporated Area Council will talk with the candidates for King County Council District 8, the seat that Joe McDermott is leaving:

You Are Invited

Candidates Forum
Presented by: North Highline Unincorporated Area Council

Thursday October 5, 2023 @ 7 PM

MEET

King County Council District 8 Candidates
Teresa Mosqueda & Sofia Aragon

Join Zoom Meeting
us02web.zoom.us/j/88360227989?pwd=ajg5eXdHSUFWZmFxeDNJTjZ1SHI1QT09

Meeting ID: 883 6022 7989
Passcode: NHUAC2023 (Case Sensitive)

Or Join by Phone: 253 215 8782
Meeting ID: 883 6022 7989
Passcode: 839454575

All Are Welcome – Bring Your Questions – Get the Facts
Be Informed Be Involved Be Counted

VOTE

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North Highline Unincorporated Area Council skips September, reconvenes in October with County Council candidate forum

September 4th, 2023 Tracy Posted in North Highline UAC, White Center news Comments Off on North Highline Unincorporated Area Council skips September, reconvenes in October with County Council candidate forum

Our area’s community council, the North Highline Unincorporated Area Council, has just announced its first meeting of fall – on Thursday, October 5th. Here’s the announcement:

North Highline Unincorporated Area Council Will Not Be Holding a September 2023 Meeting

Hope everyone had a wonderful, restful Labor Day weekend. It is always hard to say goodbye to our beautiful NW summer. Fortunately, there are plenty of long days and good weather to enjoy as we move into fall.

NHUAC will not be holding a September meeting. Our meetings will resume on Thursday, October 5th at 7pm when we host a Candidates Forum with Teresa Mosqueda and Sofia Aragon, who are running for the King County Council’s District 8 seat. Joe McDermott, who has held this seat since first elected in 2010, did not run for re-election.

If you have attended any of our past forums, you know there will be plenty of time for attendees to address questions to the candidates (see links below to their websites).

Mark your calendars and plan to attend on Thursday, October 5th, 7 pm, over Zoom.

Hope to see you then!

Here’s our coverage of NHUAC’s most-recent meeting, in June.

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Myriad hot topics, from homelessness to fireworks enforcement, at North Highline Unincorporated Area Council’s June meeting

June 4th, 2023 Tracy Posted in North Highline UAC, White Center news Comments Off on Myriad hot topics, from homelessness to fireworks enforcement, at North Highline Unincorporated Area Council’s June meeting

By Tracy Record
White Center Now editor

Summer break has begun for the North Highline Unincorporated Area Council‘s meeting schedule – but not before an info-packed June meeting, held online last Thursday. Here’s how it unfolded:

NEW BOARD MEMBER: Brigitte Vaughn was voted in at the start of the meeting.

COUNTY COUNCILMEMBER JOE McDERMOTT: It’s his 13th and final year on the council, as he’s decided not to run for re-election. He first recognized Pride month, pointing out that its roots are in the Stonewall uprising in 1969, with significant leadership from drag queens (who are under attack in some parts of the U.S. these days) – “While in our local jurisdictions we may feel supported, well over 200 laws have been introduced in recent years” seeking to delegitimize LGBTQIA+ people, and vigilance is vital – “Pride isn’t a weekend a year or a month, it’s something we have to be engaged in throughout the year … recognize that we cannot ‘other’ marginalized communities and we must champion (them all).”

That said, McDermott offered some reflections on his 22+ years in elected office and says he’s excited to find his “next career.” From there, NHUAC’s Liz Giba started with questions – homelessness first, and this week’s murder at the unsanctioned encampment on Myers Way. McDermott pointed to the situation in Burien, where a controversy is raging after an encampment sweep that has led to a new camp on city-owned land and an order to vacate that site. He said living unsheltered isn’t “ideal” but “you don’t sweep an encampment without a place for people to go,” noting that federal judges have made that clear. The people along Myers Way haven’t been offered places to go. The Regional Homelessness Authority has been working on outreach at the site for more than a month, he said. “What’s essential to understand is that those links (to services and shelter) don’t happen in one visit” – in some cases it might take seven visits/contact to build a relationship to the point where they’re ready to accept it. NHUAC’s Barbara Dobkin noted that the greenspace at the site is being destroyed. Who’s responsible for preventing that? The conversation digressed from there and McDermott noted that the contention that many homeless people come here from out of town is erroneous – most list “last fixed address” as in King County. An attendee jumped in with questions such as whether the county has a fund to help people avoid becoming homeless. McDermott said, “We’re not at the point where we should be to prevent homelessness in the first place,” even eight years after he and other leaders declared that homelessness is an emergency.

Next question was about the hotels bought to help chronically homeless people; McDermott noted that a small sales-tax increase was instituted to fund that, and that more than 1,000 units have been procured, with 1,600 the goal. Some are empty, McDermott said, because they don’t have enough staff to run them. But still, he said, up to 1,000 of the purchased-so-far 1,200 units are occupied. The labor shortage is indeed at least in part because human-service work pays poorly – 37 percent less than private-sector workers doing similar jobs, with similar skillsets, McDermott said.

PERFORMING ARTS CENTER: The discussion of homelessness likely could have lasted the entire meeting, but some guests had to interrupt because they could only stay for a short time – they’re from the Burien Actors Theatre, working toward creation of a Burien Performing and Visual Arts Center. Arts brings money into the local economy, declared Maggie Larrick. She tag-teamed with Eric Dickman, who said that they want to build a 300-seat center. Their many arguments in favor of the center included a study that communities with arts centers have less crime. They want to build it on a county-owned site near the parking structure in downtown Burien. Affordable housing could be built over the center, they explained. They’ve talked to Metro, which they say plans community meetings to talk about the site’s possibilities. Dickman and Larrick say they need “control” of the site – some kind of commitment – before they could start major fundraising. “We find this is a way to make art more accessible,” especially for South King County residents who don’t want to, or can’t, go all the way to Seattle, said Larrick. McDermott says he’s met with them before about the idea.

BACK TO CM McDERMOTT: The problem of graffiti vandalism was surfaced. If it’s not public property, it’s up to private-property owners to take care of it – but county workers can help if it’s OK with the property owners. John Taylor with the Department of Local Services said they do try to get to gang graffiti as fast as possible. Same goes with hate graffiti, McDermott added. Giba wondered what the Conservation Corps‘ responsibilities are. It’s a transitional work/housing program, currently with two 5-member crews, who are mostly deployed in the North Highline and Skyway areas. So how would private property vandalism be addressed/ It would be brought to the county’s attention, Taylor said, and then they’d try to get the property owner’s permission so they could handle it.

Shortly thereafter, McDermott noted that Deputy Glen Brannon will become the WC Storefront Deputy on July 1st, coming from patrol work in Burien. He described the deputy as “fantastic.” The deputy joined the meeting at that point in a brief prelude to his official appearance later. One attendee had asked if there was an increase in hate graffiti and he said if it’s seen, “we need to stamp that out yesterday.”

Giba then brought up the recurring issue of loud music from the recently opened Tim’s Tavern. She read email she’d received from one of the owners, acknowledging the concerns and explaining how they’re addressing them. That included use of decibel readers, closing at midnight and ending music at 11 pm, some Sunday and all Monday events being held in the building, installing noise-reduction curtains around the outdoor area. Giba said they told her they try to keep decibels to 80 at their parking lot, 93 closer in, but she said residential areas should be maxing out at 55. Dobkin said she’d never in all her years called in a noise complaint but the current situation is “unbearable”; but the KCSO resources weren’t able to respond. “It’s really interfered with our life – we can’t have our windows open,” she said. “It’s a problem.” Deputy Brannon said it’s important to keep calling 911 when you need to. He added, “I would take some consolation in that we have open communication now with the owners of the bar,’ and they can keep communicating.

Regarding criminal justice, Deputy Brannon said they basically can’t currently jail people for non-violent crimes but “we need to be able to.” McDermott said they’re still trying to balance the fact that jail “is not a therapeutic place” and they need “carrot and stick … not just the stick.” But if someone says they’re ready for treatment “we don’t have treatment on demand” available. He said the recently approved crisis-center levy is a “step in the right direction” but “there’s more work to be done.”

Giba next asked about the fireworks ban – last year was an “educational year” so this year, will there be enforcement? There’s no enforcement limitation this year, McDermott said, but it’s “not law enforcement, it’s code enforcement – citations mailed to people.” He noted that if there aren’t enough deputies to enforce things like noise ordinances, there aren’t enough to go around ticketing people for fireworks. He also noted that the fireworks ban’s big achievement so far is the end to sales in the local area. Giba said she understood but wondered how they’re getting the word out about fines, and if they are verifying complaints. Here’s the information Local Services reps provided:

Starting June 14, residents will be able to report violators to the King County Permitting Division:

Online by visiting www.kingcounty.gov/reportfireworks (Users will have to sign up for our system)

Phone: 206-848-0800

No, code enforcement officers won’t be out on the streets, Taylor said – those means of reporting – online and phone – are what will lead to citations. (Video and photos can help.) Taylor added that a “significant amount of public education” is planned, and that people get one warning, so if somebody got a warning last year, this year they get a citation. Last year about 600 complaints came in – more than half in non-KC jurisdictions – and they ended up issuing “between 100 and 200 warning letters to people” after the 4th of July, just a few dozen after New Year’s. He thinks that ultimately this method will be more impactful, with $150 citations. “I’m optimistic,” he declared.

Dobkin then asked if the county can help NHUAC find meeting space so they can get back to in-person again. McDermott and Taylor promised to help brainstorm.

McDermott then warned that since the Legislature hasn’t taken a key tax-reform step, the county is looking at a big budget gap. But they’re fighting to keep even the unfilled funded positions and have not cut any storefront deputies. That led to …

DEPUTY BRANNON’S REPORT: He’s been with KCSO for eight years and says White Center “is a great place to be a police officer.” He said they’re seeing some worrisome trends – including a resurgence in gang activity, and there is a “bit of a gang war going on.” WC has ‘historically been everybody’s property in the gang world” but some gangs ‘coming up from out of the valley” are competing for it, an you might see their two-letter gangs. Five years ago, they managed to push them back down to South King County and get some people in jail, and they’re getting out. The Roxbury Lanes shooting was NOT random and was “kind of gang-related.” There’s been an arrest. “Two gentlemen got caught in a beef and two other people got caught in the crossfire.” That was brand-new news so we missed the last few minutes of the meeting while writing that up as a breaking story – KCSO had not disclosed the arrest earlier in the day, though the jail roster showed the suspect was taken into custody early in the morning, and we had even seen Sheriff Patti Cole-Tindall in person earlier in the evening (at the White Center Pride flag-raising).

NEXT MEETING: As noted above, it’s summer break – but we’re sure to get the announcement when NHUAC’s getting ready for the first meeting of fall.

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Here’s what’s planned for last North Highline Unincorporated Area Council meeting before summer break

May 29th, 2023 Tracy Posted in North Highline UAC, White Center news Comments Off on Here’s what’s planned for last North Highline Unincorporated Area Council meeting before summer break

It’s an easy way to connect to what’s happening in your community – set aside an hour and a half to join the North Highline Unincorporated Area Council meeting online this Thursday! The announcement explains how:

The Opportunity to Be Informed, Be Involved, and Be Heard!

Where? North Highline Unincorporated Area Council Meeting

When? Thursday, June 1, 2023, at 7 pm

Join Zoom Meeting:
us02web.zoom.us/j/87391666828?pwd=WXU0bzFRQ1pqREx3eDAxQ2hqb1ZiQT09

Meeting ID: 873 9166 6828
Passcode: NHUAC2023 (Case Sensitive)

Unable to join via Zoom? Please call: 253-215-8782
Meeting ID: 873 9166 6828
Passcode: 419924913

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Happy Pride Month! Before joining NHUAC’s last meeting before our summer break (June 1 @ 7 pm), King County Councilperson Joe McDermott will help kickoff the festivities at the White Center Pride Flag Raising Ceremony outside Mac’s Triangle Pub.

Please join our discussion with him, which is sure to cover his decades of experience in public office. Although history is important, it will not be our focus. We’ll discuss issues that face our North Highline community today, including:

– The lack of deputies;

– Homelessness and housing;

– The abundance of graffiti and

– Our lack of community greenspaces, which in addition to their beauty and positive effects on physical and mental health, help protect communities like North Highline from the damaging effects of climate change.

We’re also looking forward to voting on adding Brigett Vaughn to NHUAC’s board and hoping to meet White Center’s new Storefront Deputy – Glen Brannon!

Knowledge Is Power
Learn, share, and help make North Highline a healthier community.
June 1, 2023 at 7 pm – Invite Your Neighbors!

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Your property taxes explained @ May’s North Highline Unincorporated Area Council meeting

May 15th, 2023 Tracy Posted in North Highline UAC, White Center news Comments Off on Your property taxes explained @ May’s North Highline Unincorporated Area Council meeting

By Tracy Record
White Center Now editor

How exactly does the property tax process work? That’s part of what you would have learned if you’d attended this month’s North Highline Uncorporated Area Council meeting. In case you didn’t, we have toplines:

COUNTY ASSESSOR: John Wilson was first guest of the night. He noted that his office sets value for 720,000 parcels around the county. Last year, they had 9,000 valuation appeals. He explained the process of what goes into tax bills, and what goes into valuation.

Market sales are a strong factor in calculating residential values, for example.

They have to calculate 600 different levy codes including 150 different taxing districts. The taxes property owners pay go to a wide variety. Values calculated this year, for 2024 property taxes, are up 21 percent … while for this year’s taxes, values were up 6 percent. Here’s what taxes fund:

King County provides just under 50 percent of all state property tax revenue, he noted – followed by Snohomish, around 22 percent. More numbers: White Center valuations are up about 30 percent. That doesn’t mean your taxes are going up that much, though. 43 percent of your property-tax bill is voter-approved levies. 80 percent of property-tax revenue comes from homeowners – only 20 percent from commercial-property owners. (That’s inequitable, Wilson said, and would like to see it changed. “Homeowners and renters pay a disproportionate share of property taxes, and that ought to change.”)

Wilson also offered some education about the senior property-tax exemptions, and he talked about the changes in state law that will allow more to become – or remain – eligible for them.

That’ll mean even people with $72,000 household income will be eligible – up to 30,000 more households, he said. There’s also a deferral program, but someone eventually has to pay the taxes you deferred, either when you die or sell the house, for example. He noted a couple more relief bills that were proposed but didn’t make it through the Legislature. Later, he noted that the senior exemption program brings his office 1,200 calls a week. They have a backlog they hope to have remedied within three months or so.

In Q&A, he was asked, among other things, what happens with properties whose owners had tax exemption and then died. How does the Assessor’s Office find out? Tips are good, Wilson said, as they don’t have the staff to proactively keep verifying. What about when an exempt property becomes a rental? That too would be great to get a tip about, he said. Another attendee voiced the suspicion that renters vote for tax increases because they don’t think it’ll affect you. Property owners invariably pass the cost along in the rent they charge, Wilson assured her, and he thinks renters are aware of that. Another attendee who identified herself as a renter verified that.

Since zoning now allows multiple accessory dwelling units on properties, will that increase valuation even for those without them? Maybe over time, Wilson said, since valuations do have some relation to zoning. It mostly depends on how widespread that kind of construction becomes.

If one spouse qualifies by age but the other doesn’t, can they still apply? Wilson said yes.

NORTH SEA-TAC PARK: Sandy Hunt and Noemie Maxwell visited to talk about what they’re working on. They showed why they’re fighting for up to 100 forested acres that could be lost to airport expansion – they say trees are a vital factor in health outcomes.

They recapped their successful fight against losing some of the forest to an employee parking lot, then learning they weren’t out of the woods yet, so to speak. They talked about its environmental attributes, including a “true bog” and a creek. The area also is used for bicycling, disc golf, even rugby – it’s not “just” trees. They said that when homes were removed from the area decades ago, people were told the land would remain in “open public use.” There’s already been a lot of development – warehouses, for example.

Here’s what they’re fighting for:

How they’re going to get there, isn’t clear yet. There are “legal protections” they need to fight for, for example. But awareness is also big. Like the trees:

They’re collecting signatures here. They’re also open to speaking to other groups and helping with related advocacy. They also hope supporters will speak at Port Commission meetings. They might have to hold demonstrations, and that requires people-power. They’re not giving up and going away, is their message, even if and when attempts are made to assuage them by saying “no current plans.”

TIM’S TAVERN: NHUAC’s Barb Dobkin says she lives more than half a mile away but can hear the new venue’s nightly outdoor music in her home even with doors/windows closed. The state Liquor and Cannabis Board rep who usually attends NHUAC meetings said he had invited the operators to attend, though they didn’t show. He spoke with them about the sound levels and reported that they are working with their bands. But as another attendee from King County government, Michael Morales, noted, it’s a code issue, not an LCB issue. “What they’re doing is completely allowable in the business district.” Nonetheless, he said, they’ll look into it.

NEW BOARD MEMBER: The NHUAC board has another prospective new member – Brigitte introduced herself. “I want to be able to have a voice,” she declared. The vote on adding her to board will likely be taken next month.

SPEAKING OF WHICH … NHUAC meets first Thursdays most months, 7 pm, online, so June 1st is likely the next meeting.

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White Center’s deputy change, and what else is on the agenda for North Highline Unincorporated Area Council’s May meeting Thursday

May 1st, 2023 Tracy Posted in North Highline UAC, White Center news Comments Off on White Center’s deputy change, and what else is on the agenda for North Highline Unincorporated Area Council’s May meeting Thursday

The North Highline Unincorporated Area Council‘s monthly meeting is this Thursday (May 4th), 7 pm online. Here’s the agenda announcement:

The Opportunity to Be Informed, Be Involved and Be Heard!

Where? North Highline Unincorporated Area Council Meeting

When? Thursday, May 4, 2023, at 7 pm

Join Zoom Meeting:
https://us02web.zoom.us/j/89434530620?pwd=c1VtejJlSTc0TlZlaHpJYTBQcmtPUT09

Meeting ID: 894 3453 0620
Passcode: NHUAC2023 (Case Sensitive)

Unable to join via Zoom? Please call: 253-215-8782
Meeting ID: 894 3453 0620
Passcode: 060150115

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

NHUAC’s May 4th meeting will start with a changing of the guard. Last month we learned that Deputy Bill, White Center’s Storefront Deputy, would be retiring after 25 years with the King County Sheriff’s Office. It is now official; Deputy Bill has retired. However, his sense of community carries on. Bill will begin the meeting by introducing his successor, Deputy Glen. Join us in wishing Bill the best and welcoming Deputy Glen Brannon!

Property taxes, many of us pay them, whether we own or rent our homes. The amount of our taxes is directly related to the property’s assessed value. We’ll be joined by King County Assessor John Wilson to bring us up to date on the assessment process, possible exemptions, and other things pertinent to this substantial expenditure.

In addition to their beauty and positive effects on physical and mental health, greenspaces also help make communities like North Highline more livable by protecting them from the damaging effects of climate change. Last month, we learned from King County’s Dave Kimmett of an opportunity to purchase some property near Seola Pond. NHUAC, with the help of community member Sabina Beg, recently wrote a letter supporting the acquisition of those parcels. (Thanks, Sabina!) A few months ago, we submitted a letter in an effort to protect North SeaTac Park. This month Sandy Hunt and Noamie Maxwell will join us discuss that very worthwhile effort.

Deputy Glenn has been asked to make his first report to our community. We’re looking forward to that as well as hearing from Brigitte Vaughn, who has stepped forward to join NHUAC’s board.

Join us as we look to a future with the addition of new members and Deputy Glen!

Knowledge is power.

Learn, share, and help make North Highline a healthier community.

May 4, 2023 at 7 pm – Invite Your Neighbors!

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Power, greenery, and a retirement announcement @ North Highline Unincorporated Area Council’s April 2023 meeting

April 6th, 2023 Tracy Posted in North Highline UAC, White Center news 1 Comment »

By Tracy Record
White Center Now editor

Though not announced that way, this month’s North Highline Unincorporated Area Council meeting had a suitable agenda for Earth Month – with clean energy and greenspaces as the first two major topics:

SPARK NORTHWEST: Amy Bettle spoke from this nonprofit focused on a “clean energy transition.” They have a program called “Energize” that’s coming to unincorporated urban areas including White Center and Skyway. Its goal is to provide “energy-efficient electric heating and cooling,” via heat pumps, to supplement whatever recipients are using now. It will cover 100 percent of the costs for low-income households chosen to participate and 80 percent of the costs for moderate-income participants. They’re hoping to streamline the process that would lead to heat-pump installation. It starts with workshop attendance and then moves to getting a bid. The program also will support contractors who are women and/or people of color. Right now they have a “request for qualifications” open for HVAC contractors, and they’re recruiting community members to help them make the choices via participation in a selection committee this month. In May they’ll start sharing information about workshops that start in June, for prospective customers. Once the systems are in place, Bettle said, customers’ energy bills could be up to 60 percent lower. Committee members, meantime, will get a $450 stipend for the time they take to participate. What if it’s a renter household – would the income limits apply to the renter or the homeowner? The former, Bettle said, though landlords of course would have to be involved in approving the installation. Also of note, this isn’t limited to single-family housing – installation could be made in a multi-family unit too. Find out more about Energize here.

(WCN photo from Glendale Forest, 2020)

LAND CONSERVATION INITIATIVE: David Kimmett from this program was in attendance with an update. In North Highline, the focus is on “urban greenspace.” They want to create more of it “in a community like North Highline,” Kimmett said, because the benefits are manyfold – including physical and mental health. Three acquisitions completed in recent years were Glendale Forest (five acres with a stream, and they’re working on adding a trail, which will require a bridge over the stream), a “small property at White Center Heights,” and “a property next to Dick Thurnau Park.” He recapped each of those three. He talked about restoration work, such as extensive ivy removal in Glendale Forest. At the Dick Thurnau Park-adjacent site, acquired ,ecently, the intent is to support the upcoming HUB project with more of a greenspace buffer. It has a house (currently boarded up) that’ll be torn down, and will extend the park out to 108th, Kimmett said. About the WC Heights acquisition, he said, the site already was bordering on county land on three sides, and had a house that’s been removed, with restoration soon to begin. He then talked about hoped-for future acquisitions, like some property along Duwamish River-feeding Hamm Creek, It’s a steep ravine that’s not developable but can be restored into a “healthy urban forest,” Kimmett believes. Not suitable for trails, but a step toward their “conservation goals.” He’s also interested in some land that’s currently church-owned in an unincorporated area of Arbor Heights, near Seola Pond (which already is county-owned). Kimmett hopes the kind of community-involved restoration that’s been done at Seola Pond can expand onto these potential acquisition sites. He’s now “raising funds to acquire these” – a process that can “only be done onca a year” – so he’s seeking support. That fundraising is done through the Land Conservation Initiative – which has a committee to review such proposals – he clarified in response to a question. How can community members show support? he then was asked. Kimmett said he needs “community support from organizations,” writing letters of support. NHUAC board members and attendees subsequently voted unanimously to write a letter of support. An attendee from a group that does a lot of restoration work further south in the county said she’ll see about having her group write a letter too, and a White Center Kiwanis rep said the same. Asked about the time frame, Kimmett said, “ASAP” – by the end of the month, at the latest. Kimmett’s appearance concluded with some brainstorming about possible future acquisition sites.

CRIME/LAW ENFORCEMENT: Deputy Bill Kennamer is retiring at month’s end after 25 years. Three deputies applying for his White Center community position were in attendance and Kennamer called them (and other applicants) “really good cops.” The interviews are next Monday, he said. Meantime, he said crime took a big drop – major crimes and other kinds – in the past month. “We had a good month last month,” Kennamer summarized. Some notable incidents – gunfire in front of Roxy’s, an attempted child kidnapping outside Seola Gardens, an accidental self-inflicted gunshot wound, armed robbery at the Boulevard Park 7-11, a strong-arm street robbery. “Auto thefts are through the roof, auto recoveries are through the roof,” he added. Kennamer also was asked about the bust – which he led – that resulted in a big haul of stolen guns; he said the Top Hat building where it happened has some evictions in the works. He also mentioned a few other things: On April 22nd, KCSO will participate in a “Coffee with the Community” event at the White Center Starbucks. The burned-out building on the west side of 16th is getting extensive redevelopment, he added, and the former Bizzarro site will become a coffee shop and pizza parlor. NHUAC invited Deputy Kennamer to come by post-retirement and say hi any time.

NEW BOARD MEMBER: Amelia says she’s excited “to be more involved in the community” by joining the NHUAC board. She was added by a unanimous vote.

COMMUNITY DINNER: White Center Kiwanis is presenting a steak dinner 5-7 pm April 21st at the White Center Eagles’ HQ. Vegetarian option too (portabella mushroom). They’re fundraising for their work with youth.

NEXT MEETING: NHUAC usually meets on first Thursdays, 7 pm, online, so the next meeting should be Thursday, May 4th. (They’re still hoping to find someplace to resume in-person meetings.)

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