By Tracy Record
White Center Now editor
The North Highline Unincorporated Area Council is now on summer semi-hiatus after another information-packed meeting at North Highline Fire District HQ in White Center:
NEW BOARD MEMBER: Wendell Davis, a local USPS worker and dad of 4, long active in the community including sports coaching, has joined the NHUAC board.
WESTSIDE BABY: This organization helping local families “to provide the essential items that every child needs to be safe, warm, and dry” has long been headquartered in White Center, but this was executive director Nancy Woodland‘s first appearance.
She stood beneath a photo long displayed in the fire station that happens to show her husband – a North Highline FD firefighter – and child. In 2017, WestSide Baby served more than 40,000 kids in western King County. She explained how WS Baby works, with two locations now – besides the WC HQ, there’s also a location opened earlier this year in South Lake Union, and drop-off sites for strollers, car seats, diapers, etc., all over the county. They partner with more than 110 social-service agencies. They don’t provide housing; they don’t provide money. “We are experts at just providing the material items” that families need as they get back on their feet again. She told the story of helping a single dad raising his baby who couldn’t afford items beyond a “bucket car seat” in which the child was spending all waking and sleeping hours. It’s not just about feeling good, Woodland said, there’s science and research behind why this matters – Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. “Something as small as a diaper can change the world.” Another analogy: It’s like helping somebody push a boulder uphill.
Ways you can help – Stuff the Bus month is July, the Bus Bash is July 22nd, during Jubilee Days (the WS Baby school bus will be in the parade again this year), and clients will be invited to WS Baby for the event for the first time – the community’s invited too. They run on volunteer power and tomorrow are moving their distribution area to get more room, because their distribution numbers have doubled in just the past year and a half. “Every single child deserves love, and deserves joy, and deserves to know that they matter,” she concluded.
MARY’S PLACE UPDATE: More than a year after Mary’s Place opened a shelter in the former King County Public Health building next to the White Center Food Bank, a rep came to talk about the property they’ve just bought in Burien. “This does not mean we’re leaving White Center,” said Liz McDaniel, to cheers. She explained they have changed their staffing structure so “one person will be in charge of one building.” Meantime, they hope to open the new Burien location – a former rehab center – the first week of August. They hope community volunteers will help them get the Burien site ready as they did before WC opened. It will have a capacity of 218 people – “about 60 families.” Among the work they are doing are painting bright colors and expanding the dining room – the building’s been vacant a year so it needs cleaning, refreshing, setting up the rooms. Their work days will likely be in late July. This will be their furthest-south location so they will be working with the Highline school district as well as likely some to the south. It will also be their fifth 24-hour facility. Asked how many families are exiting into housing, McDaniel said it averages one a week.
KING COUNTY LIBRARY SYSTEM: Angie Benedetti, who manages “the six libraries surrounding the airport,” came to talk about the imminent remodeling of the Boulevard Park branch –
KCLS has just announced that the branch will close for up to nine months starting June 24th. She said that just this past month, they have eked out a little money from the 1 Percent for Art program and the branch will get some original work by Barbara Earl Thomas. It’ll be incorporated into the meeting-room glass. (A few windows will be added to the branch in the remodel, by the way.) The contractor who is handling the job might get it done faster – KCLS has worked with them elsewhere and “had a really great experience,” she said. They aren’t yet planning to add any hours at other branches to make up for the closure. What will the library’s staff be doing during the closure? They’ll move to other branches temporarily – some to Burien, some to White Center, some to Tukwila. P.S. The branch’s beloved “donut table” will be staying, restored and refinished.
KING COUNTY COMMUNITY AND HOUSING DEVELOPMENT: Mark Ellerbrook spoke about affordable housing in the North Highline/WC area, distributing paper copies of a map with approximate locations of sites where he says it is available. NHUAC president Liz Giba said she had wanted a list of the properties and how many bedrooms their units had, to compare with an inventory she had taken a year or so ago. She is concerned about an overconcentration in this area. Ellerbrook said he believes the county Housing Authority owns about eight properties. Fair housing “is a really important question,” he acknowledged, saying they are talking with various neighborhoods about “what is the fair share” and what responsibilities communities have. Ellerbrook also said that more housing is ultimately the solution for getting people out of shelters, such as the families that Mary’s Place is helping in White Center and, soon, in Burien, as mentioned earlier in the meeting. “The way that they get people out of their shelter is that they have a place to move to.”
Giba also brought up the under-construction Southside complex in Top Hat, which she says she’s been told will potentially house up to 1,500 people.
Accused by one attendee of concentrating low-income residents with “slums” resulting, Ellerbrook said, “That’s certainly not our intention.” Another attendee asked if the county is campaigning for higher wages so that there are fewer low-income residents; Ellerbrook said that’s outside the housing bailiwick but the county does have multiple employment-related programs. A discussion of earnings and low-income housing qualification ensued, as well as a point often made in similar discussions – that publicly owned projects don’t result in property-tax revenue to support community infrastructure. “So what’s really happening is that our local taxpayers are supplementing and making up the difference,” Giba observed.
KING COUNTY SHERIFF’S OFFICE: New Southwest Precinct commander Maj. Bryan Howard said he started his career in the precinct in 1991, and has moved around since then, but has always considered this “his home precinct. … I have returned to this precinct at every rank.”
He said they are focused on three things:
-Crimefighting, so everyone feels safe doing “whatever they want to do.”
-Community engagement. “If you don’t know at least one officer by name, then we’ve failed … we need to be out and about in the community.”
-Taking care of our officers – being sure they know they are appreciated and supported, among other things.
Maj. Howard also brought up an issue that’s often arisen at NHUAC meetings – what’s done with tax revenue from marijuana? He said they’re requesting that one full-time DUI-handling officer be funded with that money.
He was followed by storefront deputy Bill Kennamer, who handed out the latest crime stats – K-1 is White Center, K-11 is Seola and vicinity, K-7 is Boulevard Park and unincorporated South Park and vicinity – and while auto theft is up year to year in all three areas, it’s down from Kennamer’s last NHUAC briefing two months ago.
MARIJUANA SURVEY: NHUAC vice president Barbara Dobkin urged everyone to answer the online survey that was announced during the recent Unincorporated Area Town Hall – ” rel=”noopener” target=”_blank”>here’s the link.
EVENT ANNOUNCEMENTS: The White Center Food Bank‘s “block party” is coming up Saturday; the WC Community Development Association‘s Refresh (formerly Spring Clean) is coming up too … The Highline Bears‘ season has begun at Steve Cox Memorial Park, and president Russ Pritchard said tomorrow is Jelly Donut Day, which means the first 200 in attendance get a coupon for a free jelly donut at the concession stand … among other promotions, Bring Back the Sonics night (with former Sonics players expected to be on hand) … July 20th is ice-cream night, July 21st will be Food Truck night with eight food trucks due, and they even have a bobblehead night coming up. Here’s the promo schedule. The team has signed a five-year lease with the county. Tickets by the way are $8 adults, under 12 free.
NEXT MEETING: NHUAC won’t meet in July or August, but you’ll see them at Jubilee Days. So at this point, first-Thursday meetings will resume in September – watch northhighlineuac.org for updates.
P.S. Before adjourning, NHUAC board members also agreed to send a joint letter with the Highland Park Action Committee, expressing disappointment in the city of Seattle decision – announced earlier in the day – to give a one-year extension to Camp Second Chance to stay on the Myers Way Parcels. See it here.