(Video added after the hearing)
(Group of speakers asking the council to cancel cuts in a domestic-violence program)
ORIGINAL 6:31 PM REPORT: We are about 45 minutes into testimony at the City Council Budget Committee hearing in Brockey Center at South Seattle Community College in West Seattle. By our unofficial count, about 200 people are here; more than 70 have signed up to testify – though so far, we have seen some of the speakers bring up others to take part of their turn, so the eventual number may surpass that. West Seattleites who have spoken so far include Fran Yeatts, executive director of the West Seattle Food Bank, and a Senior Center of West Seattle volunteer. WS Food Bank’s Shannon Braddock spoke too:
It’s not too late to come to the hearing, which is likely to last several hours – signups are being taken at the north entrance of Brockey Center. Six councilmembers are here; Sally Clark has sent word she will be here after another commitment wraps up around 7 pm.
7:19 PM UPDATE: All councilmembers are here now – the last to arrive was Mike O’Brien, as of 6:53 pm.
West Seattleites who have spoken in the past 10 minutes or so include Katy Walum, president of the Admiral Neighborhood Association (above), and Mat McBride, chair of the Delridge District Council, both opposing the proposed Department of Neighborhoods cuts – specifically, the proposed cuts in district coordinators and in the Neighborhood Matching Fund. Two Highland Park residents, including City Council candidate (next year) Dorsol Plants, have spoken in favor of the Streets for All program – some of its objectives would be met by the increase in the commercial parking tax that Mayor McGinn is proposing. We are now on the 48th speaker, but the number of actual speakers will be longer than the number signed up, since some are bringing up associates to tag onto their time.
7:37 PM UPDATE: Lisa West from the Alki Elementary PTSA and two area kids (including her 7th-grader daughter) are testifying to keep Alki Community Center completely open:
She says that in 45 minutes today at school she collected more than 40 signatures from parents who want to keep the community center from reductions that are tantamount to a closure. “Alki Community Center is the one place I allow my children to go on their home,” she says. She also mentions that whether you live in an apartment or a house, few of the residences in the Alki area have yards for kids to play in – she is becoming emotional as she tries to read through a statement to the council. She says that the outdoor areas of the park are not an option because there are so many problems – caused largely by adults. And with maintenance cuts, she says through tears, how will they even use the outdoor basketball courts? The indoor courts, she says, are the main source of recreation during winter weather. “Our community is diverse and rich, and is just that – community,” and the area around the community center and school are a meeting place for parents, both before after school. (We have her testimony on video and will add it, along with several others’ clips, later.)
7:53 PM UPDATE: More West Seattle speakers – Patrick Dunn from Sustainable West Seattle, on behalf of keeping the Neighborhood Matching Fund whole – he mentions that it helped launch the successful and popular West Seattle Tool Library, and also is paving the way for the in-the-works Community Orchard of West Seattle.
After him, Tony Fragada of the Alki Community Council is up, mentioning yet more Neighborhood Matching Fund projects (including the money just given to Seal Sitters for education):
Then, mega-involved Chas Redmond, co-chair of the Southwest District Council (among other things), mentioning how the grant money has helped SWS with even more projects such as the Sustainable West Seattle Festival. (We interviewed Redmond and Dorsol Plants, mentioned earlier, on video before the hearing.)
“3 years after our 1st conversation with the Department of Neighborhoods, we have become an organization in West Seattle that has amazing capacity,” Redmond says, even able, now that it’s a 501(c)3, to help other groups. He says it’s a tool to allow the city to “amplify its neighborhoods.”
7:59 PM UPDATE: Rick Jump from the White Center Food Bank is testifying, not against a cut, but to ask the council to support the mayor’s request for $35,000 for WC Food Bank – which serves city residents but has never received city money. He also says the food bank has just started a new program for city residents, a mobile food bank that on Tuesday at Arrowhead Gardens served 80 senior citizens. (The orange scarf he wore was also worn by dozens of others to show support for human-services spending.)
8:27 PM UPDATE: 81st speaker now. 80th speaker was Alki’s Steve Cuddy, another voice opposing the “virtual closure of Alki Community Center.” A few speakers earlier, Fairmount Community Association’s Sharonn Meeks spoke, another voice in support of restoring Department of Neighborhoods cuts, speaking about how the Southwest Neighborhood District Coordinator in particular is so important for community connection and assistance – giving the example that was given at the recent Southwest District Council meeting, the huge Gateway cleanup two years ago, bringing together hundreds of volunteers – it couldn’t have happened without district coordinator Stan Lock‘s help. Now, Fauntleroy Community Association’s Vlad Oustimovitch, also on the DON cuts, saying that McGinn is “the second mayor in a row that’s tried to dismantle (the department)”:
9 PM UPDATE: The hearing is over, after 95 speakers. Probably the single most-testified-about topic was the cable public-access network SCAN, with multiple groups like this one taking their turn:
Before the hearing, musicians who perform on the cable channel serenaded people as they arrived:
There’s one more budget hearing coming up at City Hall later this month (October 26 – details here), and other meetings/hearings/chances to comment before the City Council approves a final version, which is expected on Nov. 22nd. We’re back to HQ with photos and video to add to our coverage.