(POST-BRIEFING TOPLINES, 2:56 pm: Here’s the map showing which community centers are proposed for which level of service, citywide. Just added our video of the entire briefing, at bottom of this story, as well as the answer to the Neighborhood Service Center/SW Community Center question.)
11:59 AM: We’re at High Point Community Center, where Mayor McGinn, City Councilmember Sally Bagshaw and acting Parks Superintendent Christopher Williams are unveiling the proposal for how next year’s city budget will deal with community centers. We’ve just received the news release – a key component:
The preferred operating model would consist of five geographically based service areas, each with five community centers staffed by a team. Within each area, the centers would provide varying levels of service and each team would be led by a Senior Recreation Coordinator. This model preserves services to the greatest extent possible by keeping the centers open with varying levels of service.
Specifics on West Seattle community centers: High Point is proposed for “Level 1″ service. Delridge and Hiawatha, “Level 2a,” Alki “Level 2b,” and Southwest, a “special-purpose facility.” Details are promised online at any moment now – still looking.
12:04 PM: News conference has begun. Williams is recapping “how we got here.” He says they took into account age and size of community centers, among other factors, in deciding which would deliver which level of service. “It’s a more tailored delivery model that doesn’t treat every center the same. … This proposal represents a fundamental shift in how we have operated our community centers.” Documents indicate more than 100 hours of service will be cut citywide, 1,095 next year compared to 1,214 this year (which in turn was down about 100 hours from the year before.)
12:08 PM: Now, the mayor speaks. He notes the revenue drop in the city budget, saying the gap will only get larger in the next few weeks, “so we have to continuously look for efficiencies and ways to save money.” Both he and Williams have said this moves away from a “cookie-cutter” way to operate community centers. The mayor says this will save the city more than $1.2 million. He goes over the geographic areas (mentioned above), saying each geographic area will have at least one community center with a “high level of service” – that’s High Point, in West Seattle. (The northwest and southeast sectors each will have two.) “This change came about because of budget pressures, but we do think we will have a more responsive, flexible and tailored system … than in the past,” McGinn says. According to the docs handed out here, a Level 1 community center will be open 70 hours a week, a 2a center (Delridge and Hiawatha) 45 hours a week, a 2b center (Alki) 25 hours a week.
12:15 PM: Councilmember Bagshaw is speaking now. She notes that Parks has taken a “disproportionate hit” in recent years, budget-wise. She is recapping the community consultation process that preceded this announcement. She says she had a two-fold expectation: Keep all 25 community centers open; make sure decisions were “community-driven.” She says that what is being proposed today is a “starting point … that could change.” If communities feel that they need more hours, they will have a chance to speak up, she promises (she stresses that twice.)
12:21 PM: Bill Keller of the Associated Recreation Council speaks next – these councils have taken a major role in operations at the centers that were dramatically cut last time around, including Alki. According to the docs given to the media here, of the city’s projected savings in these changes, almost $450,000 would come from ARC covering some of what the city pays for now. He says this year has been a “partnership experiment … and we learned a lot. We learned we couldn’t run those sites without Parks leadership. We had the doors open, we had programs running, but it wasn’t as good as it should have been.” So, he says, they made some changes this past July – the ARC contributed $234,000 in all to those five centers (including Alki).
12:25 PM: Big changes for Southwest Community Center, in the document. It will become exclusively a Teen Life Center downstairs; upstairs will become a Neighborhood Service Center operated by the Department of Neighborhoods. We’ll be asking in the Q/A whether that means the Delridge NSC will close (the Junction NSC closed earlier this year). Southwest Pool, the docs say, “will continue to operate as it does currently.” Now, Jim Cunningham from ARC is speaking.
12:32 PM: Q/A now. We ask our Southwest Neighborhood Service Center question – nobody here has the answer but the mayor’s staff will get back to us. Parks Sup’t Williams says community meetings will be held early next year (after the budget is finalized) to discuss specifics of what the community wants at each center.
12:35 PM: Thanks to Amy at MyGreenLake.com, who says the documents we’ve had in hard copy for half an hour are now available online – go here. As the Q/A continues, in response to a question, Councilmember Bagshaw stresses again that the community’s desire for how a center should be run will shape it. We asked, watching how Alki dealt with being a “limited use” center this year, with a heavy burden on its Advisory Council, if more centers’ councils would face that sort of task; Keller from ARC says that while each limited-use center’s council was tasked with its own financial burden last year, this year, they will all contribute together, and the ARC’s share of costs – that $445,000+ share – will come from one big pot. Responding to another question, Williams notes that all centers will have some level of drop-in use.
12:47 PM: The news conference is wrapping up. One High Point community member notes that program cost is an issue for her family. Williams responds by pointing out that the Parks Department “has a scholarship program” and points her that way. The mayor, in closing remarks, says that community members talking to each other will be the most important conversations in shaping this “…with the budget situation that we face.” Again, the full documentation on all this – with various documents (looks like PDFs) showing who’s affected where – are online now, here.
2:56 PM: Here’s our video of the 45-minute briefing in its entirety (we’ll substitute the Seattle Channel‘s version when it’s available, as its audio is bound to be clearer):
Note that the first City Council discussion of this proposal is set for 9 am this Thursday (September 15th) before the Parks Committee, which Councilmember Bagshaw chairs. Here’s the agenda. Meantime, Aaron Pickus from Mayor McGinn’s communications team has just answered our question about the SW Community Center’s big changes: “The Delridge Neighborhood Service Center would move to the Southwest Community Center as part of this proposal.”
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