Happening now: Community-center budget proposal unveiled; big changes for SW Community Center

September 12, 2011 at 11:59 am | In West Seattle news, West Seattle parks, West Seattle politics | 20 Comments

(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.”

20 Comments

  1. great job wsb, there is no other live blog like this…

    Comment by Jon — 12:09 pm September 12, 2011 #

  2. Just an observation on access: Presently the NSC at Delridge has access from the 120 bus – which means transferring from any area in West Seattle which is NOT on Delridge Way. If the NSC moves to Southwest Community Center, or if another one opens there, there is NO bus access after 6 pm on that route and the #22 bus, which serves Thistle, is on the chopping block so there may NOT be any bus service to the Southwest Community Center when the NSC there opens. This IS NOT COMMUNITY ORIENTED at all and I fault Williams, Bagshaw, McGinn and the rest of Parks and Department of Neighborhoods for this as all of these entities and individuals have been apprised numerous times in the past about the LACK of access the Delridge NSC has presently for MOST of West Seattle.
    -
    Bad plan from a series of bad decisions.

    Comment by chas redmond — 1:06 pm September 12, 2011 #

  3. Thank you so much for covering this presentation and details about this important proposal.

    Alki Community Center is surviving through a tough year. After months of trial and error,
    Parks and ARC listened to our feedback, gave us back a management position, and are being flexible with what we need to keep things running.
    Our voices and comments do make a difference – you just have to persevere.
    Good luck to SW, Delridge and Hiawatha with their proposed changes.
    President, Alki Advisory Council

    Comment by Liesa Rose — 1:40 pm September 12, 2011 #

  4. Lots of nice words to camouflage a process that is NOT community-driven. Next step = corporate sponsorships?

    Comment by AceMotel — 2:23 pm September 12, 2011 #

  5. Chas – #22 is on the chopping block? I thought that was resolved with passage of the $20 car tab fee?

    Comment by sw — 2:42 pm September 12, 2011 #

  6. That’s what I thought, but am re-checking. Meantime, the answer is just in, for those who see comments before story updates: The mayor’s office says the Delridge NSC would MOVE to Southwest CC, meaning the latter would then be West Seattle’s only Neighborhood Service Center. I will write a separate story about this a bit later – TR

    Comment by WSB — 3:07 pm September 12, 2011 #

  7. The 22 has relatively low ridership (~1/2 million/year) and under Metro’s new performance-based system, yes, the 22 is on the docket for consideration of using those bus hours for other services. This would, of course, then put the new Neighborhood Service Center smack in the middle of nowhere so far as bus routes are concerned – 1/4 mile from the 21, 1/4 mile from the 23 or 120, even longer stretch for the 128 or 54. One wonders where and when the various city departments (SDOT knows about Metro’s plans) actually ever get together on these decisions – or is it just us complaining after the fact that gets their attention. Of course, as mentioned, the bus situation with respect to West Seattleite’s access to the existing NSC has been brought up time and again for the past 9 months.

    Comment by chas redmond — 4:13 pm September 12, 2011 #

  8. As a single parent who moved here several years ago from the east coast and who has a teenage daughter, I’ve been deeply appreciative of what the community centers have offered. This level of support did not exist in the town I came from. My daughter spends virtually all her free time at one of three centers and the opportunities available have been fantastic. The staff I’ve met have been terrific. I’m nervous about changes but I do support keeping the centers strong and accessbile to all. They are a real gem for parents and kids with few other options to turn to.

    Comment by CEA — 4:34 pm September 12, 2011 #

  9. Thanks for the info, Chas. Interesting, as the Seattle School District’s cure for busing from Gatewood is to use Metro. Will be a little difficult for my kid to get to West Seattle High if there is no bus going down California to the Junction. Heaven help they let her into Sealth which is walking distance. But I digress.

    Agreed on the low 22 ridership – I don’t know why they insist on running the articulated coaches when there are only a handful of folks on board.

    Apologies to all for the partial thread-jacking.

    Comment by sw — 5:30 pm September 12, 2011 #

  10. Thanks for the bus route info Chas.

    So, yeah, they did not do their homework. Thank the gods peeps like you are keeping track.

    Time to make noise.

    Comment by westseattledood — 6:07 pm September 12, 2011 #

  11. Has anyone found the news story that just ran? Channel 5 at 6:30 but I missed it and would like to find it rebroadcast if possible.

    Thank you.

    Comment by Janis — 6:52 pm September 12, 2011 #

  12. If it “just ran,” it’s not going to be online for at least a little while. Check their site in an hour or so. Was there a particular angle that they took that we didn’t address here? We were at the same event their crew was (and we procured additional West Seattle information beyond that). – TR

    Comment by WSB — 7:05 pm September 12, 2011 #

  13. Selfishly, my son attends school at High Point Community Center and I wanted to see the story. I also have been following the story on the blog where the best information is about current events.

    Thank you for reporting this story.

    Comment by Janis — 8:39 pm September 12, 2011 #

  14. I just read the King5 News regarding Community Centers and by far the West Seattle Blog has covered this event with excellent information. King5 concentrated on Rainier Valley only. The one thing they did portray was it is our children that will suffer the most. The Community Centers offer many activities for children to gather in a safe place to study, participate in sports and make friendships. It is very sad, with all the tax we pay that we cannot think of our children first.

    Comment by carole Stuhlman — 8:41 pm September 12, 2011 #

  15. Thanks, just wondered about questions/concerns that are surfacing as this starts to get out. There definitely is a lot of detail – and many layers of potential effects. We’ll be tracking it. And of course, this is just one aspect of the city budget – the mayor’s full proposal is due out in two weeks, and since the budgetary picture hasn’t improved overall, there likely will be many more cuts/changes to keep watch on. The most important thing to stress is that, when you hear about a proposal that concerns/interests you, don’t stay silent. Last year, there were changes made, both before the final budget, and then, as Liesa wrote above, later in the year when it became clear that things weren’t quite working … but if people just resignedly keep quiet, “nothing I can do,” nothing will change … TR

    Comment by WSB — 8:51 pm September 12, 2011 #

  16. “…but if people just resignedly keep quiet, “nothing I can do,” nothing will change … TR”
    .
    That pretty much says it all, right there. We MUST speak up. Loudly. And often. Or we’ll have no one to blame but ourselves.

    Comment by Jasperblu — 10:24 pm September 12, 2011 #

  17. Go to the City of Seattle website and look at the list of “services.” There are thousands of programs that could be cut with less impact and importance to the public, but these are left alone while critical services like parks, police, and libraries are first to the chopping block.

    This is a propaganda tactic.

    Think about it: What reason could anyone possibly have for holding a formal, public ceremony for CLOSING and REDUCING services?

    They are holding critical services hostage to get the tax and fee increases they want.

    A request for more taxpayer money will follow close on the heels of a stunt like this.

    Comment by JoAnne — 9:54 am September 13, 2011 #

  18. JoAnne >>>>>Think about it: What reason could anyone possibly have for holding a formal, public ceremony for CLOSING and REDUCING services? –

    This is a really good point I hadn’t even considered. And also, there are rarely presentations featuring all the big guns together, seemingly united.

    I think the next rabbit to come out of the hat will be privatization rather than a levy. Seattle voters always vote for parks.

    Comment by dis — 10:27 pm September 13, 2011 #

  19. I think there are plenty of great organizations and programs that can still serve the conmmunity and save the city money-I am all for renting out the under used CC’s-these are temporary leases not sales-if things pick up for the City they can take back their property at the nd of the lease-there is nothing worse than an empty or severly underutilized property-talk about crime and eyesore!

    Comment by SpeakLoud — 6:36 pm September 14, 2011 #

  20. Last night, ARC and Parks reps had a meeting with members from all the advisory councils.
    ARC stressed that if you don’t like what is being proposed for community centers in 2012, there are 9 people to contact directly – your City Councilmembers!
    It will be a shame to lose SW Comm Center’s programs, even if the pool stays open. And I agree with Chas – relocating the Neighborhood Service Center to SWCC makes no sense.
    Alki is slated to be cut 5 more hours further to 25 open public hours per week. Hiawatha and Delridge will be cut to 45 open public hours per week. Open hours means “drop-in” time.
    However, there will still be programs and classes during non “drop-in” open hours.
    This is the only shining light that I can see…. the centers can still have classes during non open public hours. People won’t be able to hang out in the lobby during non open public hours, but they can come in to take a class or pick-up their kids from school age care.
    The “devil” is in the details of how this will all work!
    The time is now to tell the City Councilmembers how you will be affected and how you feel.
    Email or go to an open public budget hearing in October.
    Per City Council’s webpage: Your engagement and participation in this process is crucial. City Council will hold two public hearings on the budget, both at City Hall on Tuesday October 4 and Wednesday October 26 (5:30 p.m. start time for each).
    Or you can call (206-684-8800) or email Mike O’Brien who is leading the budget process (mike.obrien@seattle.gov).
    It doesn’t take long to make your voice heard. Each voice counts!

    Comment by Liesa — 10:49 pm September 29, 2011 #

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