(UPDATED WEDNESDAY MORNING with text toplines)
ORIGINAL 6:28 PM REPORT: Mayor McGinn has arrived, community organizations and city departments have been tabling for almost an hour, and the Town Hall is about to begin at Youngstown Cultural Arts Center, with a performance by the Vicious Puppies Crew breakdancers. Seattle Channel is here to webcast the event, so we’ll put up their code in a minute so you can watch even if you’re not near a Channel 21-equipped TV. More shortly.
6:33 PM UPDATE: Here’s the code:
6:46 PM UPDATE: The mayor has started speaking – so the feed should be live – click the “play” button to watch.
(Substituted early Wednesday: Here’s our video, from the mayor’s first word to his last:)
8:18 PM UPDATE: The town hall is over. Topics ranged from arts funding to traffic/transportation challenges to the DESC Delridge project, and more.
ADDED 9:23 PM: Video clip above – that’s the VPC performance in its entirety. Text toplines to come.
ADDED WEDNESDAY MORNING: The aforementioned toplines:
After the mayor’s opening remarks included his declaration that he has “made a personal commitment” regarding K-12 education in the city, a related topic dominated the first half-hour: It centered on a revelation regarding the city’s latest Families and Education Levy, passed last year by voters. Under its terms, Youngstown-based Arts Corps – whose leadership says it serves 800 area youth – no longer qualifies for funding.
After listening to impassioned speeches about how Arts Corps and its programs have changed or even saved lives – one person talked about arts saving him from a troubled path, and said, “If you want your outcome, you’re looking at it” – the mayor described the non-qualification as an “unintended consequence.” Basically, the terms of the levy now require measurable outcomes, and unlike, say, a tutoring program that can be measured by checking a student’s grade before and after, results of arts studies and participation cannot be measured that way.
“Every applicant (for levy funding) has to show the capacity to deliver outcomes,” the mayor said. “This process is important.”
Arts Corps executive director Elizabeth Whitford said that process required agencies to “show (they) have access to attendance and academic data … Something went wrong in that process and there needs to be a public acknowledgment of that.” The 2004 Families and Education Levy, Whitford said, supported Arts Corps classes, including some taken by the Vicious Puppies Crew breakdancers whose performance had preceded the mayor’s appearance. “African-American and Latino youth re half as likely to have an arts education as their white peers,” she said. “(The levy) has worsened that.”
In the end, after program participants past and present spoke, the mayor said “there is more than one pot of money in city government” for programs like the ones Arts Corps offers, so he is “making a commitment” for his office to find something to help ensure the 800 participants don’t go unserved.
The ensuing hour touched on a variety of topics, from traffic to the DESC Delridge project. One man said he was concerned about freeway development that in effect would turn the Highway 509 corridor into an alternate north-south freeway from Burien to the Alaskan Way Viaduct, though in his view it’s been happening “piecemeal” and there should be “more transparen(cy)” about the end result. The mayor said he was concerned too, because a future connection could result in up to 40,000 more cars a day going over the 1st Avenue South Bridge, which is “already at capacity.” The Port of Seattle, McGinn said, is responsible for the next stage of the project and “I don’t think the port is thinking it through.”
West Seattle community activist Michael Taylor-Judd, who ran for City Council last year, took the microphone to speak about what he views as a “breakdown between city departments and neighborhood groups” – particularly regarding communication. Often, he offered, “folks feel blindsided.” Asked by the mayor to cite a particular example, Taylor-Judd brought up the Department of Neighborhoods cuts last year, which closed some Neighborhood Service Centers (including the one in The Junction) and cut the number of neighborhood coordinators around the city. (The end result of the changes led to both of West Seattle’s district councils, Southwest and Delridge, losing their longtime coordinators, one of whom retired and one of whom was moved elsewhere.)
The mayor suggested that Taylor-Judd talk to Neighborhoods director Bernie Matsuno (who was one of a sizable contingent of city reps on hand) but also offered that he thinks hers is not the only department that needs to deal with neighborhood issues: “People should get a high level of service from all (departments).”
Another West Seattle neighborhood activist, Admiral Neighborhood Association vice president Karl DeJong, brought up his group’s campaign for a traffic signal at 47th/Admiral, scene of a deadly crash in 2006 and this ANA rally last year:
(WSB photo from November 2011)
He asked the mayor if he plans to pursue a measure to “fully fund” that signal and other needed signals this year. Short answer: No; the mayor said the Elliott Bay seawall was a higher priority this year.
Shortly afterward, Tanya Baer from the Delridge Community Forum, which has been active in gathering detailed information about the DESC Delridge Supportive Housing program, stepped to the microphone to ask the mayor “what steps the city is taking to disperse this (kind of) housing throughout the city,” also asking whether he had any concerns about this type of project going into a neighborhood where low-income housing is already abundant, and what he sees as the project’s benefits for a neighborhood like Delridge.
“This is just a big challenge … homelessness is a big challenge,” McGinn said. His contention is that “wet housing” (where alcohol is allowed) is “realistic and pragmatic” and that it has even cut down on substance abuse by some longtime users.
He called on Office of Housing director Rick Hooper – who has participated in several meetings regarding the DESC project, including last week’s second meeting of the Advisory Committee – to handle part of Baer’s inquiry. Hooper said the city has “dispersed” this type of housing as much as possible, claiming that most of the projects in development in the city right now are in the north end, citing locations such as Ballard and Lake City. “We recognize that these kinds of projects need to be spread out – concentrating them in any one location is not good.”
Baer had also brought up the change in the DESC project, downsizing from 75 to 66 units, as the result of a data flaw that meant the area should not house as many additional subsidized low-income units as had been thought – a data flaw brought to light after neighborhood activists’ research. Hooper’s only nod to that was that “questions were raised, forcing us to go back and doublecheck.”
A bit later, Patrick Baer, also from Delridge Community Forum, returned to the DESC topic and asked the mayor his thoughts on whether the city should help make sure that opportunities for commenting on such publicly funded projects are known to neighborhood residents. In short, the mayor said “yes.”
Transportation-related issues dominated most of the rest of the discussion. A Delridge resident mentioned an alley behind her home is in horrible shape. The mayor said the city wasn’t even able to afford all regular road work these days, let alone alleys. … Pigeon Point resident Pete Spalding told the story of two years of back-and-forth with SDOT to get a speed-limit sign on the north stretch of Delridge Way moved closer to the bridge, for optimum effect; the mayor agreed that it sounded like an inefficient way to do things. … Then came a resident who aid that since the Highway 99 work has begun, “my commute has gone to hell,” and he didn’t think the “two-lane tunnel” would help matters. That gave the mayor a chance to revisit his longtime opposition to the tunnel (and his acknowledgment that last year’s ballot measure meant “the voters have spoken” in favor of it). The discussion moved on to transit, as the resident suggested the bus lane on the West Seattle Bridge might have a better use since it seems “empty” most of the time he sees it; the mayor said the city is pushing for more state funding to improve transit service and be sure “the bus lane will be used.”
The final comment came from a High Point woman who asked the mayor for city funding to enable affordable women-only exercise programs at community centers, to help women whose culture/religion does not allow them to engage in such programs in a gender-mixed environment.
Wrapping up, the mayor said that he enjoys coming to neighborhoods not just to hear about problems, but so that residents can show him what they are proud of.
(Again, we have the entire Town Hall on video in the first clip featured in this story. Seattle Channel webcast it and their version of the video should be online sometime today.)