West Seattle, Washington
Just a few years ago, the Highland Park Action Committee led the fight against what originally were two possible sites in West Seattle for a new city jail – which was said to be necessary because the county would soon be unable to house city inmates. The plan eventually was dropped, but there remained the lingering possibility a city facility might be needed. A deal announced this morning appears to shelve that potential need for at least twenty years – news release after the jump:Read More
(All photos in this report are by Dina Johnson unless otherwise credited)
Billy Stauffer said he’d chain himself to a bulldozer before he let a jail get built anywhere near his Highland Park home. That was an oft-cited memory as the Highland Park Action Committee honored Stauffer and many others Wednesday night, while using part of its regular meeting to formally celebrate the end of a two-year fight against the possibility a new city jail would be built near their neighborhood – or anywhere else in the city. (If you missed the news, city and county leaders announced two weeks ago that various factors would eliminate the need for a new jail for at least 10 years, so the site-selection process was ending.) Every person singled out had a special contribution. One of those who shared the memory of Stauffer’s vow was Eddie Sherman of Pacific Plumbing Supply (close to the Highland Park Way/West Marginal Way site that was still on the jail-location list when the process shut down):
Sherman lauded HPAC for being a true “action committee,” persistently pursuing their goal. “If this fight hadn’t been taken up by your group,” he told chair Dan Mullins, “it never would have gone anywhere – I felt like I wasn’t alone. It was just a small group, able to make a big punch to stop this entire thing.” The 2008 forums at which Sherman and others spoke so passionately were recalled during the semi-ceremony. One of the honorees, local teacher Laura Drake, was ribbed a bit for the nationwide fame she gained because we and others put her fiery June 26, 2008, speech on video, where it was widely linked:
(video no longer available due to Blip.tv closure)
Drake’s outrage drew cheers and tears. But at Wednesday night’s meeting …Read More
Tonight, the Highland Park Action Committee toasted the end of their intense two-year fight against a potential jail in West Seattle – that’s current HPAC chair Dan Mullins at left, with former chair Blair Johnson and photographer/webmaster/sign designer Dina Johnson, celebrating at Triangle Tavern. We had asked Mullins earlier for his thoughts on this morning’s announcement by King County Executive Dow Constantine (here’s our as-it-happened report – and here’s our previously unpublished clip of the start of the announcement):
Mullins’ reaction afterward: “As difficult as it has been fighting the prospect of a huge jail being built it our neighborhood, some good has come out of it. Our little neighborhood has become much more organized, people have a stronger sense of community and a better understanding of how our government works. And City Hall now knows who we are and where we are and that we are vocal.” (His e-mail to the Highland Park list was a little more exuberant, with the subject line NO NEW JAIL/GOOD JOB, EVERYBODY!)
So now what? There was some concern in the comment section following this morning’s story, regarding the language of the official announcements – suspended, proposed, etc. Toward the start of this short clip from this morning’s announcement, the mayor was a little more definite in the term he chose:
We spoke later with Katherine Schubert-Knapp and Catherine Cornwall, both of whom worked on the city of Seattle’s part of the jail project. The official announcement warned that if future projections suggest more capacity will be needed, jail planning could have to restart as soon as 2013. Could any of the work done this time around be reused, we asked? Answer: Basically, no. But they both stressed that the proposed regional cooperation brings the process to a whole new stage – if the need can truly be handled between a combination of county beds, plus beds from other facilities such as the south end jail that’s opening next year, and alternative sentencing. Regarding the “proposed” languaging, Schubert-Knapp notes that since so many governmental entities have been involved in this, the respective councils have to sign off on the plan – King County Council, Seattle City Council, etc. – but that’s not expected to be any kind of speed bump. Seattle Councilmember Nick Licata, who headed the council’s Public Safety Committee during much of the site-search process, also seemed vehement that it’s over:
A variety of documents are now linked to the North/East Cities Municipal Jail website, which also carries a stern notice that it will not be updated from this point forward. We asked Cornwall and Schubert-Knapp if any particular study or report had triggered today’s announcement; they say the county’s decision to offer a longer contract extension, coupled with a second year of data showing lower jail population, comprised the game-changer. And of course, the city and county both have new elected leadership, in McGinn and Constantine, this year; Constantine had declared in June that if he were elected, the jail project “will not happen”; McGinn also had voiced, during his campaign, opposition to the idea of a new jail.
But long before the campaigning, the Highland Park Action Committee was in action, with research as well as passion. If you missed our stories from the period in 2008 when Seattle was considering its own new jail, with two of the four proposed sites in West Seattle, this report (with video) from a June 2008 meeting tells virtually the whole story of how things were going in the heart of the fight. Even then, as we wrote, projections were showing jail populations dropping. And now, watching those populations is paramount, warns the summary document released today:
While this proposed approach creates additional time to plan for our region’s future jail needs, it is not a long-term solution for our region’s jail capacity needs. The county and cities will need to regularly track the region’s jail population trends and use of jail capacity and be prepared to resume planning for new capacity by 2013 or even sooner if trends indicate the need for additional capacity before 2020.
FIRST REPORT, 9:13 AM: As mentioned last night, a “significant development in the regional jail-planning process” is promised this morning. It’s been two years since Seattle announced it needed new jail space, and started looking at sites that currently include one in West Seattle (West Marginal/Highland Park Way) as part of what’s become a regional effort. We’re at King County’s Chinook Building downtown, expecting to see a group any moment that we’re told will include County Executive Dow Constantine and Mayor Mike McGinn. As soon as the “development” is announced, we’ll add it here.
9:20 AM ANNOUNCEMENT: The headline on the news release reads, “Proposal to extend jail contract clears way for cities to consider shelving plans.” Jail contract may be extended thru 2020, Constantine announces. Mayor Mike McGinn says that means an end to the jail-siting process. “This is good news, Seattle,” the mayor said, after Executive Constantine announced the proposal to extend the agreement. “Today as a region we will work together to do this.” Shoreline’s mayor has also spoken; that city was under consideration as a jail site. Details of the proposal, from a news release handed out here: King County is offering the cities 150 jail beds through 2020. In addition, they are proposing creation of “a regional jail planning and management group.” Negotiation of this proposed agreement will start next year. Councilmember Nick Licata says “We have pulled the plug on the jail-siting process – and I can almost hear the cheers.” (As we read further into the news release, however, it warns that if there is an indication for new capacity after 2020, the jail-planning process may have to resume as soon as 2013.)
9:34 AM: They’re taking questions now. We asked Constantine, what do you tell the people of Highland Park (and elsewhere) who went through two years of anguish – not to mention the time and money spent by the governments – was it all for naught? We have his entire answer on video and will add it later, but bottom line, he said, he wished it hadn’t played out that way, but it did, and it’s time to move on. (added 9:57 am, here’s his entire answer on video)
Regarding the possibility of needing new space in the future, he notably mentioned the possibility of adding on to the regional county jail complex in Kent. He also said that part of this regional jail process would involve figuring out who has space where so that it could be used more efficiently – including the new jail that is being built by the south end SCORE group. Constantine also said that a future process would be conducted more “rationally” – saying this one seemed to have been “sudden” (regarding the 2008 disclosure that more space was needed and planning for a new site would commence immediately).
10:35 AM UPDATE: We talked with two key behind-the-scenes people after the room cleared, and will include their perspective in a followup story – what’s next, and what’s to keep this all from revving up again in a few years? Meantime, the county has published the full news release about today’s announcement on its website – you can read it here.
Not all media events are worth mentioning ahead of time. But given the history of the jail-site fight in West Seattle, particularly Highland Park, dating back 2 full years now – we thought some would want to know about a media event announced for tomorrow morning. Here’s the exact wording of the advisory sent to us and other news outlets:
On Thursday, King County Executive Dow Constantine will announce a significant development in the regional jail planning process.
He will be joined by Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn, Shoreline Mayor Keith McGlashan, King County Council Chair Bob Ferguson and Seattle City Councilmember Nick Licata.
Shoreline is one of the “North/East” King County cities that banded together a year and a half ago. It’s also home to one of the six sites that the group has been looking at – three are in Seattle (including Highland Park Way/West Marginal Way SW in West Seattle), one in Bellevue, and one in unincorporated King County – though the need for new jail space recently moved further into the future). The announcement is scheduled for 9:15 tomorrow morning at the County Executive’s HQ downtown; it is NOT a public event, but we’ll be there and will bring you details of the announcement immediately.
A new development in the jail-site fight: The planning process for a new municipal-misdemeanor jail is still moving ahead, with a West Seattle site (Highland Park Way/West Marginal Way) among the 6 possible locations. However, the potential need for that jail (in which Seattle would partner with other cities) is moving further into the future. Last fall, the city and county agreed to a 3-year extension of the contract for the county to handle misdemeanor offenders; by the time the proposal got to the Seattle City Council Public Safety and Education Committee today, it had become a 4-year extension, through the end of 2016. (Here’s the council bill; here’s an explanatory memo.) It doesn’t cover all the city’s expected needs for that time, warned council staffer Peter Harris, so they will need to keep contracting with Yakima (and possibly the new south-end jail) for some space. But the agreement requires the city to confirm that it has no expectation that King County will be able to handle its misdemeanor-offender needs beyond 2016, which means the jail-planning process continues, though Councilmember Sally Bagshaw noted, “There’s little stomach for building a new jail.” (As noted earlier, Bagshaw is in West Seattle tonight, guesting at the Delridge Neighborhoods District Council meeting at 7 pm.) The committee voted unanimously to approve the 4-year extension; it goes now to the full council.
They’ve worked hard on tough issues, like a possible city jail in their own backyard, but the Highland Park Action Committee has a sense of humor too – as evidenced by their New Year’s Eve parade (WSB coverage here) and by their newly re-elected leaders’ decision to ham it up for a post-election photo last night. (From left, chair Dan Mullins, secretary Michael Shilley, vice chair Nicole Mazza, treasurer Shawn Mazza.) They were re-elected in a flash tonight – nobody else was nominated, a quick motion to re-elect them passed, applause ensued, on to other business, which included news of an important role that is getting a new face – read on:Read More
On the eve of Dow Constantine‘s swearing-in as King County Executive, we are reminded that he declared five months ago there’d be no new jail for municipal misdemeanor offenders if he got the job. As you may recall, Seattle originally was looking at two West Seattle sites for a possible jail to house misdemeanor offenders the county was at the time saying it wouldn’t be able to handle after 2012; then Seattle partnered with a few other regional cities to continue pursuing the project, and kept one West Seattle site (West Marginal Way/Highland Park Way SW) under consideration. Now, county councilmembers have approved a three-year extension for providing jail services – which buys time, though the jail-planning process continues in parallel. Read on for the county’s official announcement:Read More
There hasn’t been much news about it for a while, but a West Seattle site — West Marginal Way/Highland Park Way — remains on the list of possible sites for a regional jail to hold misdemeanor offenders from Seattle and several other north/east King County cities. And the city sends word this afternoon that the timetable for the next round of public comment has just moved back – the draft Environmental Impact Statement won’t be out till February, so public meetings aren’t expected till late February/early March. The process is laid out here; that’ll mean a full year elapsing between the last meetings and the next ones.
The planning process for a potential new municipal misdemeanor-offender jail to serve Seattle and several other King County cities has been proceeding fairly quietly, but proceeding nonetheless. West Marginal Way/Highland Park Way remains one of the sites on the list. Now, the City Council has released results of a study they ordered on whether drug treatment and other diversions could reduce the need for jail beds – read on for their news release, plus links to two documents related to the report itself:Read More
We’re not yet publishing every back-and-forth in every key race – our in-the-works Election page will be your HQ for that, if you’re interested – but since this is a major issue for West Seattle, here’s the statement just issued by King County Council Chair Dow Constantine‘s County Executive campaign regarding the latest developments in the continuing process of a potential new Seattle-and-other-cities misdemeanor-offenders jail (with a West Seattle site remaining under consideration) – he says if he’s elected KCE, there won’t be a need for a new city jail – read on:Read More
We reported in April that the Seattle City Council had sent the county a letter asking for an extension of at least 10 years in the contract for the county to handle misdemeanor inmates – the same inmates the county had said it couldn’t handle after 2012, touching off a push to build new municipal jails (with a West Seattle site under consideration by the “north/east cities”). Now comes word the county will offer a “multi-year” extension – read on to see the official news release just received from the county, followed by a response on behalf of Seattle and the other “north/east cities” (indicating the jail-planning process will NOT be halted):Read More
Haven’t heard much lately on the jail-site search – aside from the City Council asking the county to reopen the issue of whether they can keep handling the misdemeanor inmates for a few more years, therefore delaying the potential need for this jail – but the process continues, and a West Seattle site (Highland Park/West Marginal Way, Google Street View above) remains on the list of six sites under regional consideration. Just got an official update late today from Katherine Schubert-Knapp, noting that new information is now available in the “scoping” process – which identifies what the Environmental Impact Statement for the project will have to look at. The announcement notes that the timeline has slid:
Based on the feedback received during the EIS Scoping period, the NEC will be adding the following items to the scope of the EIS: air quality; populations and housing; and an analysis of the possible impact of a jail on property values and public safety. These additions, along with the complexity of some of the analyses, have impacted the EIS schedule. The NEC now plans to release the Draft EIS in early December 2009, and hold Public Meetings in January 2010. The NEC plans to release the final EIS in the second quarter of 2010.
Documents including the EIS Scoping Summary are now posted on the website set up for the jail-site-search project.
We were first to tell you about the plans for City Council President Richard Conlin and City Councilmember Tim Burgess to send the county a letter, asking for an extension of time before the county ends the city’s contract to handle misdemeanor inmates; the looming end of that contract is why the city’s been looking to build a new jail, with a site in West Seattle (Highland Park Way SW/West Marginal Way) among those under consideration. Today, the letter’s been delivered, according to this announcement we just received from Councilmember Burgess:
The Seattle City Council delivered a letter today to King County Executive Ron Sims and King County Council Chair Dow Constantine requesting a “ten-year (or longer) extension of the current agreement” that provides jail beds for misdemeanor prisoners arrested by Seattle police officers.
The letter from the Seattle City Council is attached, along with King County Ordinance 16200 (which states that “it is the intent of the council that the county should continue to be the primary regional provider of secure detention”) and the King County Executive’s signing letter for Ordinance 16200.
Read the letter here. It’s a three-page letter, followed by the six-page ordinance.
ADDED 4:13 PM: Statement from Mayor Nickels (we have also requested one from County Council Chair Constantine and are told it’s in the works):
“I appreciate the support of the City Council in urging King County Executive Ron Sims and the King County Council to continue to provide regional detention and community corrections programs. The city of Seattle has long advocated for a long-term extension of the current agreement with King County to house our misdemeanants. However, King County has maintained that it doesn’t have long-term jail capacity and a new facility must be built. For months, we have been engaged in a process with cities in northeast King County to find another option. If King County determines that it now has the capacity for a long-term contract, we would welcome a new agreement.”
ADDED 5:09 PM: And Constantine’s statement is in:
“I appreciate this letter from the Seattle City Council. I think we all acknowledge that incarceration rates have been trending downward in King County and that the rush to build a large misdemeanant jail—or two—now seems premature. We need to explore every alternative before we spend millions of dollars of taxpayer money. The numbers indicate that a new jail may not soon be needed, particularly if we increase the capacity and use of less expensive alternative programs, drug and mental health treatment, and housing.
“In King County, our average daily jail population is far below projections in part because of our diligent work in creating and promoting alternatives to incarceration. If we are going to spend more money in this area, it should go to programs that divert people from a life of crime.
“The right thing to do now is for the county to work not just with the city of Seattle, but with all regional stakeholders to revisit our projections and develop a plan that meets our shared long-term jail needs. The important thing is to begin this dialogue immediately.”
This item was going to be part of our forthcoming wrapup of various campaign speeches at last night’s 34th District Democrats meeting, but we’ve just received a response to a followup question we sent City Council President Richard Conlin, so we’re breaking it out: During his campaign speech to the 34th DDs (photo left), he mentioned the jail issue – Seattle teaming up with several other cities to pursue a potential new municipal-misdemeanor jail, with the potential sites including West Marginal Way/Highland Park Way SW – and told the 34th DDs: “… siting a new jail … is a terrible idea; we should only have to do it if we absolutely have to do it. I’m encouraged by a significant decrease in the King County jail population (recently) … we’re going to be sending King County a letter asking to reopen discussions about accommodating misdemeanants, so that we won’t go ahead (with a jail) unless we are ABSOLUTELY SURE we have to.” In other words, Conlin intends to ask a question others have posed before: Can’t the county keep handling misdemeanor inmates, at least a while longer, since their jail population in general has been dropping? We e-mailed Conlin this morning for a followup, and he replied:
Councilmember Burgess and I have decided to send this letter, but not sure yet whether it will be just from us or from the whole Council. We just made the decision this week and have not drafted it yet, but expect to do so shortly.
(Councilmember Tim Burgess chairs the council’s Public Safety Committee.) Officially, as noted in our coverage of recent Highland Park Action Committee meetings, the jail-site search is in the environmental-review phase. (WSB coverage of this issue is archived here, newest to oldest.)
Of interest since a West Seattle site is still in the running as the possible location of a municipal-misdemeanor jail for “north/east King County cities” including Seattle: A coalition of South King County cities has just announced it’s chosen a site in Des Moines, according to this P-I story just published, on port-owned property (map). As for the latest on the Seattle (etc.) site search, Becca Fong provided an update at this week’s Highland Park Action Committee meeting, noting the environment-impact “scoping” process has just finished, adding that HPAC brought up “as many environmental concerns as we could find, to broaden the ‘scope,’ hopefully making our Highland Park Way site a little less appealing.” Now, she said, the process is in a “holding pattern,” with the official environmental-impact statement due in about six months, triggering another process of public comment and review before the site is chosen next year.
INITIATIVE 100 LAUNCH: The signature-gathering effort for a city initiative seeking a vote on whether to build a jail — which could ratchet back the process that already has potential sites identified, including one in West Seattle — starts with a 7:30 am event at Town Hall downtown.
DUWAMISH CLEANUP REPORT AND OPEN HOUSE: What’s ahead for the waterway along easternmost West Seattle? A new report comes out this morning (we’ll be at the official announcement), and then you’re invited to come find out even more firsthand at the Duwamish Longhouse on West Marginal Way, 4-6 pm, followed by another in the series of cultural events at the Longhouse: films by Sandy and Yasu Osawa focusing on the Longhouse at Evergreen State College, 7 pm.
ANOTHER MOVIE: It’s Environmental Film Night at Camp Long Lodge, showing “Broken Limbs” — the clip above is a 3-plus-minute intro to the movie — focusing on the much-changed apple industry in the Wenatchee area, 7 pm.
ORGANIC PRODUCE FOR DELRIDGE? Tonight’s the next Delridge Produce Co-op organizing meeting, Pearls on Delridge, 6:30 pm.
Another update from the ongoing process of reviewing six potential sites for a regional municipal misdemeanor jail, including Highland Park Way/West Marginal Way (map) in West Seattle: The comments from the recent “scoping” hearings, including the one January 13th at South Seattle Community College on Puget Ridge (WSB coverage here), are now online (see them here). This is all part of the process toward assembling a “draft environmental impact statement,” which jail project spokesperson Katherine Schubert-Knapp says “is expected to be issued in the third quarter of 2009.” Some preliminary thoughts are posted here by Dan Mullins, newly elected chair of Highland Park Action Committee, which has been battling the idea of a jail in its backyard since the proposal first went public last spring. Final site choice isn’t expected till next year.
This apparently happened late last week but we can’t find any evidence of major coverage – just got a news release about it now. Opponents of the plan to build a new regional misdemeanor jail (with Seattle and several other King County cities partnering; they’re considering six sites including one in West Seattle) have filed Initiative 100, asking, among other things, for a public vote on whether to build a jail. (It’s also on tap for a forum tomorrow night, 6:30, Pigott Hall at Seattle University.) Here’s the initiative petition that will be circulated (note: updated that link late Tuesday to point to the copy finalized today). ADDED 4:46 PM: Just got a county news release about a County Council briefing today regarding the first drop in county jail population in five years – read on:Read More
That’s the Highland Park Action Committee‘s new chair Dan Mullins, presiding for the first time at HPAC’s first meeting of the year tonight. (New vice chair Nicole Mazza and treasurer Shawn Mazza couldn’t attend, but you can see them in this photo on the HPAC website; as we reported following the last HPAC meeting, the previous officers decided not to run again — former chair Dorsol Plants is about to kick off his City Council campaign – website in the works here.) Dan’s first report as chair revolved around plans to have a brainstorming session for the community to looking into getting city matching grants for various projects – such as replanting parking strips, doing cleanup in the greenbelt, maybe a kiosk in the Highland Park Improvement Club parking lot to distribute info about HPAC, the HPIC building, and the neighborhood. He also mentioned that Habitat for Humanity is doing a build-a-thon in September and they’re looking for people to sit on a steering committee (more info to come on that). On the hottest HP topic of the past year, Becca Fong says THIS FRIDAY is the deadline for comments on the potential environmental impacts of sites proposed for a new regional misdemeanor jail – including the West Marginal Way/Highland Park Way site. More info on that at the jail-project website. Becca says any citizen concerns about air, water, soil effects will have to be followed up on by the city, so if you have them, send them. (She’s willing to answer questions about the process, email@example.com.)
We mentioned on Tuesday morning that five notable meetings were happening in West Seattle last night. Between your two co-publishers and three of the very good reporters we are able to tap on an as-assigned basis, we covered them all, including the second West Seattle meeting held as part of the regional jail-site-selection process, with one WS site (Google Street View above) now remaining in the running. Many of the same people who spoke at the first one last June (WSB coverage here) were at this one too, as was David Whelan, reporting for WSB – here’s his story:Read More
On Sunday night, we previewed the week ahead – and tonight’s the big one, with five major meetings: The “scoping meeting” for the proposed West Seattle jail site, Brockey Center at SSCC, 6:30 pm; the community meeting re: Cooper Elementary “program closure,” Cooper Library, 7 pm; Junction Neighborhood Organization meets with transit and parking updates on the agenda, Ginomai, 6:30 pm; the Fauntleroy Community Association meets at The Hall at Fauntleroy at 7 pm; also at 7, the Admiral Neighborhood Association meets at Admiral Church.