That’s a video look at the crowd — about 100 people — from tonight’s Highland Park meeting, where neighbors gathered to further strategize opposition to two nearby sites on the city’s list of four potential locations for a new jail — the ones shown in these city aerials:
The crowd got support from King County Councilmember Dow Constantine and State Rep. Sharon Nelson, both of whom had said previously they’re opposing the sites. Constantine also unveiled a proposal that he thinks could render the city’s search a moot point — more on that, including clips from his energetic speech and Nelson’s remarks — ahead:
Constantine fired up the crowd by saying they had the right to fight:
On a less emotional note, he said he’s proposing a plan to extend the cities’ contract with the county till 2014 so a “regional solution” can be found to the jail-space issue, rather than cities potentially “going it alone” the way Seattle is thinking about doing here.
The county is involved because its jail-space crunch is what’s led to this situation — within a few years, King County expects to run out of room to keep housing misdemeanor offenders from its cities, so it’s told them they have to work something out themselves. The city of Seattle is talking with other potential partners, but also preparing for the possibility it will have to build its own municipal jail. If that does happen, Nelson said, this isn’t the place to put it:
Nelson reminded the crowd that her background is in community activism — in particular, she has been fighting a gravel operation on Maury Island (where she lives) for more than a decade. From her experience, she offered tips, including approaching leaders with personalized pleas, not just form e-mails, and also gaining expertise in the minute details of the process, so that no opportunity for input is missed, and no potential conflict goes undetected.
The meeting wasn’t just about speeches. The group had to conduct some practical business too. As with the last one two weeks ago (WSB coverage here), it was led by Blair Johnson, who noted he was serving temporarily as he is the immediate past chair of the Highland Park Action Committee.
Officers were elected tonight — chair Dorsol Plants, vice chair Rory Denovan, secretary Ken Knoke, treasurer Betsy Harris. Volunteer coordinators for activism/advocacy on the jail-sites issue are Geraldine Schwarz and Rebecca Chu.
The group detailed its concerns about the jail sites to develop a cohesive message for their campaigning — not just fear about whether a jail in eastern West Seattle would be too close to their neighborhoods, but also environmental and safety concerns, including earthquake worries.
The meeting broke up into committee around quarter past 8; they did not report back to a committee of the whole, but the HPAC website’s jail-issue section will continue to post updates on their plans (see it here).
The Highland Park group plans to meet again June 23; before then, the 34th District Democrats plan to discuss the jail-sites issue at their next meeting June 11th.
And all the while, the city is expected to go public soon with its plan for a slate of public meetings on the proposed jail sites, which also include locations in Interbay and along Aurora. We checked earlier today with spokesperson Cynthia Scheiderer, who tells WSB: “We have been working on venues for the public forums and as soon as we have the venues secured, we’ll be able to announce dates and locations. We are still on track to hold the meetings end of June and into July.”
She also noted that no city rep was going to tonight’s Highland Park meeting (she and another staffer attended the one two weeks ago) because none had been invited, though they are available to attend any community meetings in which they’re asked to participate.
The city has a section of its website dedicated to the jail project; find it here; find its feedback form here. Contact info for local officials is included on the comprehensive HPAC page about the jail issue.