West Seattle jail-sites forum: Process slowing, concerns escalate

That’s Eddie Sherman, from the second generation of family ownership at Pacific Plumbing Supply, a regional business headquartered next to the West Marginal/Highland Park Way site that’s one of two potential West Seattle locations on the “final four” list for a public jail. Those two sites were the focus of a three-hour city-organized public forum at South Seattle Community College today. One major revelation from the city officials and consultants who were on hand: The process is slowing a bit now that Seattle is looking at teaming with north- and east-county cities on one semi-regional jail; that means the next round of hearings, on environmental impacts, won’t be till fall (there was originally talk of those hearings happening next month). The concerns expressed by jail opponents, meantime, continue to expand. Hear more of those concerns, and see what happens next, ahead:

The format of this format differed from the widely criticized format used at the last forum about these two sites, one month ago in South Park (WSB coverage here), and the turnout was a little smaller – here’s a quick overview of today’s crowd:

The official city presentation was still followed by discussion in small groups (that’s what was beginning as we shot the video you see above), but each of those groups was offered more time to present their points to the wider group. The city also put a different spokesperson up at the start of the meeting — Doug Carey had spoken both at the South Park meeting and at the first Highland Park Action Committee meeting about the jail sites in May (WSB coverage here); he was at SSCC today, but the background was provided from the podium by city policy adviser Catherine Cornwall, who also spoke to HPAC last Monday. She talked about the new partnership between Seattle and the north- and east-county cities (sound-county cities already have formed a consortium for their own jail needs):

HPAC chair Dorsol Plants said his group supports a regional solution, and would like to see the site somewhere outside Seattle; if it has to be in the city, they believe the Kent-style low-rise model that led to the choice of the current four finalist sites should be abandoned and replaced with the idea of a new high-rise:

The jail buildings on the HPAC easel, by the way, are in Sacramento, Portland, and Austria, among other places. Another person who spoke used a different visual aid that she admitted she had borrowed from the city – an easel-borne map showing all 35 sites the city started with, before narrowing the list down to four (prior to holding any public forums) – she pointed out the majority of those sites were in the city’s southern half, and protested, “We’re taxpayers (here) too!”

The same theme – fairness – emerged in the concerns expressed by Moeun Kang, who says he’s lived in the Highland Park area for 30 years:

Kang was also among those who rebuked the city for its outreach process; he said he wouldn’t have known about this event if not for flyers that community organizers put up in the neighborhood. Others wondered if the city had worked hard enough to directly reach the ethnic communities in southeast West Seattle and White Center, which seemed underrepresented at today’s meeting; translators were available but critics said that’s not enough. Meantime, several speakers voiced environmental concerns — the potential loss of yet more greenspace, particularly if the West Marginal/Highland Park Way site is chosen — among those speakers, HPAC vice chair Rory Denovan:

The city has one more public forum scheduled, Wednesday night at Seattle Center; then, as previously mentioned, the next public meetings will involve the environmental assessment of whatever sites are still under consideration once the east- and north-side cities contribute to the list, and that’s now not expected to happen before late September. A final site decision isn’t expected until at least mid-2009. You can read compilations of all the comments the city’s received so far, by going here; to send in your own comment, this is the place to start. The Highland Park Action Committee, meantime, invites all concerned residents to its next meeting, 7 pm August 25th at the Highland Park Improvement Club (12th/Holden); as Plants boomed out to the crowd at the end of the meeting, “If your city won’t represent you, your community will.”

5 Replies to "West Seattle jail-sites forum: Process slowing, concerns escalate"

  • CandrewB July 26, 2008 (5:46 pm)

    Inmates are hell on plumbing. Having the jail near him could actually benefit his business.

  • CB July 26, 2008 (7:58 pm)

    Can’t wait to get liquored up and do some high speed driving. Looks like DWI will be a thing of the past if these people have their way.

  • fiesty July 27, 2008 (12:25 pm)

    Hmmm- pretty sure where the jail is sited has little to know effect on whether or not the law will be enforced by the police. Maybe CB could use a small refresher on civics and government- I think they teach that stuff in high school or something?

  • fiesty July 27, 2008 (12:29 pm)

    And I’ll admit my grammar mistake now- I meant “no effect” not “know effect”. Still suggest CB read up a little on how governments work- since your tax dollars go towards supporting it and all . . ..

  • Susan July 29, 2008 (8:10 am)

    As always great coverage by WS Blog. Equity is, as well, always the issue. The problems with how we spend our dollars as a city and a county doesn’t just begin with where a new jail is sited.

    At the HPAC meeting last month (thank you Dow Constantine and Sharon Nelson for being there), I said that anywhere north of the ship canal worked for me. OK. I was being a tad sarcastic, but look at the original choices.

    I’m tired of hearing how money has to be saved at the expense of those least able to carry the burden of bad planning and bad decisions.

    Of course if you own stock in construction and materials, it benefits you financially to finance buildings instead of social services.

    Or does it?

    Putting money into PREVENTION benefits everyone for a long way into the future. How delightful it would be if we chose as leaders those who could see unto the 7th generation. Now, we choose people who cannot even see to the next quarter.

    There’s no vision, No long-term planning. I spent a considerable junk of my time working on neighborhood planning. It seems that in some areas of this city the citizens were used and abused in that regard. Anyone in Highland Park remember siting a jail in HP in the neighborhood plan?

    It’s outrageous that America has become a place where 1 in every 100 people is incarcerated and one in every ten African Americans.
    It begins with why people are jailed in the first place. We have poorly thought out laws mostly as near-jerk reactions to the fears people carry or we don’t bother to update our laws. For example, a $250.00 shoplifting is a felony conviction. Even little New Mexico sets the bar at $2,500.00 for a felony, but Washington State hasn’t changed this in 40 years. Yet, a violent offender who commits assault can be charged with only a simple misdemeanor. The laws are a mess. We have now passed a gang bill that will create more criminals, but will do little for prevention.

    The people in this city, county, and state need take some responsibility and choose people to speak for them that can plan better than this…and … who do not just work for big developers.

    OK…. Wednesday there’s another meeting at Seattle Center. Sure hope a lot of West Seattle people show up…and BTW just because you live in Admiral District does not mean it doesn’t impact on you as well. What hurts one group, hurts everynoe.

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