Interview with the mayor, report #2: Alki civility – enforceable?

We’re continuing to roll out chunks of our Saturday morning interview with Mayor Nickels, who’s doing the media rounds as he prepares to officially file his re-election campaign papers this Monday. To recap: We had about 25 minutes with him at Admiral Starbucks (they chose the spot, we chose the outdoor table); we asked WSBers (also via Facebook and Twitter) for question suggestions, and got MANY more than we could ask in that short time. The clip above is his answer to a question we asked as a followup to the recent Alki Community Council meeting following the May 1st Alki shooting – some in attendance (and, later, in WSB comments) voiced more concern about getting harassed at the beach, than about the threat of violent crime. Police in attendance noted there’s no law against, for example, standing around and saying something “vile.” So is there anything that can be done? we asked the mayor; reply above. Yet more from the interview to come (and we will be adding soundbite transcripts shortly to this story, and our 1st one – about the park trash-can issue – see that here). P.S. Ken, whose post-ACC comment we linked above, is the person who started the Alki Neighborhood Watch Facebook group – if you haven’t joined yet and you’re interested, find it here.

14 Replies to "Interview with the mayor, report #2: Alki civility - enforceable?"

  • rockyraccoon May 31, 2009 (3:52 am)

    Somehow I feel less than encouraged by that response. How, exactly, does he plan to set the tone of expected conduct with the gang bangers?

    I think this is a problem that must be solved by citizens, not government. Large groups of concerned citizens need to surround the trouble makers and make it uncomfortable for them to hang out in the area.

  • WSB May 31, 2009 (4:08 am)

    We’ll be following up. I wanted to squeeze more questions into the brief audience so I didn’t pursue immediate followups but this one will be simple enough to check on from time to time, among others … Re: citizens, if you have FB access, do check out Ken’s group, as he was working to set a meeting time/place last time I checked – TR

  • J May 31, 2009 (12:38 pm)

    Like it was said at the meeting, it is not illegal to say rude or vile things unless it becomes a threat. Please do not start to suggest that the police should be enforcing a “profanity and rude talk free zone”…

    Just admit that it is what appears in your eyes as “gang members” that you are scared of. They can be perfectly quiet and enjoying a sunny day at the beach, but you would rather not have them there…

    I guess that public areas both are a blessing and a curse. In America, you take the good with the bad and you have to deal with your own prejudice.

  • Michael May 31, 2009 (5:05 pm)

    I for one look forward to seeing random excitable internet people’s concerns continue to be addressed by the Mayor.
    As someone who spends a lot of time on Alki, I see no more a “gangbanger” problem there than there’s ever been on summer days, i.e., most of who you think are “gangbangers” are kids who don’t pull their pants up and have nothing better to do than hang out where the entertainment is free.

  • WSB May 31, 2009 (6:03 pm)

    No such thing as an “internet person.” Like it or not, the internet is woven through real life now and it’s increasingly foolish to try to characterize online discussion as somehow less valuable or meaningful. And yes, for all the causticity you can find online, you can find it in person too – prime example, the first two city-organized public meetings on California Place Park.
    Also note, I asked the mayor this question not only because the concern was voiced online but because I heard it from people face-to-face with police at the last ACC meeting – at least one of whom followed it up in writing on this site – but did take the time to show up and bring it to SPD SWP leadership as we had exhorted here.
    Now, as for whether the people hanging out on Alki are gang members or not, who knows. Only fact we have to deal with at this point is the fact we’ve had one shooting so far this season and both the victim and suspect were already known to police as gang members. That was May 1st; 30 days have passed – including many similarly warm clear afternoons/evenings – with nothing even remotely that serious, so here’s hoping it truly was an anomaly – TR

  • Tom May 31, 2009 (6:35 pm)

    When I was living in Connecticut for a short time, the most surprising difference I found was that only residences of each city were permitted to use the park in that area. Each city issued parking tabs that had to be displayed in order to park within 3 miles of the cities park. The tabs were not free, but were reasonable for the amenities of the park, which also helped make the parks cleaner and reduced the taxes required to fund the parks. I’m not suggesting that this exclusionist behavior is a good idea, but when a gang member from Kent fires shots in a Seattle park, you have to wonder if he would have made the trip if he had to park more than 3 miles from the park.

  • Jill Loblaw May 31, 2009 (9:28 pm)

    After having taken classes at the Alki Bathhouse in the peaceful fall and winter of last year, it is a sad day that I have to decide whether I want to sign up for a summer class at the Bathhouse for fear of getting in the middle of a violent exchange between gang members or other rowdies. Where do their rights stop and mine begin? I would advocate more police patrols, whether on foot or bicycle. They would get to know the people who visit Alki and possibly ward off those who want to make trouble.

  • Lalka May 31, 2009 (9:50 pm)

    Do you think if they installed parking meters in the Alki area Alki that would deter more violence-prone folks to avoid Alki? Or if you had to have a ZONE XYZ parking permit?

  • Jill Loblaw June 1, 2009 (9:01 am)

    Lalka, you have a great idea. That might be the best one of all. It in no way pinpoints any one group. It enables everyone to enjoy the beach and everyone gets a chance to have access not only to the beach but local businesses as well. It won’t let people “camp” out at the beach all day long.

    Also, the businesses may start losing money because folks are afraid to go down there which might motivate them into some sort of action as well.

  • Ken Allen June 1, 2009 (11:04 am)

    TR, thanks again for plugging the watch group we are still waiting to hear back from a couple locations on the first meeting. I will keep you in the know.

    To no surprise there is some debate about the issues on Alki. Through talking to the Mayors office, SPD, and the Assistant Prosecutor. In no way does any sane person want to get rid of beach goers based on what they wear or the color of their skin. That is a ridiculous notion not to mention illegal. The reason I moved to Alki is the diverse crowd that frequents the beach and I’m not alone. What is not OK is when anyone on that beach harasses someone else and infringes on their rights to be there. Is it OK to say to a girl running by “Hey, baby nice pants, they would look better around your ankles and bent over my car”? I think anyone who has a mom, sister, wife, daughter, or brain would say this is something that needs to end. BTW, that is illegal, and it is not an isolated event on “Bad Days” at Alki. If you do not see this as a problem you are part of the problem.

    “Bad Days”, 98% of the time if not more, Alki is a great family place to hang out. BUT… on random days in the spring and summer there is an invasion of the beach by thugs!!! It has nothing to do with the way they look either, it is how they act. It is on these days that you see the issues with harassment and trouble going on everywhere. It is a planned event, through word of mouth, text, email, who knows but it is definitely planned. These are the days that I have a problem with. It is not up for debate, there is a gang presence on these days. You are simply uninformed if think this is not the case. Call the SPD and talk to our CPT officer or the Gang Unit and they will give you the facts.

    The good news is there are things that can and are being done. There are laws that can be enforced to stop these issues from spreading. To begin the SPD is making a huge effort to be seen and make a difference on Alki. This is a great deterrent if you plan to break the law, or already have a warrant out on you. The SPD has added horse mounted, bike, parking, and extra mobile officers to patrol the beach. They have also sent a clear message by dispatching helicopters for recent calls, maybe overkill but a bold statement that is embraced by me. Another huge deterrent is ticketing, cruising, littering, illegal burn, and seat belt violations to name a few. These are all things that other cities have done with success and I would like to see this happen on a much larger scale here. The changes are welcomed and I am extremely happy with the recent response to the communities request for something to be done.

    Finally to “J”, does freedom of speech encompass profanity? You bet your ass it does, but that freedom requires a profound understanding of the responsibility every freedom carries with it. If we, and our children, fail to grasp this concept we, and they, have only shortened our own road to legal enslavement. “J” needs to understand that the rights of one can not infringe on the rights of others. Furthermore don’t hide behind the argument that I am racist because I don’t want some jerk yelling profanities in the ears of my 6 year old daughter, or the verbal sexual assault on my wife as she is out for a run. I don’t care what you wear or what color your skin is when it comes to the well being of my family. BTW, not everyone is afraid and there are a few of us who have said enough is enough. I have put myself out there to make a difference what have you done “J”?

  • alki_2008 June 1, 2009 (2:18 pm)

    I agree with Ken…it’s the “behavior” of the ‘troublemakers’ that makes them undesirable folks to have at the beach.
    There are plenty of people at the beach that dress in baggy, hip-hop type clothing…but they don’t harass passersby or blare loud music from their cars, so I don’t have a problem with them being there.
    There are also people at the beach that look like clean-cut folks, but they say vulgar things and are obnoxiously rude to people that pass by them while trying to enjoy a walk on the boardwalk. I don’t appreciate these ‘clean-cut’ folks with vulgar behavior to hang out at the beach.
    It’s the behavior and actions of ‘troublemakers’ that prevents people (residents and visitors alike) from enjoying the beach.

  • alki_2008 June 1, 2009 (2:47 pm)

    Ken, are you trying to keep non-residents out of Alki…or just the “undesirable” non-residents? Alki Beach is a destination, and the businesses are here because visitors (non-residents) come to Alki Beach. I don’t think the restaurants and shops would be here if residents were the only ones patronizing them…and I don’t want the restaurants to go away.
    Is the neighborhood watch group at all coordinating with the ACC? It would be great to have some interplay between the two groups…to get people interested in the neighborhood watch spill over into interest in the ACC. Maybe the neighborhood watch could be part of the ACC, and then there would be “new blood” to take leadership roles in the ACC. Sounds like the current ACC crew needs an exit strategy?
    The police presence is great, and I’ve noticed that there are some “stealth” police cars. So, just because you don’t SEE the police doesn’t necessarily mean they aren’t around.

  • Ken Allen June 1, 2009 (5:19 pm)

    Alki_2008, my only motivation for starting this group is to do my part in making a safer neighborhood. I will also say I am not trying to keep anyone away from Alki. I apologize if this is what you have taken from my posts, I think if you reread them you will see I have no intentions of excluding anyone. I want to very clear when I say this, “I want everyone to come here, BUT when you are here you better behave and show respect to the people around you” this goes for residents or non-residents. Alki is a public park and should be treated as such.

    I did go to the past ACC meeting but this group is not in any way affiliated with the ACC. I do not know what the future of The Alki Neighborhood Watch being affiliated with anyone. My goal is to create a forum and some sort of education on what we can do as a community to stop undesirable behavior from happening.

    I am fully aware of the Police presence and it’s stealth capabilities and I have never put that in question. I have spoken in depth with the SPD as to what there plan is to increase patrols on Alki. I will say since the community has gotten behind this movement there has been a major difference and I applaud the SPD for listening to us.

  • J June 4, 2009 (8:48 pm)

    Ken – First, let me apologize for insinuating that there are racist motivations behind statements you have made. The comment was more geared to those who do judge others by the clothes they wear, music they listen to or the color of their skin. I agree that gangs are are dangerous and pose a hazard to law abiding citizens, but how do you determine who is a gang member and who is not? Until someone is actually doing something illegal, you cannot prevent them from entering a public space. It is not like there are union badges for the crips. Profanity in public is absolutely protected free speech that has been repeatedly upheld by the Supreme Court. Profanity is subjective, what is profane to some is not to others. I understand that parents want to protect their children from hearing rude and obnoxious statements, but we cannot protect ourselves from everything. God forbid that we should live in a country that decides for me what is profane and what is not. With something as subjective as speech, where do you draw the line? With what I consider profane, or what you consider profane? Besides, a child hearing rude things in public provides a teaching moment to parents, not permanent damage to the children.

Sorry, comment time is over.