Highland Park Action Committee celebrates ‘a big turning point’

(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 …

… it was all about cheers, as the tight-knit group celebrated their success. And the theme that Drake had sounded in that speech two years ago – that Highland Park is a “fragile neighborhood” – resurfaced when Rory Denovan, then-vice chair of HPAC, spoke for a moment after accepting his certificate: “Everybody knows this neighborhood has gotten dumped on traditionally, but this, I feel is a big turning point … I think it would be wise to start thinking about alternative uses for those (formerly under consideration as a jail location) sites.”

“Grocery store!” shouted more than a few people.

Also overheard, the popping of champagne corks, as more names were read and certificates presented. Kay Kirkpatrick, Shawn and Nicole Mazza, Ken Knoke, Rebecca Chu, Becca Fong, Blair Johnson, Carolyn Stauffer, chair Mullins himself, former chair Dorsol Plants (who had to scrap plans to be at the HPAC meeting because, we’re told, the Food Bank put out an emergency call for volunteer help) …

Dina Johnson – photographer and artist/designer extraordinaire, who has contributed many photos to WSB coverage of Highland Park events and designed all of tonight’s certificates (but didn’t, she was teased, make one for herself) – is shown above (center) with Monica Cavagnero (left), another honoree, and Diane Tchakirides. And Geraldine Schwarz, also currently active West Seattle-wide with the WS Blockwatch Captains Network, talked about the intensity of the effort:

“It was on my mind, everything everyone was doing every second …for two years. What you have done is given this neighborhood a chance, it really has a chance.”

Also, the group whose 90-year-old HQ is also HPAC’s meeting place, Highland Park Improvement Club, got a collective award for partnership, accepted by president Rhonda Smith:

And WSB got a certificate too – “for their tireless determination to seek the truth and inform their readers,” it read. Below, your editor here took a break from the keyboard to pose with it:

(We are humbled by the honor, but all we did was cover the story – from the first word in early May 2008, to the final word when we sat in the front row at the County Executive’s conference room and rolled our little blue video camera as KCE Dow Constantine made the announcement this past May 13.) The jail-fight celebration concluded with a special cake:

That’s the design Dina Johnson created for the signs the group printed and put up around the area. (She also keeps the HPAC website, where this archive tells some of the story of the 2-year jail-site fight. Still in the mood to celebrate? It was suggested that revelry could continue during a dance Saturday night at HPIC, with singer Lauren Petrie, 7-10 pm, $5 admission.

PARK ARTIST: Other agenda items for HPAC last night included the group’s chance to meet David Boyer (above, with HPAC’s Kay Kirkpatrick), the Reno wind-driven-movable-sculpture artist chosen by the city to create art for the new parkland atop the West Seattle Reservoir lid. He showed photos and videos of his work, including this video of a San Diego-installed work:


Boyer explained his work “blend(s) the natural and manmade environments”; he hasn’t disclosed an official concept for the Highland Park creation yet.

FOSTER PARENTS HONORED: Chair Mullins let the group know that two Highland Park women who serve as foster parents, Amy and Jennifer Hallmon, had received an award from the organization AMARA for their service. You can read more about it here.

DELRIDGE DAY WALKING GROUP: HPAC is putting together a group to walk to the ReFRESH Southwest (Delridge Day/Sustainable West Seattle Festival), leaving from Highland Park Improvement Club by 10 am or so on festival day (June 5th) – “Bring everybody!” exhorted Nicole Mazza. They’re hoping to gather the biggest group to walk to the event – which could mean a prize. (Here’s what we published the other day about your chance to do something similar, even if you’re not in Highland Park.)

(WSB iPhone photo)
SPRAY PARK: Carolyn Stauffer, spearheading the campaign for Parks and Green Spaces Levy Opportunity Fund money to make the upcoming Highland Park wading-pool-replacing Spray Park even better, said that while the newly announced project ratings have the spray park relatively high on the list – it’s not currently marked for further study. But she gets to present it to the Levy Oversight Committee on June 14th, so all hope is not lost.

SUNDAY MARKET: HPIC president Smith mentioned the call for vendors for a new outdoor summertime market in the club HQ parking lot, but said she’d suggested that its name be Highland Park Sunday Market instead of West Seattle Sunday Market. Overall, much enthusiasm was voiced for the market concept.

HIGHLAND PARK ELEMENTARY MEMORABILIA? Margaret Young is retiring after 29 years and looking for old photos and other memorabilia, particularly from school reunions.

FIFTH-GRADE PLAY: Laura Drake said 60 fifth-graders from Highland Park Elementary will perform “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,” based on the 1972 movie, 7 pm June 4th, all welcome.

EARTHCORPS AT WESTCREST: Rory Denovan invited all to join in a special work party to remove invasives, 10 am-2 pm July 31st at the park. (More at earthcorps.org.)

The Highland Park Action Committee meets the fourth Wednesday of the month, 7 pm following an informal potluck, Highland Park Improvement Club HQ at 11th/Holden.

7 Replies to "Highland Park Action Committee celebrates 'a big turning point'"

  • Dina May 27, 2010 (8:29 am)

    Thank for this wonderful report documenting a jubilant occasion for our community, a reminder of how we became close in a sudden storm — WS Blog was there with us all the way — and why we need to continue that solidarity.

  • tr May 27, 2010 (10:04 am)

    The Stauffers are great people! I love the work everyone did. And Laura Drake deserves and Oscar – meaning that in the BEST way. Go Girl!

  • Shannon May 27, 2010 (11:32 am)

    Inspiring! Well done HPAC and supporters.

  • Heather Stauffer Owens May 27, 2010 (7:50 pm)

    I am Billy Stauffer’s sister. Billy sent me this link and asked me to listen to Laura Drake’s passionate speech opposing the building of a jail in Highland Park. I am truly impressed! Laura’s passionate words gave me goose bumps! Great job Laura! And, congrats to all the residents!

  • Dorsol Plants May 27, 2010 (10:25 pm)

    I’m really sorry that I missed it.

    The whole experience was so inspiring to watch this community and communities across the city to come together on this. This just wouldn’t have been possible without everyone who pitched in.

  • Miranda Taylor May 28, 2010 (7:15 am)

    Thank you for capturing and presenting Laura Drake’s speech again. Priceless. I hope everyone who sees it retains the sanity in her outrage. She is another teacher I am proud to have in the Seattle School District. In the future I would like her example to catapult other speeches defending youth and all of us, our country from the insanity of nuclear power, ignorance and greed that results in oil spills, the production of toxic personal products, cell phones doubling our risk of glioma, corporate criminals who walk streets, U.S. food producers who poison their workers and our nation’s food supply with fertilizers containing “non-active” heavy metals such as lead, arsenic, beryllium, cadmium, uranium, (Fateful Harvest, Duff Wilson), [remember, blood lead levels are linked with increased criminal activity, heavy metals with disabilities and cancers], our WA-plus State congressmen who legally protect them for political support, and the medical-military-industrial complex running our country’s sick care. Thank you for your service to our local community and to the generations who will continue your example locally or take it nationally and globally. Thanks for inspiring our citizens to speak out!

  • diane tchakirides May 28, 2010 (1:56 pm)

    I feel fortunate to live in a neighborhood where people get involved and get to know their neighbors. We have had many people step up and get active which is making us a wonderful community. Thank you all.

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