Following up on Tuesday’s “town hall” meetings (WSB coverage here) for community comment on whether the Senior Center of West Seattle should go independent or be absorbed into the citywide nonprofit Senior Services – we went to last night’s meeting of the SCWS board, which will ultimately make the choice. Toplines ahead:
We counted about a dozen in attendance; having not covered the center board previously, we don’t know if that’s more or fewer than usual. (Board members, by the way, are listed on the SCWS website here.)
Discussion of the Tuesday meetings began early. Lucinda Getz, who had come forward to organize yesterday’s “Should We Stay or Should We Go?” meetings, spoke first as she had to leave early. Asked about Getz’s background, board president David Robertson said she’s worked with seniors for more than a decade and came forward, met with the board, and volunteered to organize the town halls.
Getz said she had several takeways from the meetings, starting with her primary observation, that no one had talked about the risks involved with either decision, staying or going. She gave several examples from both
sides, first about the loss of funds from Senior Services if independence is chosen, then the loss of trust from the membership and the West Seattle community if the center becomes an SS program. Her largest point was that people in the community have the experience and drive to make something happen and are willing to help, so is the board willing to cast aside that support if they choose to let SS run everything?
Getz also said it’s still very unclear where the root of the problem lies – why this discussion is happening in the first place, what problem is it supposed to be solving.
Some have brought up the Central Area Senior Center’s problems with independence. Getz noted that it had nowhere near the membership or coverage area of the West Seattle center. And regarding funding, she noted that if the WS center does indeed have $200,000 in the bank, what kind of incentive would Senior Services have to seek more money for WS, vs. their other centers?
Bottom line, she said, she and the community need a lot of help understanding what’s at the heart of this potential change.
Later in the meeting, during the public-comment period, one attendee said she would like to hear each West Seattle board member to state publicly, somewhere, their position on staying or going, for transparency.
Some attendees echoed what one person had said in Tuesday’s first meeting, that they don’t trust Senior Services. One said he hadn’t gleaned much from the meeting about what SS really does for the West Seattle center, so he favors independence.
From the board’s side, president Robertson said he would pursue the suggestion made Tuesday, that a board member should be elected from among the general membership. He also said he would follow up on the idea of a regular board Q/A with members.
Board member Patricia Throop said it was clear the board needs to be more open about what it does, and that its sessions should be publicized any and every way available.
No action was taken on this issue, and none expected; it was explained Tuesday that for now, the board has decided to stay with SS while that agency spends a year (or more) exploring how to go about converting centers to programs and comes up with an official plan.
WHAT’S NEXT? The board will not meet in December, it was announced last night, so its next meeting is the second Wednesday in January – January 14th, 5:30 pm.
SIDE NOTE: If you’re not that familiar with what the center does – check out its November/December newsletter, online.