By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
The fall neighborhood-meeting season kicked off with the September session of what’s now the Westwood-Roxhill-Arbor Heights Community Coalition.
Kim Barnes and Jenny Rose Ryan are interim co-chairs of WWRHAH; Barnes led Tuesday night’s meeting at Southwest Library.
At the heart of this meeting was a “focus group”-style conversation about crime/safety issues in the area, to be sure its micro-community policing plan is up to date:
Puao Savusa, current research analyst for the Southwest Precinct, explained the micro-community policing plan concept, before asking those present for their thoughts on crime and safety. She listened and took notes as participants answered her questions. Concerns voiced during the discussion included:
-Squatters in abandoned buildings, with theft, drugs, vandalism, and arson often resulting
-Crime in parks such as Westcrest (with a mention of the deadly stabbing earlier that day) and Roxhill, though one attendee said he’s seen some improvement
Asked what public-safety improvements people would like to see, replies included:
-Better coordination between Seattle Police and the King County Sheriff’s Office, since the city-county boundary is so close
-More bicycle-squad presence in the area – “they make a difference between it keeps (the people) looking for trouble on their feet”
-Maximum police visibility – one attendee mentioned that the dark-blue vehicles are harder to see than their lighter predecessors
-City attorney’s precinct liaison – there’s a new person in this position and it would be great to have them work with this group
-Have more flexibility in dealing with vacant houses, to keep out squatters and trespassers
Next question: What has your experience been dealing with SPD?
-The community-police team program has been a success; it’s underfunded and overextended and needs more support. Officers on the CPT do a great job and then get promoted/transferred out of that role. “Elevate the status so becoming one can be a goal” was one suggestion.
-Officers need to be supported by increasing drug-abuse and mental-health resources, so those problems don’t take up so much of SPD’s time
-“The non-emergency number needs to be expanded” so you don’t sit on hold for so long while calling it, and so that the call-takers don’t sound so annoyed when you finally reach them
-Police and the rest of the city need to be “more proactive” in getting people off the street and whatever resources they need
-More real-time online, open-to-all information from police would be helpful
Savusa will be putting together a draft from the discussion – this is one of 12 neighborhoods with whom she’s speaking – before the department circulates its next Public Safety Survey in October.
Also at the WWRHAH meeting:
PAT MURAKAMI: The City Council Position 9 candidate, introduced herself, saying she’s “concerned about the direction my city is taking” – she thinks residents “aren’t being listened to” and that not enough attention is being paid to issues such as public safety. She’s also concerned about preparedness – with hurricanes the latest reminder. And she says she wants to see more police officers – not for “punitive” reasons but also to serve as mentors for local youth. Economic disparity is the biggest issue she sees in the city right now, and fixing the tax system, she believes, can make progress toward fixing that.
in Q&A, she was asked about the mayor’s severing of ties with neighborhood-district councils. “I think the whole system should be reinstated,” she said, but she also voiced caution about some of the groups featuring representatives of organizations getting city funding. “The system even before being disbanded was being manipulated in some districts.” The attendee who asked about it said he felt the mayor “threw the baby out with the bath water … the neighbors had been asking for help for a long time to diversify (participation and representation)… (and instead got) a slap in the face.” Murakami said that “using a lack of diversity as an excuse” for cutting ties to the councils “was a red herring.”
Barnes noted that as an urban village, the Westwood-Highland Park area “is slated for …upzoning” (in HALA), and while the city promised to “hear the individual needs of each village … it seems like that wasn’t applied,” plus there have been rumors about the legality of the Mandatory Housing Affordability component. She wondered about Murakami’s thoughts. The candidate’s reply: “I think the legislation was written by and for developers (and) needs to be completely revised.”
Barnes wondered if Murakami would be joining the council – if elected – in time to have an effect on HALA. She said she would be there in time for the vote in 2018 but expected she might be the only “no” vote. “It’s going to be a hard fight … but I’m willing to fight.” She said she had “stood up to (then-Mayor Greg) Nickels in 2008” in southeast Seattle, when, she said he tried to declare the area “blighted.”
Responding to another question, she said she intended to be “fiscally responsible” and noted that she has an MBA and is a small-business owner. Wide-ranging discussion followed from there, including getting city employees out of their offices and onto the streets to see firsthand what’s going on. Murakami, whose community involvement includes serving as president of the South Precinct Crime Prevention Council, noted that she has qualified for Democracy Vouchers, so people who haven’t committed theirs can consider supporting her. She is one of two candidates for Council Position 9 on the November ballot, along with incumbent Councilmember Lorena González.
ROXHILL BOG – Barnes and Rory Denovan will meet with reps from Seattle Public Utilities and Councilmember Lisa Herbold‘s staff, along with steward Scott Blackstock and others, to try to move the bog issue forward. As Denovan summarized it, “The wetlands are no longer wet” – because SPU didn’t properly deal with a “hydrologic issue,” and that means that the carbon in the peat will go into the atmosphere, plus, the peat is eroding underground – one bridge already is closed off. As a wetland, it should be holding water, and preventing downstream flooding along Longfellow Creek – Denovan brought back the memories of that flooding 10 years ago – after the meeting they hope to write a grant proposal, but “we need the full cooperation of city Parks and Public Utilities.”
CHIEF SEALTH WALKWAY IMPROVEMENTS – WWRHAH attendees are not happy about seeing the project halved on speculation of upcoming development; community members have spent a lot of time volunteering in the area. A neighbor said the sidewalk “was promised” and they want to see it happen. A fight is promised (including Eric Iwamoto, who was the original proposer of the idea that the city agreed to fund and build).
QUICK MENTIONS: The Westwood transit-hub sidewalk/lighting work is happening … The Roxbury sidewalk project is done … No community engagement so far for the forthcoming Metro RapidRide H Line; Barnes will contact the project manager to request a meeting … City Councilmember Lisa Herbold will be at the Delridge Neighborhoods District Council meeting for Q&A in November. (The night after this meeting, she was at the Southwest District Council – here’s our coverage.) … Final Environmental Impact Statement for HALA is awaited (two days after the meeting, the city said it’s expected to be out before month’s end) … The WWRHAH website is being revitalized, with an eye toward making it an informational resource. … The Delridge Triangle was a Your Voice/Your Choice winner, though now the challenge is to make sure that the community’s goals are the same as the city’s goals.
NEXT WWRHAH MEETING: Tuesday, October 3rd, 6:15 pm, Southwest Library (9010 35th SW).