Mayor Jenny Durkan‘s visit to the Highland Park Action Committee finally happened last night – 7 months after she accepted the invitation extended by HPAC’s Gunner Scott during her February “town hall” at the Senior Center of West Seattle. We got it all on video – first, the mayor:
And in our second clip, the department heads who accompanied her, mostly to address homelessness-related issues such as the Myers Way east-side cleanup – interim Human Services Director Jason Johnson (a West Seattle resident), HSD’s Navigation Team manager Fred Podesta, as well as Seattle Parks and Recreation leadership, introduced by HPAC chair Charlie Omana:
Other top city staffers were there too, including new Department of Neighborhoods director Andrés Mantilla – a Highland Park resident – Seattle Public Utilities‘ Mami Hara, Parks interim superintendent Christopher Williams, and deputy SDOT director Elliott Helmbrecht.
If you don’t have time to watch the video and weren’t among the ~50 people at the Highland Park Improvement Club for last night’s event, here are the toplines:
She opened by talking about the budget proposal she unveiled on Monday (here’s our coverage, from attending a media briefing at the mayor’s office) and pitching for the Families/Education/Preschool/Promise Levy that’ll go to city voters in November.
Regarding homelessness, she touted her plan for hundreds of additional shelter beds and the need to close “gaps” in regional behavioral-care services. She said the city-sanctioned Camp Second Chance in southeast West Seattle “is being managed well.” And she said the Myers Way east-side cleanup had finished ahead of schedule.
Regarding police and crimefighting, she promised that she and SPD Chief Carmen Best would figure out how to “do better.”
In Q&A with the mayor, local community advocate Pete Spalding opened by mentioning how former Mayor Murray had cut ties with community groups such as neighborhood-district councils and asked Durkan about renewing a commitment to working with community groups. She declared that her presence last night was a “signal to you” that she has made that commitment, and she added that she believes in “community-based government,” that solutions come from communities. “You’ll see me back here,” she promised.
Another neighborhood advocate, Kay Kirkpatrick, brought up the Highland Park Way/Holden roundabout that neighbors have long been seeking. Is it in the city budget? Can money from other on-hold projects (such as Fauntleroy Boulevard) be diverted to it? The mayor’s answer (about 19 minutes into the video) was that “it’s clear that a roundabout is the best result” for the intersection, and that the city is planning in expectation that it’ll get a state grant to fund it – but if not, the city will find a “Plan B.” In the meantime, the mayor said they’re looking at “other ways to slow traffic down” there.
Another transportation issue brought up: Bus service to Highland Park, particularly Route 131. (While buses are managed by King County, the city has had an increasing role as it’s “bought” additional service hours on some routes, and more of that is proposed in Durkan’s new budget.)
In crime and safety, a neighbor from the 13th SW area shaken by home-invasion burglaries earlier this year said they still feel the response might have been better in a more-affluent area. “We want to feel safe in the area … and more has to be done for people to feel more trust in the Police Department.” The mayor acknowledged that she was aware of the community’s concerns and said she hopes that they are doing better now. “We know we can do better in parts of the city.” She again mentioned that her budget calls for more officers – 10 more citywide next year, 30 more the year after that, above attrition (though where they’ll be assigned isn’t clear, and the budget shows the Southwest Precinct overall staffing level not changing). Assistant Chief Adrian Diaz also addressed the concerns and mentioned safety/self-defense training to “empower” community members.
And one more question before the mayor left was from a South Delridge resident who spoke of the dozens of derelict/abandoned properties in the area, wondering why it takes so long to get them addressed. The mayor mentioned a South Park property that had been handled but invited the resident to get her more specifics so they could “work on (it).” (A p.s. on that, Councilmember Lisa Herbold‘s been working on the issue and is scheduled to talk about it at next week’s Southwest District Council meeting, 6:30 pm October 3rd at the Senior Center of West Seattle.)
We will add notes later this afternoon from the conversation with Human Services Department leaders that followed the mayor’s departure; you can watch the 30-minute video above in the meantime.