By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
The organization that operates the Senior Center of West Seattle is protesting being passed over for major ongoing funding from the King County Veterans, Seniors and Human Services Levy.
County Executive Dow Constantine‘s office announced the funding earlier this week. The list is highlighted by ongoing funding for 14 proposals, from $885,000 for a senior center in Enumclaw to $1.9 million for four agencies in Seattle to serve Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. (The application guidelines, the announcement explains, “encouraged regional senior centers and other community groups to form collaborations or ‘hubs’ to better reach specific demographics, or serve a defined geographic area or cultural group.”)
While that major funding will be over the course of the six-year levy, at the bottom of the announced list are 13 agencies/facilities getting one-time-only grants of $90,000 each. That’s where you’ll find the Senior Center of West Seattle – which describes itself as the largest senior center in the city, serving more than 4,500 people a year.
SCWS is operated by Sound Generations, whose chief operating officer Joanne Donohue sent us this message after the funding announcement:
King County government made us proud when they responded to a need that was created by a United Way funding cut. For about 50 years, United Way supported older adults in King County, but in 2016 they changed their priorities and eliminated funding for older adults and people with disabilities, which resulted in the local senior center losing vital funding. King County was getting ready to renew the Veterans and Human Services Levy, so Dow Constantine, the King County Council and staff who worked for King County decided to ask the voters to support adding an S to the levy. The S was for “Seniors”. This would more than double the levy and it would also help us address our homelessness problem, so it was a brave move by the elected officials to do this.
On Friday my organization learned that King County was not going to provide ongoing funding through the levy for the West Seattle Senior Center. I think most people in West Seattle would agree that the senior center is the focal point for serving older adults and probably most people in West Seattle voted for the levy and are now paying for it through their taxes.
Do you see West Seattle Senior Center on the list? Possibly at the very bottom – a footnote you see something about them receiving one time funding. So what happens after the one time funding? Bake sales? If this makes you not so proud of your local government, then you might want to let Dow Constantine and Joe McDermott know.
We asked some followup questions both of Donohue and of the King County department overseeing the process.
She said they applied for funding – which as the list shows was granted for “hubs” – by positioning the West Seattle, Ballard, and Shoreline/Lake Forest Park centers as a “hub” serving the west side of the metro area. All three were passed over for the major funding, Donohue says, noting, “West Seattle and Ballard NW Senior Center are the only senior centers in Seattle that didn’t receive funding. Together they serve more people than most that did receive funding added together.”
Leon Richardson, acting director of the Adult Services Division of the King County Department of Community and Human Services, spoke with WSB by phone this morning to answer our questions about the process. He says it was “very competitive,” with 22 applications representing 41 senior centers. The funding decisions weren’t made by bureaucrats, he stressed, but by a 15-member “panel” of people “representative of the community at large (with) subject-matter experts from across the field.” (We’ve asked for more details on the panel.) The “hub” proposal including West Seattle, he said, “didn’t rise above the other ones,” but he couldn’t get any more specific.
This was the only funding round of its kind for this levy, Richardson said, but there will be other “procurements” over the course of the levy (which was approved in 2017 and runs for six years). This process was preceded by a different round of smaller one-time grants, for example, including an $84,000 grant received by SCWS earlier this year.
Meantime, Donohue says Sound Generations has sent a letter of protest and is also planning to contact Executive Constantine and Councilmember McDermott (both West Seattle residents).