West Seattle Blog… | Mayor Bruce Harrell, beginning his sixth month in office, speaks to the District 1 Community Network

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By Tracy Record
Editor of the West Seattle Blog

Whatever’s troubling you, Mayor Bruce Harell wants you to know he’s working on it – or has just hired or is in the process of hiring someone who will.

That was the theme of his first guest appearance, where he answered questions from the audience District 1 community network during his monthly online session tonight.

MAYOR HARRELL: This was the mayor’s first appearance at a public meeting of a community group in West Seattle. He opened up by saying he’s trying to be “transparent about what we’re trying to do,” and “with kindness, with dates… we don’t mince words… we work seven days a week.” D1CN has upfront Questions prepared to start with. First he was asked about the district councils, which were supported by the city until two mayors ago. (D1CN is a hybrid successor to what the southwest and Delridge Neighborhood District Councils for West and East-West Seattle.) Harrell he said rented Gregor Wong how Neighborhood Office director to determine “what works best in neighborhoods?” He hopes to have “a strong recommendation on what the new neighborhood network should look like” “perhaps by the end of the summer.” He asked the neighborhood for their opinion.

Regarding public safety/homelessness, he was asked “which part of Operation New Day would apply to District 1?” The mayor said his criteria apply to both situations — he’s trying to “hit (people) with the dates,” ergo his newly introduced homeless data dashboard. He says he is aware of the challenges. After opening up the data, he says the next step is to talk to police and homelessness advocates. D1CN Moderator Cindi Baerker pointed out that the dashboard undercounts the West Seattle warehouse; this information needs to get to the deputy mayor TiffanyWashington.

What is being done to increase staff again? Southwest District? Harrell fired back with a question: “In the first six months, have you ever had mayors come to your groups?” He said he’s asking because “the narrative has changed in terms of public safety … I have a demoralized one.” Police department inherited with low numbers, a lack of police officer recruitment systems… I don’t condone a racist, militarized approach to the police, I just want everyone to be safe.” He said people want quick answers. In “two or three weeks, we’ll be releasing what I call a public safety plan” that will cover recruiting strategies, goals and more. He said he’s stuck on the books because of the laws and asking permission from the council for so many things. So he asks for patience. He mentioned the term ‘hot spot policing’, acknowledging that it’s a controversial term for some, but he says it’s a fact that some people and areas repeatedly pose problems. He says he feels good that he can bring the SPD back to 1,300 to 1,400 officers by the end of his term.

It also talks about “the hand that (he) was dealt”. He brought up today’s news that millions of dollars worth of parking tickets had to be refunded due to a “defunding-era” knock-on effect.

Next to affordable housing and the lack of HALA MHA-financed Housing construction in D-1. He said he was “not at all happy” with how the MHA program is working, even though it “generates a lot of money.” It’s being evaluated right now – how much money it’s generating, where that money is going – with its recent setting of Maiko Winkler-Chin as head of the housing office. Overall, he is concerned with how faster affordable housing can be built.

Then a question about parks/grounds and open spaces – how will he invest in what the city has? He noted today’s announcement that a new community center is out of reach for Green Lake. He noted that the park’s superintendent position remains open. That Southwest Teen Life Center/PoolThe aging mentioned in the question is “on (his) radar.” He said he would speak to the councilman Lisa Herbold about what should be prioritized.

What about transparency and accountability in general, as that was a cornerstone of his campaign? He noted that the Durkan administration funded “$30 million to $50 million” to community organizations working on public safety alternatives and has met with dozens of these groups to find out where the money went and go.

Regarding the West Seattle Bridge – How will he keep tabs on traffic issues once it reopens? Harrell noticed that Ministry of Transport Director’s position is also open. He is looking for a “determined leader with a sense of urgency to find the balance between infrastructure, bike safety, speed deceleration, cost containment on capital projects…someone who really knows how to read financial statements and is good with numbers.” He wanted also rest assured that his team will be recognized for “breaking the deadlock” on the concrete lag that hampered some of the bridge work for a while.

The mayor’s assistants said “one more question” at this point. So he was asked about land use—promises about Highland Park’s planning, the status of the White Center annexation, South Park’s economic development efforts. Harrell said he needed more history about Highland Park’s planning promises. As for South Park, he needs more background on those promises. The white center part of the question remained unanswered.

Mayor Harrell promised to return. (He also plans to speak to another local group later this month – the West Seattle Transportation Coalitionon June 23.)

Also at the meeting:

REDISTRIBUTION: Katie Stultz represented the Redistribution of justice for all Commission. She said her main concern is to encourage people to get involved in drawing new city-council-district lines. Here are their priorities:

This is the first time that new districts have been drawn since the 2015 constitutional amendment that introduced district elections. The timeline continues to play out over the coming months, with new cards being accepted through the end of the year. She showed draft maps her group is working on, but stressed that none of them have been officially endorsed so far. D-1 needs to add territory so the question is where – for example add the ID and SODO? “How far north do you want D-1 to go?” Stultz asked. She recommended that when people give opinions on it Redistribution Commissionthey become very specific, even down to street names. Here is the city’s website with information how you can get involved in the process.

POLICE UPDATE: Southwest District Commander Capt. Martin Rivera said the Alki focus will start this weekend… They will also focus on hotspots in other parts of the city. Crime hasn’t changed dramatically over the past month; In cases of gunfire, they track the casings and find multiple incidents involving the same guns. He said 2nd/Michigan, 15th/Barton are camps “that need some action,” as does Andover — and he says there will be more than you’ve seen before.

ANNOUNCEMENTS: Downscaling reminder Morgan Junction Community Festival on Saturday, June 18, with bubble man at 11 am and musicians Gary Benson later … ArtsWest starts his next game “Miko” in two weeks … This year’s date is August 6th Duwamish River Festivalin the new public park on the river … Highland Park Improvement Club will kick. off fundraising for its new building with a 2-7pm festival Saturday, June 25 at Riverview pitch, the first anniversary of the fire that burned out HPIC’s building. Three live bands, a beer garden and more will be featured… A pop-up chamber music concert will be held at High Point on June 30th at 11am, with a portable stage on top of a truck in the parking lot between Bridge Park and Elizabeth House… A Fauntleroy Autumn Festival The fundraiser is scheduled for next Tuesday night at Endolyne Joe’s (9261 45th SW). So if you eat there that night you will give the festival a boost.

NEXT MEETING: D1CN meets online every first Wednesday at 7pm, so the next meeting will be on July 6th.

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