Urban Politics #18: Good Shepherd Center (Gsc) Leased For 77 Years


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By City Councilmember Nick Licata.

Urban Politics (UP) blends my insights and information on current public policy developments and personal experiences with the intent of helping citizens shape Seattle’s future.

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CONTENTS:

  • Good Shepherd Center (Gsc) Leased For 77 Years
  • Westlake Park Pedestrian Improvements?
  • Lobbying Ordinance Still A Problem

Good Shepherd Center (Gsc) Leased For 77 Years

Ted Jonsson, Vice Pres. of the Wallingford Senior Center and it’s representative on the GSC Advisory Board, discovered last month that the City Council, without a public hearing, had passed an ordinance last June extending Historic Seattle’s lease over the center’s grounds for another 77 years.

Subsequently, representatives from both the Senior Center and the Wallingford Community Council have succeeded in getting the 43rd District Democrats and the Seattle Community Council Federation (SCCF) to pass a resolution asking the Council to withhold the lease until a public hearing can be held. Jorgen Bader, SCCF President, has written, “No notice whatever was sent to the Senior Center and none was posted on the premises…” The original conveyance of GSC to Historic Seattle, requires the public be given notice and a reasonable opportunity for comment before change of use occurs. The extended lease was a result of introducing 6 low income housing units into the center.

The center was acquired by Historic Seattle to be maintained as a playground and a self-sustaining multipurpose center. Housing was not included and was only added with last June’s ordinance. The groups do not necessarily oppose the low- income house. In fact Jonsson supported them because they were originally intended to simply recognize the live-in artist spaces already there.

There are only two of the original community tenants left in the building. Helen Wilson, President of one of the original tenants, the Wallingford Community Senior Center, says their center pays the highest rent in the city for a senior center located in a city facility. Historic Seattle also rents out public space at market rates, not giving any cost breaks to community groups.

Both the Community Council and the Senior Center feel that Historic Seattle is using GSC as a cash cow and not properly maintaining the building. According to them the roof leaks and the building is a fire hazard. They would like to see the net revenue that the facility generates plowed back into building’s upkeep and the current rents subsidized for local community groups so that GSC becomes more of a functioning community center. Contact Sue Donaldson, (sue.donaldson@seattle.gov; phone: 684-8806) City Council Park Committee Chair, to express your concerns.

Westlake Park Pedestrian Improvements?

Peter Steinbrueck, of the former group Friends of Westlake Park and past member of the Pine Street Advisory Task Force, testified before City Council (3/25) that the $ 1 mill. HUD Special Grant did not go for pedestrian improvements as the voters had been led to believe when they voted to re-open Pine St. for vehicles in ’95. The voters pamphlet specifically said that the HUD money would be used “…to enhance Pine Street’s pedestrian potential and to enhance Westlake Plaza as a central civic gathering place.” Instead, the funds were spent repaving the road and moving its curbs to narrow traffic flow.

The Task Force had been told that the City would not have any additional funds beyond the HUD money to go towards park improvements. Turns out that after the Downtown Seattle Association pushed for a separate management scheme for the park, $75,000 was allocated in the city’s upcoming budget for improving the park. Now that the City Council is taking a second look at the privatization of the park, it’s unclear who will decide how this money will be spent.

Aside from money issues, Council Member Charlie Chong said the decisions to date were being made by “top down planning”, noting that the 13 member composition of the Westlake Park Management Review Task Force, consisted of 10 downtown business people and 3 city employees.

Hopefully now that the city is willing to slow down and evaluate how to best manage the park and improve its maintenance, there will be an opportunity to allow more citizens to help shape the parks future. Not only public access needs to be guaranteed, but there are many good suggestions that came out of the Pine St. Task Force that can still be pursued to make Westlake Park more of a civic center.

Contact Council Member Jan Drago (jan.drago@seattle.gov , phone: 684-8801) Community Development Committee Chair to express your concerns.

Lobbying Ordinance Still A Problem

Although the Elections Commission removed some of the more egregious requirements placed on citizens and community groups for talking to their elected officials, there are still some elements remaining which would hamper citizen involvement in government.

The Civic Foundation recently sent out a flyer noting the following examples.

An organization may be required to file detailed financial statements with the city and county governments even if it employed no one and was strictly a volunteer organization. This requirement could be triggered if an organization spent $200 in one month on “a program addressed to the public” a “substantial portion of which is intended” to “influence legislation”.

Furthermore, the City may require someone to file as a “lobbyist” if that person made 12 phone calls or wrote 12 letters to elected officials or their staff about legislation in a 3-month period while the person was on paid work time.

Receiving any compensation would make a person a “paid lobbyist” if their employer was simply concerned about a bill that could affect their business. This would not only affect small businesses but also labor unions.

Attorney Clifford Freed, who represents The International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers, Local No. 17, reviewed the pending ordinance. Local 17 represents more City employees than any other labor organization. He noted that the Local 17′s participation in the Labor Management Leadership Committee, which is set up by City charter, would trigger disclosure and reporting under the proposed ordinance. He wrote, “The burden of reporting would unlawfully interfere with the rights granted under the Public Employees Collective Bargaining Act.” The Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission has scheduled a public hearing on April 2nd at 4 PM in the Municipal Building, 600 4th Ave. Room 221. If you cannot attend, then email or fax your comments on the proposed regulations directly to the Commission. The Commissions phone number is 684-8500, fax: 684-8590, and email: director.seec@seattle.gov In addition, King County is also considering a similar ordinance, under bill no. 97-184. Please call Sandy Johnson at 296- 1691 to find out when their public hearing is scheduled.

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