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Mayor’s Stall Tactics Delay Property Transfer to The Central

It was an amazing crowd at The Central (aka The Central Area Senior Center) on April 15 in support of the transfer of this property from the city to the Center. Even more folks than attend the famous Center celebrations such as the Seafair event and The Holiday Gala! And to think they had all completed their taxes by this infamous date! And the energy in the room was breathtaking! If we can sustain that energy and determination, we can make this happen!

And why does the Center want to own the building? Once they have ownership, grants are available to make changes and repairs. As it is now, the Center is on a month to month basis with the city…not even a one-year lease and grantors want a minimum of ten years on a lease to ensure their funds will stay with the entity they are giving to.

Former Mayor Ed Murray favored the transfer and the Center had submitted all the documents, including their own 501 c 3, that he had requested, and he was prepared to put the item in the budget. If it weren’t in the budget, it would not be talked about at all.

But fate or life or whatever calamity you want to call it, intervened. Mayor Murray resigned and his successor, Mayor Durkin, has different ideas for this property. She did not include it in the budget, but the City Council voted 9-0 for Resolution 31856 to include it, so it was there to talk about! The Council also indicated the transfer should be complete by June 30, 2019.

Rather than work with the Center to ensure the transfer goes smoothly, the Mayor has appointed a team to consider this and to develop a five-page list of new requirements, including a 15-year plan of expected expenses and proposals for meeting these expenses. (These new requirements were developed in December 2018, but not given to the Center until a meeting on 3/13/19.) Not on the Mayor’s team was someone from the Dept. of Human Resources which actually is in a position to evaluate the Center, but notably there is a representative from the Office of Planning & Development. We who use the Center know that this spot is a developer’s dream and the word development has struck fear in our hearts for some time.

City Councilmember Kshama Sawant was present to support the Center’s cause and to explain the workings of the council when necessary. She said that the Council can pass resolutions and ordinances. A resolution doesn’t need to be followed by the Mayor; apparently it is advisory only, but an ordinance becomes law.

Once the facts and the dilemma had been presented, the attendees were asked to confer in their groups to develop a plan of action. Suggestions were collected at the end of this process and they ranged from more letters and more emails to direct action: meeting on the impressive steps leading up to City Hall and inviting the media to hear our concerns. My table (and I) were in favor of more direct action. Let’s face it: letters and emails have been sent for months and that is basically a private affair. There is no light on your letter to the Mayor. The Mayor’s office could obfuscate and minimize the letters and emails they are receiving but public action which has media attention is hard to hide. Interestingly, KOMO (the station that brought us “Is Seattle Dying”) was supposed to be present at this meeting but did not appear. Does this mean that Sinclair Broadcasting is not in favor of programs for Seniors or do they too favor development for the private sector on this choice site? Kudos to Brandon Macz of the Madison Park Times for covering the event and of course we were there, representing the Leschi News.

Center Director Dian Ferguson made sure we left our contact information so she can follow up and we will print plans of action in both the News and on Leschi’s Facebook.

And don’t forget to show your support for a post office in our zip code at the Garfield Community Center on May 2 at 6pm.

~Diane Snell

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