On Sept. 23, Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn hosted a town hall meeting at the International District/Chinatown Community Center (IDCCC). About 300 people attended. The goals of the meeting was for the public to ask the mayor questions and for the mayor to get feedback from citizens.
Many of those who attended the meeting were concerned with the future of the IDCCC. This year, the city’s general fund faces a $67 million revenue shortfall. The general fund provides for public safety, transportation, human services, arts and culture, and parks. Thus far, the budgets of five community centers have been cut.
To the relief of many, the IDCCC’s budget will not be significantly cut. “We’re always grateful when the mayor takes time to listen to people out in the community, as it helps us to deliver services we know people want,” said acting Seattle Parks and Recreation Superintendent Christopher Williams, speaking on behalf of the IDCCC.
Another big concern of community members was public safety. The ID has a high number of panhandlers, drug dealers, and addicts.
Recently, a person came into our office with photos of drug dealers and addicts. He wanted to pay for ad space in order for the photos to be published. His goal was to publicly shame the individuals so they would leave the area. We had to tell the man that we couldn’t print ads like that.
But we had to commend him for his creativity and for being proactive. He is an example of how desperate some community members feel, as they are taking matters into their own hands.
McGinn said that he wants to change the priority of the police department. “We want to make it a higher priority [for officers] to meet businesses, talk to people, [and] have a presence, not just respond to calls.”
Though a nice idea that would be beneficial in the long run, it doesn’t address the problems we have right now. McGinn also said that bicycle patrols during the day have increased. However, many of the problems are happening at night. There are more drug dealers at night than during the day.
West Precinct Capt. Steve Brown offered a more concrete solution. He asked citizens to call the police department more often, not just during emergencies. He wants citizens to report incidences. “If there is a problem that is occurring that is regular, and it’s not an emergency, you can call and let us know,” he said. We will work those areas. But we need to hear from you.”
On Sept. 27, McGinn announced his budget plan. The plan included laying off more than 200 city employees and increasing parking rates. However, he also said the city should fulfill its promise of rebuilding the Rainier Beach Community Center, which will take $20 million.
Though McGinn’s town hall meeting in the ID largely seemed like a symbolic visit, we do have to thank him for continuing to stand behind community centers that help underserved communities like Rainier Beach and the ID.
As a community, we also need to help ourselves, instead of only complaining to the mayor. Brown has a valid suggestion, and we imagine a lot of non-English speaking Asians are very apprehensive about calling the police department. But it doesn’t take much to move past the discomfort, and the pay-off can be a safer place to live. To contact the Seattle Police Department to report non-emergency incidences, call 206-625-5011. ♦