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                  Point of View

May, 2008 - Issue No. 26

Dear Friends,

I have been extremely busy these last few months and much has occurred since I wrote my last POV. I wanted to cover a few of the many issues I have been working on and also remember one Seattle’s most effective public servants, former City Councilmember Jeanette Williams.

Best wishes,

Tom Rasmussen
Seattle City Councilmember
Chair, Parks and Seattle Center Committee

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Remembering Jeanette Williams

The urgent calls and e-mail messages began Saturday morning. The first was that former Seattle City Councilmember Jeanette Williams was in the hospital gravely ill. The next message was from her son saying that she died Friday evening.

Jeanette’s health had been declining. She had been in and out of the hospital over the past few months. I stayed in touch by telephone. Usually we discussed Magnuson Park issues. She was very concerned that the Mayor was making recommendations that were inconsistent with the plans and visions for the Park.

Her son called me the day before she died saying that she wanted assurances that nothing the City was doing would result in the park reverting to the federal government. I told him that there was no risk of that happening and that I was doing all I could to ensure that the vision and plans which she had worked on for many years would be fulfilled.

I was one of Jeanette’s Legislative Assistants for three of her five terms in office. She was a powerful leader who took on some of the most challenging and controversial City issues in the 1970s and 1980s. I deeply respected Jeanette Williams and I was fortunate to have worked for such a progressive and hard working person who always put the City first. A memorial service will be held for her on Wednesday, November 5th at 2:00 PM at Town Hall located at Eighth Avenue and Seneca Street. Below are links to articles about former Councilmember Williams.

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Council Sends Parks Levy to Voters

In June I told you about the Council appointed citizens committee created in response to strong public interest in continuing the current Pro-Parks levy due to expire in December. Following public hearings and the recommendation of the committee, the City Council voted to place a Parks and Green Spaces levy on the ballot in November.

If approved by the voters the levy would fund acquiring land for parks and green belts; developing safer playgrounds, athletic fields, trails, and skate parks; fund environmental projects like forest and stream restoration, shoreline access, and community food gardens; and renovate and restore several Park buildings and facilities.

I deeply appreciate the work of the citizens committee that allowed me and my colleagues to make an informed decision and place the levy on the ballot.

Tom speaking at Ercolini Park dedication in West Seattle.

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Magnuson Park

The plans and visions adopted for 352 acre Magnuson Park in northeast Seattle span decades since the City acquired the park from the Navy in 1972. Acquiring the former airbase for a park was the result of the work of Jeanette Williams and many others in the community and we owe them our gratitude.

Millions of dollars have been spent to create the park but much more remains to be done. Some of the most challenging work is deciding what to do with the many old and deteriorating buildings at the Park. As Parks and Seattle Center Committee Chair I am working to ensure that the park is developed consistent with the plans that have been adopted after countless public meetings.

Recently the Council authorized two leases for the renovation and reuse of two major buildings in the beautiful Northshore area of the park. The leases were controversial as everything at Magnuson Park seems to be. Some in the community oppose leasing out park facilities to for-profit organizations regardless of whether the leases provide for park or recreation activities and others want no commercial activities allowed in the park. Others support such leases if they provide sufficient guarantee of public access and programs at affordable costs.

Building 11

Richard Haag, landscape architect, described the Northshore as "a potential park unto itself…waiting to be discovered." In the 1994 Visionary Plan prepared for the Sand Point Community Liaison Committee, Haag stated that the primary use of the Northshore should be centered on non-motorized small boat activities with complementary uses such as picnicking and "hard court" and "soft court" games. Subsequent adopted plans for Magnuson Park embrace that vision.

Building 11 is a 58,000 square foot, long, narrow building in the Northshore area. Its many rooms are rented to a variety of groups including Sail Sandpoint a non-profit organization which provides popular sailing and small boat programs for youth and adults. Building 11 needs major renovation and repair estimated to cost approximately $8 million. The building cannot continue to be used much longer in the current condition.

Rather than having the City pay the costs of repairing the building, the Mayor proposed that a long term lease be signed with a private for-profit developer who would renovate the building in exchange for the right to manage the building and collect rent. The Council held public hearings on the lease and the Council Chambers were filled with supporters of Sail Sandpoint who were concerned that its programs and the use of the building would end in December if the lease were not approved. Others did not want the City to lease the building and suggested a variety of options ranging from tearing down much of the building to having it repaired and operated by the Parks Department.

The Council rejected the proposed lease in late July for a number of reasons including its failure to provide for sufficient park or recreation uses in the building and, most importantly, it did not guarantee the continued operation of Sail Sandpoint or other small craft activities.

I pledged to bring to the Council a better lease by the end of September that would ensure that Sail Sandpoint and small water craft activities would continue. After intense negotiations I presented a lease that provides those guarantees and the Council approved the lease at its last meeting in September.

Building 27

This is an enormous former aircraft hangar not far from Building 11. The Parks Department rented it out for a variety of community events, for a film studio and for exhibitions by the popular Rat City Roller Girls organization. It was closed last year due to fire and life safety concerns.

Costs of renovation are estimated at $6 million and the Mayor proposed that renovation be carried out by a private for-profit organization, Arena Sports which would manage and collect rent for the use of the building. The proposed lease was also controversial not only because it was with a for-profit organization but also because initial drafts of the agreement would not have required that it be available for community organizations and events.

Arena Sports now provides soccer and volleyball and other indoor activities in nearby Building 2, an even bigger former hangar which is in very poor condition but which can still be used. The participants in Arena Sports programs include men, women and children and I heard from many of them over the last few months about the importance of keeping indoor soccer and other activities at Magnuson Park in Building 27.

Following discussions with the Mayor and the Parks Superintendent we agreed to a lease that would provide for many public benefits including free programs for youth and disabled youth soccer, scholarship programs and reduced fee programs for neighborhood non-profit soccer clubs such as Laurelhurst/View Ridge Youth Soccer Club and a guarantee that the building would be available for rent to community organizations as it had been under the management of the Parks Department. The Council approved leasing Building 27 to Arena Sports on September 29.

I deeply appreciate the comments and recommendations of the hundreds of people who attended the public meetings on these leases and the thousands who wrote. People care passionately about their parks and protecting our shoreline and environment and so do I.

My intention is that to the maximum extent possible the City not lease out Parks facilities for others to operate, however, when it appears that the most reasonable course for the operation or renovation of a Parks Department facility would be by a private organization rather than the City, I will work to ensure that it be accessible and affordable to people of all income levels and that the environment will be protected.

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Community Cause:
Community Stewardship of Seattles Public Parks &
Recreation Facilities

The Seattle Department of Parks and Recreation has extensive opportunities for members of the community to volunteer and to help maintain the parks and facilities throughout the city. Many of these opportunities include removing invasive plant species from park land. In addition, several of the off-leash dog areas have ongoing cleaning and improvement projects scheduled. Work parties are scheduled in many areas of the city over the next several weeks. If you have the time, our parks can use your help! To find scheduled events in your area visit the Parks and Recreation Departments website:


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