Category Archives: News

As South Seattle Heads Back To School, Mayor Proposes New Early Learning Department

SEATTLE  – As parents ready their kids for the first week of school, Mayor Ed Murray yesterday unveiled his plan to reorganize the city’s education and support programs into a new Department of Education and Early Learning (DEEL), the first of several proposals the mayor will make in his first city budget.

The new structure will enable the city to better coordinate existing work and resources on behalf of students of all ages, improve collaboration with Seattle Public Schools, colleges and child-care providers, and increase performance measurement of the city’s work to support educational outcomes.

“Equity in education is the foundation of our democracy and the future of our city,” said Murray. “The City already supports programs across the continuum from birth through college, but we must do better to align resources for better outcomes for education. We will sharpen our focus on achieving great outcomes for all, so that none of Seattle’s students are left behind. We want Seattle to be the first city in America that eliminates the achievement gap.”

Economic disparities contribute to a persistent achievement gap in the city of Seattle between the educational attainment of students of color and white students- especially in South Seattle, which houses one of the largest swaths of the city’s African American and Latino populations :

  • 90 percent of white 4th graders are reading at grade level compared to 56 percent of African American students.
  • One third of African American and Latino students—and half of American Indian students—don’t graduate on time, compared to 14 percent of white students.

The Mayor stated that research has shown that students with higher educational attainment have higher average earning power over a career, but also live healthier lives.

“All of Seattle’s children must have the same opportunity to succeed in school and in life,” said Brianna Jackson, Executive Director of the Community Day School Association. “By improving coordination across the entire system, from Early Learning to our universities, and by working together as an education community, we know we can achieve better outcomes for all students.”

Last fall, the City Council adopted a budget action asking the mayor to develop a proposal to elevate the city’s emphasis around education. The council voiced interest in aligning the city’s education and early learning programs, preparing for a universal preschool program, and improving collaboration with the school district.

“Twenty babies are born in Seattle each day and each one deserves a strong and fair start,” said City Council President Tim Burgess.  “We know that high quality education empowers children of all backgrounds to lead healthier and happier lives and their success makes our city stronger.  To enable our cradle to career programs to work better, the Council called for the creation of this Department and I applaud the Mayor and his team for doing the hard work to get the job done.”

For the last several months, the Murray Administration has been working to shape the new department responsible for supporting early learning, K-12 and higher education in Seattle. Most of the positions in the new department would be filled by existing city employees moving from Seattle’s Human Services Department, Office for Education and other organizations. Existing functions consolidated into DEEL will include:

  • Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program, Comprehensive Child Care Program and other early learning services and initiatives
  • Elementary, Middle School, and High School academic and social support programs
  • School-based health services operated by the city
  • Seattle Youth Violence Prevention Initiative
  • All Families and Education Levy programs

Nine new positions would be created to step up coordination with area colleges and universities, ensure the quality of city child care programs and pre-schools, and increase data collection to track the effectiveness of the department’s activities.

“We look forward to working with the Mayor and the new Department of Education and Early Learning to partner on behalf of our Seattle students,” said Dr. Larry Nyland, Interim Superintendent of Seattle Public Schools. “As we head back to school tomorrow, our teachers, principals and staff are getting ready to ensure every student has the opportunity to graduate prepared for college, career and life. We cannot do this work alone. We are pleased the city will partner with us to meet our goals for student success.”

The new department would house 38 employees and manage a budget of $48.5 million, including $30 million each year from the voter-approved Families and Education Levy.

The mayor’s proposal will be included in his budget submission to the City Council on Sept. 22nd.

Art Walk Seeks to Transform Rainier Beach Narrative

Whether testified to by Albert Camus in his Nobel Acceptance speech, when he stated its supremacy as a tool to edify humankind, or the endless succession of works from writers, artisans, and musicians that have kindled imaginations and propelled human agency in directions never dreamed, much less comprehended, art has been imbued with the belief that it wields the  power of transformation. It is under this premise that the Rainier Beach area will play hosts to musical acts that leave no genre untouched, art installations that are certain to spark thought provoking discussion, and original paintings that serve as candy for the eyeball, as  it presents its 4th Annual Art Walk in an effort to profoundly alter the stubborn perception the area has been unable to discard.

Since its inaugural celebration in 2010, the burgeoning two day music and arts festival – which kicks off this Saturday near the Rainier Beach Community Center- has seen rapid growth in attendance, going from barely a couple hundred attendees in its first few years of existence to anticipating over 5000 people at this years event.

Despite the name, the event is hoping to avoid associations with the image of genteel beatniks hopping from gallery to gallery as they mull over existential matters, as it seeks to become South Seattle’s counterpart to the Capitol Hill Block Party and Fremont Festival.

For many residents, the Art Walk– with an aim towards galvanizing an often discordant Rainier Beach  community- could not arrive at a better time, as a familiar, and in the minds of some residents, lazy narrative of the area functioning as the uniquely dangerous and squalid section of the city has once again reemerged. This has mainly been due to a spate of violence the community suffered over the span of a few weeks.

“This event really gives an opportunity for people from other neighborhoods to come out and see what we’re really all about as a community. Rainier Beach gets a bad rap, but this enables people to come and see for themselves what we’re all about. They get to see how beautiful this side of town is and how well we mesh together as a community.” Said Su Harambee, the Past President of the Rainier Beach Community Club who intends to set up a booth at this year’s event.

Even as the festival has experienced impressive growth in its brief tenure as Rainier Beach’s premiere event, it has encountered some struggles- with the areas wide assortment of racial and ethnic diversity that is unlike any other in the city- in attracting the entirety of the community’s population.

“I’ve seen the posters hanging around for it and I’ve heard about it, but to be honest I kind of look at it as an African-American Event. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.” Says John Aaron, a Rainier Beach resident.  “It’s just that it does kind of cross your mind for a second, you know. It’s like, am I really welcomed there?”

Conversely, many community members don’t see why that should act as an impediment to the festivals continued success.

“(Rainier Beach) is one of the few areas in the city with a marjority-minority population, and I think that community events should be representative of the community they’re in- even as those communities start to evolve and change. Let’s face it, most of the events that happen (in South Seattle) end up being in places like Columbia City and may not feel super inclusive. Ballard still has the Scandinavian Festival.  Capitol Hill has the Block  Party.  Georgetown has the whole industrial vibe with a power tool race for their festival.” Said Masil Magee, who volunteered at last year’s event.

To their credit, organizers and  past festival participants do not appear oblivious to the hesitancy from certain community members to embrace the festival, and continue to emphasize  the importance the event plays in community building.

“We want to see everyone here!” States Merica Whitehall, the Art Walk’s lead organizer. “Rainier Beach is African American. It’s Asian. It’s White. It’s Jewish. It’s East African. It’s Italian. It’s Latino.  Our community is made up of many shades, and it’s our obligation to have all represented here, as it should be.”

Adds Hurambee: “Each year, from the booths to the entertainment presented, this festival is indicative of diversity of this community. It’s one that isn’t found in most places in the city.”

If any further underscoring of this point was necessary, the festival line-up, a mixture of heavy hitters and local performers, appears to contain no omissions from the musical dictionary as Jazz, Funk, R&B, Rock, Latin, International and Pop along with  a heap of other genres will all be represented.

“Most of the people in our group are from this community and we really just wanted to give back to it, by putting on a really wonderful show for them that leaves them grooving, and allows them to have fun.” Said Mike Barber, who will be performing with his group Shady Bottom at the festival.

Though easy to dismiss as just another festival for those suffering from event fatigue in a summer that seemed to feature one on just about every day that ended with a y, the importance of the Art Walk and its significance to the Rainier Beach community shouldn’t be overlooked claims Magee:

“Events like the Art Walk give this  place a sense of community. It’s a time when people can come out and join the rest of the community in enjoying an event together. People always talk about how diverse this area is, but in the day to day, there aren’t a lot opportunities for everybody to get together and mill about, and experience each other.”

“I realize that (being in Rainier Beach) we’re so close to a really dynamic part of the city that it’s easy to be a bedroom community to downtown, especially when we have so many ways to get there now.  But, this event kind of makes a statement that we are a dynamic part of the city in our own right.  We have artists and community right here. We can show the rest of the city, as well as our own community- which is the main thing- that we do have positive community events in the south end!”

Vehicle Crashes Into Rainier Valley Hair Salon

by Staff Writer

Photo courtesy of Seattle Fire Department
Photo courtesy of Seattle Fire Department

South Seattle – An SUV crashed into the Carol Cobb Salon located on Rainier Avenue South and S. Ferdinand Street at around 1:25 pm this afternoon, injuring six people. City officials were quoted as saying that the two- story building is in serious danger of collapsing.

Emergency responders arrived to discover the entire SUV inside the hair salon, with stray debris all around it.

Komo News is reporting that  four family members were inside the SUV and some of them ended up trapped by the debris. Firefighters quickly removed piles of debris outside the building to pull them free.

Everyone in the SUV sustained injuries, along with two others who were working inside the hair salon. The extent of their injuries has not yet been determined.

Officials have confirmed that the woman driving the vehicle had a stroke while operating it and that was what led to the accident.

All lanes of Rainier Avenue South and S. Ferdinand Street are currently closed in the surrounding area while a structural examination of the building is being conducted.

“Find It, Fix It” Walks Spark Community Support, Skepticism

by Curtis Kent

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray addresses South Seattle residents at a Find It, Fix It Walk in Rainier Beach
Seattle Mayor Ed Murray address South Seattle residents at a Find It, Fix It Walk in Rainier Beach

As Seattle Mayor Ed Murray’s “Find It, Fix It” walks continue across the city, so to does the commotion amongst South Seattle residents surrounding their effectiveness at addressing crime in the city’s south end after an uptick of violence in recent weeks, including a drive-by shooting and multiple armed robberies, has flared community anxieties once again.

The walk series- announced in June as a part of the mayor’s effort to address public safety concerns and improve collaboration between communities and Seattle area law enforcement by direct engagement between city officials and local residents- have been concentrated in areas around the city designated as high frequency crime zones, or “hot spots” and got underway last month.

Three of the walks have been held in South Seattle neighborhoods- two in the Rainier Beach Area and one in the Othello neighborhood- and appear to have made good on the mayor’s insistence that they would act as a platform for residents to actively express community needs to the city, as they have been punctuated by frequent stops, so that urban blight- including graffiti, safety hazards and derelict buildings- could be brought to official’s attention.

“These walks are really important. We can’t sit behind  a desk in headquarters and get a sense of what’s happening in the community. It’s important to get out and see it first hand and it’s important to meet people and hear their perspectives.” Said Police Chief  Kathleen O’Toole, who along with City Councilmember Bruce Harrell, and City Attorney Pete Holmes has been a consistent presence at the majority of South Seattle walks.

“People really take pride in their neighborhoods in this city, and South Seattle is no exception.” She added. “We want a plan in place for this community that comes from the bottom up, instead of dictating to the various neighborhoods here what their priorities should be. There’s a lot of work to be done, but we feel that this approach will help get us there.”

It is one that seems appreciated, and long overdue, by many south end inhabitants who have become accustomed to what they feel has been  habitual inattention to their concerns from the city.

“These events are very good. They’re really once in a lifetime as far as I’m concerned.” Said Mohammed Keemo, owner of a local clothing store in the Rainier Beach area. “(City officials) being here in South Seattle means that they can now know the reality of our street. They can finally see what’s really going on. I love to finally have them here and I hope they continue to come.”

“This are the types of events we need more of, were the community comes together and takes a stand. It’s like I tell people, don’t just complain about the violence and the crime, come up with a solution. This is a solution.” Echoed Rev. Don Davis, who participated in a walk held at the Rainier Beach Link Light Rail Station.

Though the south end area walks have been fairly well attended as dozens of curious residents have flocked to them in order to gain an audience with local officials – despite the 7:00pm weekday start time for most of the walks -not every participant has held such favorable impressions as they have questioned the  city’s actual intentions behind them.

“While I  think it’s important that the media is out here, I think a lot of (the walks) are being done so that (city officials) can look like they’re doing something in this area, even though I don’t know if they actually are. Having media out here keeps them accountable. I hope.” Said Jacob Stuiksma, who is blind and who took part in a Rainier Beach neighborhood walk.

“I don’t understand why it takes walking around pointing out graffiti, even though it’s been here forever, to finally get it taken care of.  When someone who is blind can tell you what’s going on with graffiti and trash because they’re tripping over it, and have been tripping over it for a long time while the city has done nothing, there remains an awful lot that needs to be addressed.”He added.

City officials say they are mindful of much of the criticism that residents of South Seattle have had in regards to the walks and are doing their best to address it.

“Most of the people who have come out to these walks in this area are very positive, but to be honest, yes we’ve run into people who are skeptical because, let’s face it, Mayor Murray has only been in office for a few months, so there’s still a feeling out period. But, I think people will begin to see that these walks are taking the community in the right direction.” Said Mayoral Aide Jacob Chin.

Though skepticism over the walks from South Seattle residents seems a long way from dissipating – unsurprising for an area that has seen its fair share of deflated expectations as a result of limited follow-through after promises of community improvement from past mayoral regimes- there remains many who are willing to be optimistic as to their impact.

“I know that some people are bagging on the mayor for the walks, but the guy isn’t out here kissing babies for a couple of seconds and then hopping into his Rolls Royce to hob knob in Magnolia. The officials out here are really listening to what the community has to say.” Said Karl De Jong who has gone on two of the South Seattle walks.



Woman Robbed at Gunpoint in Rainier View Neighborhood

by Staff Writer

A woman was robbed less than an hour ago at a Metro bus stop on the corner of Beacon Ave S and 57th Street in the Rainier View neighborhood.

Seattle Police are looking for the suspect, identified as being an African-American male in his late teens.

The woman had just finished her in home caretaker shift  and was waiting for the 107 bus when a young man brandished a gun – pointing it directly in her face- and demanded that she relinquish her purse. He then fled without further incident once the woman obliged.

The suspect is still at large and it is advised that you contact the Seattle Police Department immediately should you have any information as to his whereabouts.


Rainier Valley Recieves Funding for Neighborhood Projects

Councilmember Sally Bagshaw announced new funding for three Rainier Valley neighborhood projects today: The Columbia City Gateway, the Ethiopian Community Center Kitchen renovation and the Orca K-8 School Playground renovation.  $100,000 will go to each of the projects via the City of Seattle’s Neighborhood Matching Large Projects Fund.

“I’m delighted to see these projects receive funding, all of which were initiated and implemented by community members,” said Councilmember Sally Bagshaw, chair of the City Council’s Neighborhoods Committee.  “This is a shining example of true neighborhood empowerment, where community volunteer hours and community fundraising are leveraged into additional support.”

Details of the three projects are as follows:

Columbia City Gateway

Mobilize the community in transforming the unsightly and neglected Northeast corner of the Columbia School property into a signature streetscape and mini-park as a welcoming “gateway” to the neighborhood.

Ethiopian Community of Seattle Community Kitchen Project

Renovate and update approximately 900 sq. ft. commercial kitchen and bring it fully up to code. The project aims to create a vibrant hub of community building, healthy eating, learning, celebration and sharing.

Orca K-8 School Playground Renovation

Improve site entry, acquire new playground equipment, expand all-weather surface area, a natural outdoor classroom “Council Ring,” running track, renovated play field, pole and ramp course (for all but especially highly disabled individuals), ADA accessible textile nature path, expanded seating and garden beds and safety improvements.

Recipients of the Neighborhood Matching Fund match their awards through a combination of locally raised money, donated materials and expertise and volunteer labor.  A Citywide Review Team consisting of community volunteers reviewed applications and selected these Rainier Valley projects, amongst others, for funding.  Council approved their recommendation on Monday, August 11th.

Two South Seattle Non-Profits Receive Community Awards

by Staff Writer

Two South Seattle area non-profits have received “People Helping People Awards” from Boeing Employee’s Credit Union (BECU).

CIty Fruit
City Fruit’s Terri Iverson receives their People Helping People Award.

Both City Fruit – which is located in the Beacon Hill neighborhood and harvests fruit from residential trees to donate to those who are food insecure – and the Rainier Beach Community Empowerment Coalition (RBCEC) received $5000 apiece as a part of BECU’s Community Benefit Award program.

The program asked BECU members to vote for their favorite area non-profits that they felt had made a profound impact within their communities.

City Fruit and the RBCEC received enough nominations to beat out over 500 other Puget Sound area non-profits to be recognized as 2 of only 16 total organizations that were honored for that distinction.

Votes were tallied over a three month period beginning on  May 1st and recipients were honored with a ceremony at the Museum of Flight.

“The People Helping People award from BECU will help City Fruit harvest additional fruit from residential properties and Seattle parks, and in turn, help feed more of our neighbors in need. On an average day, City Fruit harvests around 500 pounds of fruit – pears, plums, and apples – that will go on to feed more than 2,000 families throughout Seattle.” said Catherine Morrison, City Fruit’s Executive Director.