Tag Archives: Kathleen O’Toole

“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.

 

 

Emerald in the Rough: When The Dog and Pony Show Came to Town

By Cindi Laws

Special to the South Seattle Emerald

Find it, FIx It walks

The latest tools of the City of Seattle, Find-It/Fix-It walks, were designed to have regular citizens meet their city leaders, to chat with police officers, and to point out things like graffiti and trash. Those need to be pointed out because, obviously, no one from the City has noticed these things recently.

These walks were designed to assuage the fears of people living and working in South Seattle. To show that city leaders were indeed paying attention. Attention to the fact that, since April 19, more people have been killed in the 37th Legislative District, which South Seattle dominates, than in the War in Afghanistan. Attention to the fact that, while violent crime has fallen city-wide, gun violence in the South Precinct is up 165 percent over all of 2013. Attention to the fact that the South Precinct has its 8th new police captain in five years. Attention to the fact that 75 percent of robberies in the South Precinct occur within 250 feet of transit stations, and that robberies are way, way up.

On Tuesday, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray joined in the fifth “Find-It/Fix-It” walk, the second in the Rainier Beach area. It was gratifying to see the Mayor in the neighborhood, especially since he missed the July 22nd Rainier Beach event. Tuesday’s walk was also attended by Councilmember Sally Clark (a resident of the Brighton neighborhood), and Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes (who lives south of Seward Park). Councilmember Bruce Harrell, a lifelong resident of South Seattle, participated in the first three walks.

But residents of South Seattle should be very concerned that none of the other seven members of the Seattle City Council have bothered to show up at the Find-it/Fix-It walks. Not the only member who served as a police officer. Not the only member who served as a Deputy King County Prosecutor. Not the Vice Chair of the Public Safety Committee.

Of the 80 people participating in Tuesday’s walk, more than half are paid city employees, representing the departments of police and fire, parks, neighborhoods, transportation, and lots of young interns and junior staff from the Mayor’s office. It was uplifting to show such a huge city contingent that the Seattle city limits extend beyond McClellan Street. Welcome to Rainier Beach, Mr. Mayor.

One could be forgiven for being skeptical that these walks would accomplish much. Since the first Rainier Beach walk two weeks ago, we’ve had numerous drive-by shootings, the home break-in and sexual assault of a child, and the pistol-whipping of a young woman in the Rainier Beach Public Library. Within hours of the Find-it/Fix-It walk around the Genesee Station, teen girls were robbed at gunpoint. More shootings here, there, everywhere in South Seattle.

Refreshingly, newly-hired Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole walked side-by-side with real neighbors genuinely excited by her presence. But while it was great to rub elbows with police brass, there was a disturbing disconnect.  Capt. John Hayes seemingly wanted to fill Robin Williams’ void by serving as jovial entertainer-in-chief. If he was describing, at any point, the violence that occurred in our library a few hours earlier, it wasn’t apparent because his demeanor was nothing but casual and flip. DJ, play me some Bobby McFerrin.

The first Rainier Beach Find-it/Fix-It walk had us leaving the light rail station, heading east on Henderson. Tripping on overgrown, unkempt street trees and broken sidewalks, my friend, who is blind, could see more blight and decay than city staff.  A nine-year old girl was bleeding from overgrown blackberry vines arching over sidewalks and onto city streets. I asked a representative of the Department of Transportation why the city couldn’t take care of this, especially when it’s on a block served by light rail and several bus lines. “This is private property,” she said. “It’s the owner’s responsibility.”

“I don’t (expletive) care,” I exploded in exasperation at her arrogant, let-them-eat-cake attitude. “Take care of it! Look at this bleeding girl and a fallen blind man; this is a hazard that needs to be fixed.” She argued with me, sputtering excuse after excuse why SDOT couldn’t help. Worse, with a straight face, she said that Rainier Beach gets the same resources as Queen Anne. And so goes the denial; so the lies are framed.

It’s one thing to ignore problems in South Seattle, as city leaders have done recently. But to take us on a stroll around a neighborhood, acting as if all is under control, as our city leaders praise their own responsiveness, is simply a Dog & Pony Show. We need the promised increase in police presence; we need those officers out of their cars and meeting youth and families; we need city administrators who won’t make excuses and will make progress; we need elected leaders who care as much about South Seattle as they do about South Lake Union.

Cindi Laws is a resident of the Rainier View neighborhood and a long-time activist.

Mayor and Newly Confirmed Police Chief Visiting South Seattle

by Staff Writer ed-murray

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, and newly confirmed Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole, will both be visiting the New Holly Gathering Center – located at 7054 32nd Avenue South- on Thursday, June 26th at 6:00pm to film the latest installment of Ask The Mayor.

Mayor Murray will be taking questions directly from those in attendance, as well as discussing a host of issues ranging from his proposal to stave off cuts to metro bus service, universal preschool , gun violence, neighborhood crime, and progress on police reform.

The event is free, however registration is strongly suggested. (Register at: http://www.seattlechannel.org/AskTheMayor/)

The Emerald will have full coverage of the event following the taping.