Asides

Homegrown Documentaries

Seed ArtsSeattle, WA – Bicycling nudists, Rwandan filmmakers and a Seattle family confronted by terrorism are the intriguing characters you’ll meet at the second annual SEED Arts Cinema Series SEEDArts Cinema Series, “Made in Seattle: Homegrown Documentaries”. The two-day series, April 4 & 5, is comprised of three dynamic, award-winning, locally made documentaries to be screened at the Rainier Valley Cultural Center, 3515 S Alaska St, Seattle, WA 98118. The films are Finding Hillywood (4/4 at 7pm), Barzan (4/5 at 5pm), and Beyond Naked (4/5 at 7pm). Each film will be followed by a community conversation with the filmmakers and moderated by Rustin Thompson, The Restless Critic.

The Cinema Series opens on Friday, April 4 at 7pm with a screening of Finding Hillywood. Set amongst the hills of Rwanda, Finding Hillywood chronicles one man’s road to forgiveness, his effort to heal his country, and the realization that we all must one day face our past. A unique and endearing phenomenon film about the very beginning of Rwanda’s film industry and the pioneers who bring local films to rural communities. A real life example of the power of film to heal a man and a nation.

The Series continues on Saturday, April 5, with an evening double feature. At 5 pm, we present Barzan by directors Alex Stonehill & Bradley Hutchinson. Barzan is an intimate portrait of a suburban family ripped apart by a terrorism accusation. Shot both in Iraq and Seattle, this investigative documentary examines terrorism, immigration, and the sacrifices we make to protect the American dream.

The series concludes at 7pm with Beyond Naked, the “Best Documentary” of the Seattle True Independent Film Festival (2013). This film shows what happens when four first-timers accept a challenge to ride naked in Seattle’s legendary Solstice Parade. This feature-length documentary explores our deep-rooted fear and awkward fascination with nakedness through the lens of one of Seattle’s most popular traditions.

Admission to the Cinema Series is $5 per film. All films will be screened on the new digital projection system at the Rainier Valley Cultural Center, 3515 S Alaska St, Seattle, WA 98118. Limited concessions will be available. For more information and updates, call 206.760.4285 or visit http://www.rainiervalleyculturalcenter.org/cinema.

Lake Washington Receives $50 Million Reinvestment

SEATTLE – Starting this month, the Lake Washington Apartments will undergo a complete renovation that will greatly improve safety and

 comfort for 960 residents.

SEED (SouthEast Effective Development), in cooperation with its development partner, Bayside Communities, is financing the transfor

mation of the affordable apartment complex in Rainier Beach with a $50 million reinvestment package that rolls over part of the property’s current debt and frees $20 million for structural and tenant improvements.

 

“This comprehensive renovation will greatly improve the home environments of the residents with upgrades to all 366 units-and will add 13 more,” stated Lance Matteson, Executive Director of SEED. SEED is a Southeast Seattle not-for-profit dedicated to economic, arts-based, and affordable housing development.

The new financing includes $28 million in bonds issued and $12.2 million in housing tax credits allocated by the Washington State Housing Finance Commission. Other development and funding partners include the City of Seattle, the State of Washington, Citi, R4 Capital, US Bank, and HomeSight.

“Each of these partners has been crucial to this project,” Matteson said. “We are proud to say that this project is being financed through private equity, with no grants from the state or federal government.”

The 66-year-old apartment complex is among the state’s largest affordable housing developments operated by a non-governmental agency. A great number of residents are people of color and immigrants from Africa, East Asia, and other countries, as well as a number of people transitioning from homelessness. Families eligible for housing earn below 60 percent of the area median income.

The renovation will replace roofs and siding, upgrade kitchens as well as bathrooms, and upgrade energy efficiency of lighting, radiant baseboard heaters, and water heaters. Energy-efficient washers and dryers will be fitted inside the individual apartments, freeing up common areas for new classrooms, study rooms, and activity and exercise rooms. Completion is projected for August 2015. The contractor is Synergy Construction, Inc. and property management services are provided by EPMI, a Bayside Company.

The Lake Washington Apartments, located at 9061 Seward Park Avenue South, are situated on a 16-acre site containing over 330,000 square feet of real estate that is adjacent to Lake Washington and Rainier Beach High School. The site is just a few blocks from the brand-new Rainier Beach Community Center.

 “At SEED, we are excited about our new direction and the opportunities represented by the redevelopment of the Lake Washington Apartments,” added Matteson. “This important step supports the livability of southeast Seattle and the diversity that enhances our city’s ongoing efforts to be recognized as a great international city.”

“We have worked to collaborate with commercial partners, government entities, public and regulatory agencies, legal and compliance experts, architects, and construction managers in a project that will bring tangible benefits to families and individuals in our community.”

Getting Educated on Education

by Marilyn Watkins

As divided as Americans seem to be about the role of government, we’re pretty united around the notion that quality public education should be accessible to all. Businesses and our economy can’t operate without an educated workforce – and educated customers. Democracy itself depends on citizens who can reason and understand the issues they vote on.

Our state constitution says it is the paramount duty of state government to provide amply for the education of all children in the state. But state funding now doesn’t cover the basics of the K-12 system, let alone the early learning and higher education necessary to assure that all kids are equipped to succeed in the 21st century. Two years ago, the State Supreme Court ruled in the McCleary decision that the state was failing in its constitutional duty.

The problem is not that the average Washington resident is contributing too few tax dollars to adequately support education. It’s that the average Microsoft millionaire, his wealthy neighbors, and corporate shareholders are contributing way too little.

Washington has ambitious goals to increase student achievement, including funding full-day kindergarten, reducing class size, and increasing hours and requirements in high school. Those things all cost money. Last year, the legislature allocated an additional $1 billion to K-12 in the two-year budget . But that was after four years of recession-driven cuts, when school funding got slashed along with everything else. Now the Court has decreed we need to fund school improvements more quickly.

Of course, the real issue isn’t what the court says, it’s our kids. It’s our responsibility as the grownups to provide them with the tools for a promising future.

Governor Inslee has proposed raising more money for K-12 by closing some tax breaks, including those enjoyed by oil companies, the bottled water industry, and out-of-state residents. But closing tax breaks won’t come close to raising enough money. Funding education reform can’t come out of the rest of the state budget either, which was cut to the bone during the recession, and includes the early learning, higher education, and social services that also need to be expanded if we are serious about giving every child real opportunity.

Washington’s problems in funding education began long before the recession and McCleary. Back in 1992, we ranked 17th among the states nationally in per pupil funding. By 2012 we were down to 30th. If we measure level of school support against the personal income of state residents, we’re 44th.

Washington is falling behind because we depend on sales taxes for half our state budget. We tax most heavily the people who have to spend all their income – those who can least afford it. Rich people buy more expensive stuff, but they don’t spend most of their money. On top of that, over the last several decades, our economy has shifted away from the stuff we tax and onto services which we generally don’t tax.

Plus big corporations like Microsoft and Boeing keep demanding more tax breaks at the same time they complain the state isn’t investing enough in education and infrastructure.

Almost every other state has a state income tax that assures that rich people pay their fair share for the benefits of living in a society where they could acquire their wealth and enjoy it.

Until we start requiring the wealthiest to pay their fair share of taxes, we won’t be able to fund the education system our kids deserve.

Here’s a 3-step path to funding the education we should have by 2018:

  1. 2014 – Pass the Governor’s package of tax break closures.

  2. 2015 – Pass a capital gains tax that excludes primary residences and retirement savings (this means it will mostly be paid by the wealthiest).

  3. 2017 – Pass a progressive state income tax while lowering the sales tax, with the increased revenue devoted to education, from preschool through higher education.

Getting our fractured legislature to agree to even closing tax breaks this year will be tough. Right now most legislators believe that they can’t adequately fund education no matter what the constitution and courts say, because voters won’t support changing our state tax system.

Earlier this month, voters across the region approved a host of local school levies, agreeing again to raise their own taxes to invest more in their community schools. We do want a great education system for all our kids. It’s time to give our legislators the tools to fund it.

Marilyn Watkins is policy director of the Economic Opportunity Institute, a nonpartisan policy center  focused on building and economy that works for everyone.