Tuesday, February 1, 2011

City Holding Important Public Meeting on The Future Of Community Centers Tomorrow Night

Tomorrow night the Seattle Parks and Recreation Department will be hosting a very important meeting and discussion on the future of Community Centers and  asking the community to weigh in with ideas on how they can be run differently.  The meeting is from 6:30-8:30pm at Miller Community Center (330 19th Avenue East).  This is the first in a series of meeting with another to be held in the Spring to discuss specfic options.

"Because of the current difficult budget situation, the department is exploring alternatives that would offer continued services for the public, while reducing costs.  New methods of management, staffing, fundraising and partnerships will be explored," the press release says.

Kathy, Legislative Aide to Sally Bagshaw, who is the Chair of the Parks and Seattle Center Committee, told us that the meeting will follow a "World Cafe" format with the following questions that she just sent to our staff:

  1. What community center programs and services do you most value, and why? Which do you least value, and why?
  2. What makes a community center inviting to all people? [ages, cultures, languages, genders, fitness levels, abilities, interests, …]
  3. What times and days would be most effective for community centers to be open, and why? Should some community centers be open more hours than others?
  4. Who do you think the City should partner with to enhance or maintain community center programs and services? [community groups, private fitness centers, companies (REI, Starbucks, etc.),non-profits (YMCA, Boys and Girls Club, etc.)
  5. What is your greatest hope for our community centers? What is your greatest fear for them? 
The agenda is as follows:
  • 6:30 Welcome - Christopher Williams, Acting Superintendent, Department of Parks and Recreation, Councilmember Sally Bagshaw, Chair, Parks and Seattle Center Committee of Seattle City Counc45
  • 6:45 Explanation of World Caf√© procedures, ground rules, and next steps (Carol Everson)
  • 6:55 – 8:15 Five Questions, Five Tables, 15 minutes each
  • 8:15 – 8:30 Summary of table discussions (three major points from each table)

Speculation is that the City may be taking the first steps towards perhaps privatizing the Community Centers because of the drastic budget cuts recently approved by the City Council due to the cost in running the centers exceeding revenue received from center programs. 

Another reader believes that what they are not asking is how can the City make the current centers more efficient.  He said that the City Council has asked Parks and Recreation to look at staffing models and apparently that doesn't appear to be materializing.

Laurelhurst Community Center operations have been severely affected by the City Counil 2011-2012 Budget.

It is now a "limited use center" with operating hours reduced to 35 hours per week.  The hours are Monday through Thursday 9:30-12:30pm and 2:30-6:15pm and Friday 9:30-12:30pm, according to a recent flier posted on the Parks website.

Parks staff is available only during operating hours to accept payments and registrations. The building will still be available for rentals and some programs requiring registration.

Dena and her staff are no longer there, having been replaced wtih a temporary staff. And the staff at Magnuson Community Center overseeing the operations remotely. 

Most community and family events will no longer happen, including the popular Salmon Bake, Halloween party and others. Most of the classes have not been continued, except for Pilates, Pottery and an Art Class for Toddlers.  In addtion, a portion of the Community Center space has been turned into offices.

Sally Bagshaw posted this information on her blog about tomorrow night's meeting:

City Council has asked Seattle Parks and Recreation to re-think how community centers are operated. This process will include public meetings to discuss with the community ideas for how centers can be run more effectively and more efficiently. We heard hundreds of requests during the budget process to keep all 26 centers open without making cuts to programs or hours. Now’s the time to help us figure out how best to accomplish that, and we’re counting on ideas from the people who use these centers the most.

The bottom line is very simple and stark: the cost to run the centers far exceeds revenue brought in from center programs. This meeting is one of a series of first steps in a comprehensive attempt at exploring alternatives that would offer continued services for the public, while reducing costs. New methods of management, staffing, fundraising and partnerships will be explored. If you’ve got ideas, even if you think no one would care to listen to them, then this is your meeting.

If  you can’t make it to Miller Community Center on the 2nd of February, then please send your suggestions to me and I’ll make sure we add them to what I hope will be a long list of best practices, innovative suggestions, and imaginative solutions.

For questions about the public meeting, please email Susan Golub at susan.golub@seattle.gov or call her at 206-684-7046.

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