Thursday, February 10, 2011

Public Encouraged To Give Input On Fate Of Community Centers

One of our readers went to the Community Center Discussion last Tuesday and said it was a well-attended event with those attending talking about what they like best about community centers, but with real concerns from the public not addressed.

The reader reported that people were asked to answer five questions, answers were recorded and then Parks staff presented all the answers to the larger group— "or at least the answers that they liked," our reader said.

Concerns that several people raised such as privatization of community centers, asking that neighbors be able to walk or ride their bikes to their neighborhood community center or that transit be available did not appear in the Staff summaries at the end of the meeting, despite the fact that many had agreed on these issues during the discussion time.

In a recent memo to the Park Board, Parks staff also raised some of the following issues with the “limited use” models now operating at Laurelhurst Community Center and four others. The staff said they are continuing to work on solutions to these challenges; however a reader that attended the community meeting said that none of these specific issues were addressed at the meeting.

Issues (full list here):
• Bringing public awareness to the change
• Lack of staffing continuity; twenty-nine different people work at these five centers, most under 20 hours/week, leading to inconsistent staff assignments and customer servics
• Few staff with strong community connections at the site due to staff shifting between centers
• Frustration from customers expecting front desk service when the facility is not open
• Frustration from customers expecting drop-in programs, like basketball and playroom access, when the facility is not open.

The reader strongly encourages everyone to go to the Parks website and answer the five questions listed below as well as provide their own insights about community centers,  and also comment on the "limited use" issues listed above.


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?

Here is detailed information on the five "limited use" Community Centers, including Laurelhurst. It lists the main changes being: 1) hours 2) static programming 3) no special events (Easter Bunny, Salmon Bake, etc. ) 4) reduced customer service hours.

You can submit your answers to the five questions presented at the meeting as well as your ideas here.  Or you can email your input to Councilmember Sally Bagshaw at 600 Fourth Avenue, Floor 2, P.O. Box 34025, Seattle, WA 98124-4025.

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