Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Rainier Valley Matters. Southend Neighbors deserve shared resources and smart solutions.

Things come my way because I tend to do something with what is placed in my lap. So the irony of  shooting being in a gas station across from my daughter's residence and the police looking for him near my residence inspires this writing. 

The area near Valero Gas station on Rainier and Othello has its share of trouble. And will remain that way until the good people who now live in this area give up and it becomes Seattle's next gentrified community. When thr new residents arrive in the Brighton/Othello neighborhoods in full force the police will miraculously find "resources" to make this stretch safe from drug deals and subsequent violence associated with illegal activity. The media says it is gang related, the shooting had nothing to do with gangs it was over a woman.  It is just easier for the media to link everything that involves a Black male with being gang related. 

The house that the suspect frequents is a trouble house, they sell drugs and brings frequent visitors who stay no more than 5 minutes. The cars are sometimes lined up as if waiting for their order at a drive through. When we have called the police because of arguments, public urination, people driving fast on a street where children play, and old people live nothing or not much happens. The average adult age is about 60 years old. Most of us are retired. Except for this one house the neighborhood is extremely safe and sane. 

The police are almost totally in effective in helping us as a neighborhood that wants criminal activity stopped. We call, we have spoken to top brass to no positive end. We like any other neighborhood that has invested millions of dollars into properties want a return non our tax investment. How we different from other neighborhoods of prominent residents? Well the most obvious is that we are brown and black. 

We are not moving or selling anytime soon or fast enough so what we are experiencing is under policing. The other day one neighbor raising children sounded a bit too frustrated, using words like I need to feel my children are safe. That is the feeling before the for sale signs arrive. Frustrating owners out of Rainier Valley to make room for young whites who want and need a home less expensive than Fremont, or Queen Anne. There is not much left in Columbia City we are Hillman City the next neighborhood to the south. 

Chief O'Toole has been called by me and told that our neighbors have tried for more than two years and without results to get the illegal activity in this house shut down. By the time person's violence gets to the level of shooting someone in front of witnesses without concern, someone saw it coming. We saw it coming. We know where criminal behavior goes unstopped, there are guns and that guns get used and sometimes innocent people get hurt. 

So what happens when good neighbors in an otherwise family neighborhood in Rainier Valley calls the police for help? The standard answer from 911 the police are busy on other calls. Or if there is finally a response it could be days later, and we get told of the lack of resources to work on nuisance calls.  Could someone tell SPD that Selling drugs outside of a licensed pharmacy is a not a nuisance it is a crime. People threatening to kill during loud arguments is not a nuisance call. Drug customers urinating on private lawns is a nuisance but when they passed out on that lawn from drug use, I think a report needs to be responded to.  

A news reporter following a five hour SWAT team stand off at the house asked me if the neighborhood was changing. "No, the police response to neighbors is changing." With police help we could have had this handled before the violent shots to the face of someone. We used to get responses to calls and those calls were not very frequent and they were the kinds of calls neighbors who want to ward off bad actors make. A car sitting too long in a neighborhood, abandoned vehicles, suspicious people. We live on a cul de sac so any who is on our block and not a visitor to anyone is suspicious. 

My family has lived on this block for 30 years and no problems to speak of for 29 of those years. Bad houses can pop up anywhere, but if the police do not work with neighbors, they get to take root. Luckily for my block,  the homes except for two are owner occupied. Both have absentee landlords. One houses good neighbors. The Cabios bought their home when we bought ours and has benefitted from the rent that Seattle Housing Authority sends them. So my taxes helps to pay for the nuisance that plagues us. 

Actually, this is a nice home gone bad. The woman now older and not well raised foster children along with her own. She went to work everyday and was a nice neighbor.  Then relatives came to "take care of her" and as she told  police she "lost control of her home." 

The fall back response when you call 911 or if you get to speak with an officer is that there are not enough resources. It seems the police were not short on resources June 9, 2015. They sent enough police vehicles and personnel to arrest the suspect they believed was in the trouble house to render the neighborhood a war zone. Selling drugs outside of a pharmacy is not a nuisance it is a crime. And crime escalates until someone gets hurt or killed. 

Once an officer finally came out and did what is called a knock and talk.  The older woman who has lived in the house for many years said she lost control of the house when relatives moved in about two years ago. She is not well, they came to "take care of her."  Why did the police not contact Adult Protection Services, our property taxes pay for all the prevention resources that seem to not flow to Rainier Valley. Is there some kind of invisible resources dam at I-90?

The cost of a more than five hour surveillance with a SWAT team had to be an expensive resource use. I think what we were asking for is much less costly.  When they finally entered the house the suspect was not there he left in another vehicle. 

That was last month and now we are back to no response to calls. A young man was knocking on doors last week claiming he had tracked his phone to this neighborhood. And hung out for almost 45 minutes and three calls later a patrol car came just after he left. A white male had murdered nine good black people just the week before the President responded, I am old and black the scary 21 year old was young and white. I was told in a follow up call with Sgt Ann Martin that an car did come after the third call but they never checked on me. 

As neighbors we fell doomed but we are not moving. We will continue to make the calls, and even complain. I already know I will be labeled a nuisance. Hell, the Mayor, the King County Executive, City Attorney and two City Council members and a Community Police Commander were guests in my backyard, I consider them colleagues and allies. My neighbor is a Municipal Judge, and another a retired SPD Commander. If we can not get a patrol car to respond to legitimate calls who in Seattle can? It would be nice to have an analysis of calls by neighborhoods. I hear sirens all the time, so does a full scale crime have to occur before the resources of which we  are told they are short are applied?  We have even been told of our calls coming during a shift change. It was 11:25 A.M. on a Saturday morning. What shift is that? 

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

Gov. Inslee Must Assure First Place Scholars Keeps its Charter and Funding

First Place Scholars School is the only charter that proposed to solely focus on the education of poor children. It has for 25 years been located in a Seattle community that voted overwhelmingly democratic and placed Governor Jay Inslee in this highest state office. He must assure education equity for all schools whether district or charter. 

Retaining  First Place Scholars as a Charter School

First Place Scholars School Leader, has lead the FPS Board of Directors, teachers, parents, volunteers, and a diverse community in putting WA's historic first charter school into compliance.  Education Specialists have advised and much work has been done; The special education plan and teacher are in place, safety plans and drills approved, teachers coached, and student social and emotional growth evident. A fund development plan is drafted and is being applied. We are supplementing public funds to bring best practices in educating poor children. The students have taken and are waiting the results of the required Smarter Balance measurement. This will give a baseline for next school year. Supporting Partners have brought experiential education in science, the arts, and technology. Trained Volunteers are mentoring and tutoring and the emotional and social growth of the students is being documented.

Today, WA Charter Commission told the public that they had to get clarity from OSPI to know what they should expect from First Place Scholars. And that means any charter school. Moving the goal post has kept even some of the Commissioners a bit confused. We want Governor Jay Inslee  to do his job and assure that charters are implemented with equity. Revoking a charter because funds are not in place is not equity. He and the legislature have not closed district schools because school funding is not adequate. They are in a second special session working together to figure our school finances. Why would financing be a reason to revoke our charter?

You can cut and paste this into the Governor's online comment form. 

What do we need Governor Jay Inslee to Know?
Gov Inslee, please use your highest in state office to bring equity to the implementation of charter schools. Stop the WA Charter Commission from taking the charter and thus the public funds from the education of students who represent WA's poorest children. You can and must stop this travesty of equal justice. 
  • First Place Scholars has delivered and the WA Charter Commission has accepted all of the compliance issues presented.  
  • The Superintendent of Public Instruction has instructed the Commission on how the Special Education Plan should be presented. Before now, there was no clarity. The teacher is certified.The proof they ask for is merely showing them the certification. This is a new request. 
  • The compensatory part of the plan will be implemented in summer with a contribution to help with this from Catholic Community Services.
  • The U.S. Department of Education had three evaluators on site for two days and found that First Place Scholars met compliance as a start up charter school and released a $200,000.
  • We are asking Governor Inslee to have the Commission to take First Place off of probation and allow them to restore their good name, focus on direct instruction and give the public a chance to see best practices for poor children established within a distinct community. 
We want Governor Inslee to use the power of his office to:
  • Stop any inequity of time in establishing a public charter school.  
  • Convey to the Commission it takes time to establish best practices with any students especially children with challenges, traumas, and special needs. 
  • Let the Commission know that any charter school needs at least two to three years to demonstrate the school can be governed and operated with positive outcomes.