Archive for Community

Seattle city gov: Doubling food stamp value if used at farmer’s market…

I was underwhelmed when I ran across this announcement in my FaceBook feed. Here is the response I posted with the reasons that immediately sprang to mind why it is is more feel-meh, then feel-good.

Food stamp dollars would need to be doubled, or quadrupled, to buy fresh food at farmer’s markets. I feel this is silly in that people who need food stamps, many mothers with small children,

  1. Can’t afford to go shopping to several different places to get their groceries;
  2. Farmer’s markets aren’t co-located with the people who use food stamps. Heck, we can’t even get a grocery store. “We won’t put a farmer’s market in Delridge because there aren’t enough people there who will pay 2 dollars for a peach.”
  3. Why does it matter where a person buys their fresh veggies? Yes, I get the “eat local” mantra, but who knows, really, how far away the farmer’s market vendors are.

One of the things that drives me a little nuts about Seattle, love it though I do, is that frequently our initiatives are more about us looking like we’re doing something that will make us (largely the middle- and upper-class, and white) feel like we’re doing something wonderful. I can well imagine the conversation going something like “surely the Somali woman with six kids, little English, often no car would love to shop at the farmers market. The only thing keeping her from it is that she can’t get 10 more dollars worth of produce at the farmer’s market.”

Maybe I’m wrong, and the people depending on food stamps were consulted on this. Please. Someone. Anyone. Prove to me I’m wrong, that the users were involved in this initiative.

Seattle City Council News Release: Council expands access to healthy food for food stamp enrollees.

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Delridge Skate Park Construction Contract: Re-bid so disqualified contractor is qualified?

Here is the text of an email I sent today in reaction the notice Matt Johnston posted about the construction contract for the Delridge Skate Park.

The email was sent to Kevin Stoops (kevin.stoops@seattle.gov).

Dear Mr. Stoops,

This email references the information summarized by Matt Johnston in this http://seattleskateparks.org/?p=1128 post.

I am a neighbor to the skate park site. I’m not a skater, nor do I have children who are. I’m writing you because I’m concerned that the selection of the construction contractor seems to be headed toward selecting an unsatisfactory construction contractor.

The Delridge neighborhood has been supportive, even active, in helping to move this park forward. Part of our concern has been that the park should be designed and built to be a long-lasting, excellent city feature so that skaters will take pride in it and help maintain it, and so it’s not an eyesore for the neighbors and other park users. The design is excellent and reflects the broadest spectrum of community consensus I believe you’ve had in any skate project. The public meetings were without rancor and the process has been smooth—at least with regard to the community.

Part of our willingness to support the project was based on the Parks Department assurance that the specifications for the construction contract would ^be written to solicit reasonable submissions from well-qualified contractors—not just cheap. That only contractors with extensive experience and good reputations building skate parks would be considered.

I was dismayed at first that a contractor with a poor reputation for quality work had been selected. Now that he has been disqualified, I am given to understand that instead of awarding it to the next best proposal, you are considering rewriting the RFQ with lesser standards.

If the specifications are changed in mid-stream to include the disqualified contract, then I’m dumbfounded. How is this different from simply awarding it to a contractor without going to bid? How is that fair to the other respondents? How would that satisfy the promise the Parks Department made to us to build the best skate park possible?

I urge you to reconsider. I’m sure you have only the best interest of the budget in mind, but a contract that seems cheap up front can end up costing far more in the long run. This will be a major city feature for many years. I will have to leave live across the street from it. Let’s make it something that we’re all proud of. I don’t want to regret encouraging my neighbors to support the park and process.

Regards,
Nancy Folsom
Member of the North Delridge Neighborhood Council

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Who is teaching whom?

I’m going to start writing here occasionally about experiences I have as a tutor. I’ve been volunteering for the Seattle Youth Tutoring program for nearly six years. The program matches kids from 1st to 12th grade with tutors who help students living in low-income housing communities with homework, skill building, and reading.

It’s a great program from a volunteer’s point-of-view because onsite staff prepare all the materials, have teaching experience and training so we can come in each night and just get to work. I like that the kids are there voluntarily and that I’m matched with the same students each week so we can build a relationship.

There are challenges. I recently had to ask to have a student switched to a different tutor. We weren’t working together effectively, and the change has been good. It was awkward at first, but we are now friendly and I think she’s doing better with the change. I know I am.

All in all, I believe I’ve gotten at least as much, if not more, from the program than I’ve put in. Interesting things come out of the experience, and it’s become an important part of my life and of who I am. I always thought I wasn’t cut out to be a mom but was meant to be an aunt. This opportunity fills that need.

Being an adult in a child’s life really can change one. It has given me a chance to grow up in a way that being childless didn’t offer.

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Broken window theory

I was sorry to see a reference to the broken window theory of crime prevention in an email news update I received today from one my Seattle City Council members. Councilman Burgess is a fine man, and I’m looking forward to doing what I can to support his safer streets initiatives here in Seattle. So, this isn’t a criticism of him or his proposal in general. (Wikipedia summarizes the theory lists references for and against here.)

The broken window theory is easy. It seems like common sense, right? It’s easy to summarize, heck, you don’t even need to say more than “broken window theory.” Unfortunately, that’s probably the first warning sign of a mistaken idea — if it’s easy to grasp and seems like common sense it’s probably wrong. Or so watered down as to be as good wrong.

The broken window theory is just not supported as a crime prevention strategy. At best, it probably just barely impacts crime in a neighborhood. Even its positive affect may be more a matter of people being out, on the street, doing things around the house, and therefore aware of the doings in their vicinity. Also, people will be more likely to meet neighbors, which also aides safe streets.

That’s not to say it’s a bad idea. I think it’s great, but not for preventing crime. Let me cast it this way and perhaps you’ll see what I mean. If we “…consider a sidewalk. Some litter accumulates. Soon, more litter accumulates. Eventually, people even start leaving bags of trash from take-out restaurants there or breaking into cars.” I agree less litter is good. But, would a criminal decide to rob a restaurant because the street outside is littered? I’m skeptical. Crime does happen in good neighborhoods, and I seriously doubt a criminal gives a damn about litter, or peeling paint, or broken windows.

Why raise this if I respect Councilmember Burgess and support his goals? The problem I have is that by featuring a discredited theory, Councilmember Burgess has undermined my confidence in the rest of his proposal. I’ll be more wary and skeptical of everything proposed.

If there was one thing I can get across to kids I tutor it would be this: question what you think and why you think it. We collect many random “facts” that gain the force of obvious truth only because we neither examine the source or the facts. I, too, accepted the broken theory for years as common sense until a  neighbor mentioned it a year ago or so. I got to wondering why I so sure that was a sound theory, and so investigated it a bit.

By the way, you don’t need to drink eight glasses of water a day, either.

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