As we considered producing a 2023 “year in review article” of RBAC accomplishments, in reality, Rainier Beach neighborhood’s accomplishments, the easy approach was to list the quantitative outcomes, of which there are many. However, there have been a fair share of setbacks and challenges and we would not be true to ourselves if we did not include “the other side of the coin” if you will. I suspect that’s the natural state of things when one takes up the challenge of advocating for the well being of a neighborhood that has historically been under invested in. Unfortunately, in today’s society it is very difficult to be reflective and make challenges known without a backlash. We risk, in sharing the challenges, the likelihood of being ridiculed for throwing shade on someone or some organization, or worse, we risk losing their support, be it their treasure, their time or their talent. As it is, the times call for “stating the facts” and relying on the age-old adage “the truth, at least from our point of view, will set one free”. Rest assured restorative circles are included.
It is unlikely anyone could imagine the impact of the murder of Elijah Lewis on our RBAC staff, let alone our community. Please remember that horrendous atrocity occurred just this past April, Elijah was 23 years old. This indescribable trauma impacted our staff and organization’s productivity a great deal and we still see remnants of it today. By the way, in light of this we still held at least 30+ restorative circles and 3 circle keeper training sessions (online and in person) that equipped 18 people to join the ranks in 2023.
We made strides to get Rainier Beach to be a “community responder” centered neighborhood https://www.americanprogress.org/article/community-responder-model/. We also had to include in this work convincing people that deploying our young people to activate certain street segments in the RB neighborhood to reduce the incidences that contribute to youth crime were a better investment than a technology that is purported to record shots fired from the misguided use of firearms. By the way we employed 30 young people in 2023 between the age of 14-25 years of age and they activated five different street segments (Rainier and Henderson, Rainier and Rose, Henderson and 52nd Avenue, Rainier Beach Light Rail Station area (Henderson and 42nd Ave So and Seward Park Ave So and Rainier) in Rainier Beach on a rotating basis 96 times this year, this include obtaining 378 surveys asking residents about their views on community safety in Rainier Beach. We ended the year with 8 of them receiving their CPR/First Aid certification.
We were able to raise $1.3 million for tenant improvements on a commercial building (the old Hudson Electrical Contractor building west of the RB Light Rail station) that will become the RBAC Growth Center. During the tenant improvement effort we had to terminate a contract with one architect and hire another. We went through a near complete turnover of our construction project management team and had cost increases due to being told we could get a variance on city code for an aspect of the project. We overcame these challenges together by using restorative practices to discuss them and we plan to open the RBAC Growth Center in April 2024 – it will include a food hub, farm stand, sound studio, restorative circle space, demonstration kitchen and staff work spaces. You can get more detail by reading a companion post in this edition of the RBAC Recap.
We got the idea to organize young people to “recreate Henderson Street” from the Rainier Beach Neighborhood Plan Update. A part of this process was to engage institutions responsible for transportation amenities along the Henderson Street Corridor e.g Metro, Seattle Department of Transportation, Seattle Public Schools etc. Along the way we were taken back by the view of a team of engineers from one of these local transportation institutions, who suggested that it’s mechanicals (trolly wires, buses, bathroom locations) were more important than the safety of drivers trying to exit a parking lot dangerously because of the inability to see oncoming traffic due to a bus layover location. They also shared any possibility of changing this would at the earliest be 2028. With excitement we announce the completion of The Recreating Henderson Street Report. Look for it to be posted on the RBAC website in January 2024. What went into its creation was the convening of a Town Hall at Beer Sheva Park, the completion and analysis of over 250 surveys, dozens of meetings and a community information session. We thank Link2Lake for believing in RBAC to take the work in and the two dozen people who attended the information session and by attending stated their interest in forming the next iteration of the Recreating Henderson Street Planning Team.
The short list of “against the odds” triumphs indeed came with their fair share of challenges and we suspect this should be expected. However, the challenges will not be used as an excuse as we rely more on the resilience, the hope and the smarts within us. This is indeed what it takes for a neighborhood to realize its hopes and dreams. We commit to you, as a subscriber to the RBAC Recap eNewsletter, that we will continue to employ these characteristics on behalf of a neighborhood that is a beautiful safe place, a place for everyone and a neighborhood that strives to have healthy food for a healthy industry and one that believes in lifelong learning. For more accomplishments look forward to our 2023 Annual Report due out soon.
By the way, we had our last board meeting of the year. Tremendous people each one of them – Rebecca Saldana’s – resident, our 37th District senatorial representative, challenger for the state Public Lands Commission, people impact expert; Monika Matthews – Entrepreneur, youth development expert, life changer; Cliff Cawthon – campaign generator, finisher; Marijune Doniego – resident, numbers wizard, a tremendous question asker; Steve Bury faith based non profit expert, he said he drools when he sees budgets; Gregory Davis – system change/policy change enthusiast, synthesizer; Michelle Reese master health systems navigator, family change agent. We were also joined by Jerrell Davis – transformer, creative artist. When you see them introduce yourself and thank them for their service to Rainier Beach.
Finally the board decided to recalibrate RBAC’s governance structure. RBAC is shifting to an Executive Council/Advisory Council model so that more residents can support and strive alongside. Check out this link. RBAC Council Interest Form
Be well and have a great year! We will!….just facts!