The turnaround in our local economy that we all wished for in 2011 didn’t occur. If you’re like me, you’re apprehensive about 2012. Cuts to federal, state and city government budgets seem to continually loom over us, affecting our lives one way or another. Politicians and elected officials point fingers at each other and at no meaningful solutions. I am tired of the droning rhetoric around taxes and eliminating services. But as tired as I am about it all, I know this is when I have to be more diligent. This is when I need to find time to write more. This is when our community needs to be more diligent about community issues by being better informed, working hard and demanding that our voices be heard.

What’s on my International District radar for 2012? Issues that I believe impact our community disproportionately.

Chinatown/ID Parking Plan

Whoever thought that extending parking meter times to 8 p.m. and a $2.50 per hour parking rate was a good idea must hate small business and neighborhoods like the ID. As we worry about real crime on our streets, we now have to deal with our own city government robbing small business people of customers.

In 2012, Seattle Department of Transportation will begin a Community Parking Planning process in the Chinatown/ID. This is an important opportunity for our neighborhood to help shape the new parking plans and policies that will support the district’s economic and social health.

At a recent community meeting, I was encouraged by the willingness of key community people to put time and effort into making sure our community puts forth our own parking plan and not a plan that the City develops and forces upon us. We are already living with their poor ideas of parking for our neighborhood. To stay informed, please contact Joyce Pisnanont at: [email protected], to be placed on a parking plan distribution list.

Social Security Administration

The Social Security Administration (SSA) plans to close neighborhood offices in the International District and Belltown this spring. A new SSA office would open on the 9th floor of the high-security Jackson Federal Building. The community has already raised strong objections about the barriers to service that would result from the closures.

I understand the needs for cuts at all levels of government. But I object to some of them, when they are made under the guise of efficiency and effectiveness. I’ll spare you my tirade on government waste and bureaucracy. What I will focus on will be preserving and providing equitable access to services. Closure of the ID SSA office will result in the most vulnerable populations suffering disproportionately. Prioritizing by the needs of the majority is not leadership or effective management.

I encourage you to be part of a public meeting about the ID SSA office, to be held on Friday, Jan. 13 at the Chinatown/International District Community Center, located at 719 8th Ave. S., in Seattle from 1:30 – 3 p.m.

International District/Chinatown Community Center

The International District/Chinatown Community Center was originally proposed to have its hours of operation reduced to 25 hours per week. Through neighborhood support and people behind the scenes, the center received an additional 10 hours per week of operations, so a total of 35 hours per week.

Simply put, the fight for service hours in our center is not over. We may have stopped the flood, but we have repairs. We need to find ways to bring the center back to its regular hours of operation in the future.

The ID/Chinatown Community Center Advisory Council has asked the community for the following:

• Develop potential partnerships that can extend our hours

• Improve and prioritize programming that meets your needs; and,

• Provide feedback to elected officials about new ways to measure the value of our center to its users

Share your ideas with the ID/Chinatown Community Center staff or reach out to the advisory council’s secretary, AlmaDea Michelena, by e-mailing: [email protected]

A new year always brings new hope. I wish the best for you and yours for 2012.