Highlights from the DPAC Meeting

Wednesday night meeting of the Discovery Park Advisory Council meeting highlights: The budget for the Environmental Learning Center (“ELC”) at Discovery Park was covered tonight. Questions were raised by attendees about ARC, the Associated Recreational Council – it takes a service fee for handling the money for the Parks Department at the ELC. It also skims other amounts from the City, part of its cozy but puzzling relationship with Parks and other departments in the City. This is not the first, and should not be the last time that citizens ask – “Why the ARC, what does it really do?” Apparently one of its advantages is so the that the City can skip out on its public face that it cares about the workers of Seattle, but in practice cuts wage rates and benefits when it has the opportunity.

As per Giovannina Souers, the ELC manager, ARC is the non-profit partner of Parks Department. It runs activities at the ELC to help out Parks with staff or volunteers, basically cheaper than what the City can supply people for, as per Giovannina, “If you are not City staff you can be employed for lower hourly wages, with or without benefits, or even for no pay. It is easier to hire people through ARC than to hire them as City employees. She added in ARC’s defense that when there was a downfall of City revenue, ARC took off, providing people and supporting programming for Parks.” Gary Gaffner, chair of DPAC, noted that of course ARC took off, because over time they had accumulated over a $1 Million, they needed to spend it to comply with their legal, IRS, obligations to spend a portion of their cash holdings as a 501C3 non-profit corporation.

As per Heidi Carpine, long time Magnolia activist, “We used to do fun things with some of the money that was brought in.” Giovannina responded that there is over $4,000 in a “rainy day account” for discretionary spending. She said she would remind staff that maybe they need to think of things that would be along the lines of what Heidi is talking about. Heidi also wanted to find out about getting a map of Discovery Park in the Judge Voorhees meeting room at the ELC.

Discussion by Giovannina about finding money for a uniform allowance increase, leading to a suggestion from the audience, former City of Seattle executive branch advisor, you ask for money for one thing that you know will be approved, knowing that you can “reprogram” the money later, move it to an area that was not approved. Gary Gaffner’s observation, former Parks Department bureaucrat extraordinaire, Kevin Stoops he was a past master at moving money around. Gary stated he would ask him how they could do such a thing – Kevin would assure him, “Don’t worry”, he would take care of it. Learn something new every day.

Observation, you can tell the problem areas from the no problem areas. The lead in to the problem areas has an extensive introduction, what the background is, why this is a worthy cause, the anecdotal reasons the request is more worthy, followed by almost palpable shallow breathing waiting to see if anyone is going to ask a probing question or mount an objection or hurdle to be overcome.

Capehart Trail – marked out where the trails are going to be, what plants are in the way and need to be moved, a few small trees. “Michael” will be in there next week to do some thinning. All with no public input. Neighborhood Matching Fund grant has conditions that are being worked out. Project going ahead without the grant being released and with no public outreach much less input on the plans and some work even being started.

ARC has postponed the consolidation of the environmental programs advisory councils, at Camp Long, Discovery Park, and Carkeek Park. DPAC plans to proceed with vesting Friends of Discovery Park with DPAC authority – at least that is the gist – Discovery Park Community Alliance founder, Elizabeth Campbell emailed a public disclosure request during the meeting to get more details about more of the backroom dealings at Discovery Park.

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