Gwen Davis
The WestWood, Roxhill and Arbor Heights Neighborhood Council met on April 2 to discuss leadership roles and transportation. Far left is Mat McBride, facilitator. Standing is Jim Curtin, West Seattle resident and SDOT employee.

New Westwood, Roxhill and Arbor Heights Neighborhood Council seeks citizen-leaders for special subcommittees

Transportation issues also discussed

By Gwen Davis

The newly-formed Westwood, Roxhill and Arbor Heights Neighborhood council met Tuesday night to discuss community concerns and transit issues with Jim Curtin, W. Seattle resident and Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) employee.

But at the end of the meeting Mat McBride, facilitator, urged the 15 or so participants to become citizen-leaders and volunteer to form special subcommittees for the council.

These subcommittees, which would regard specific interests, would meet independently of the larger group, for one or two hours a month – depending on what the subcommittee decides – and then present their action items to the larger group.

Interests could involve transportation, safety, beautification, schools, economic development or a host of other neighborhood issues.

McBride said it is a powerful and non-demanding or time-consuming way for people to get involved with their city. Subcommittee members only commit to about a year of time.

“Next meeting we’ll leave the room electing people,” he said, as the meeting ended.

SDOT and transportation
But the bulk of the meeting centered around Curtin’s presentation of SDOT’s plans for the area, and taking questions and concerns of participants.

“My job is unique because I work for the director who oversees everything,” Curtin said. “My job is to help create groups like this to get the services they need from SDOT. I’m in a unique position to hold my finger over the people making the calls.”

“I’m intimately familiar with the streets around here,” he added. “I also have a couple small kids who will be going to Arbor Heights Elementary and I know the issues with infrastructure.”

One participant queried Curtin about biking. As a survivor of a bike accident, she said, the fact that her kids ride to school makes her nervous.

Curtin replied that SDOT came up with a master bicycle plan in 2007, which they are working to slowly but surely fully implement.

Delridge Way S.W. was chosen as the major street for bike improvements. However, participants discussed why other roads would not be as privy to improvements, such as 16th.

There were other concerns that evening.

Roxhill is notorious for speeding, Curtin said. 85 percent of drivers drive well above the 30 to 32 mph speed limit, which he illustrated through a handout.

The issue of rechannelization of streets came up, where four lanes, for example, would be consolidated into two.

“Roxbury St. is one of the best candidates for rechannelization in the City of Seattle,” Curtin said.

Rechannelization provides safety improvements such as less switching lanes, cutting people off and “giving you friendly gestures,” he said.

“One thing we see in the data over and over again is the crashes. Every day we have crashes in the City of Seattle – more than 12,000 collisions a year. Every time we look at the data there’s one thing that stares us back in the face: 99 percent of those are totally preventable.”

50 percent of serious collisions are caused by impaired drivers, but 33 percent – most likely more – are caused by drivers choosing to be distracted.

“Safety depends on choices we make as individuals,” he said. “People choose to drink and drive, but sometimes we choose to talk to our kids in the back seat while we take our eyes and hands and mind off of a driving vehicle which is essentially a 2,000-pound plus weapon in some cases.”

But in terms of empowering citizens to make a difference in their community, the city has funds it can award to various projects.
However, funds are competitive.

“But applying for grants is the best thing you can do,” to empower an issue, McBride said. “Attaining, applying and implementing grant funds are powerful.”

“You have all these city grants but if you have a project that needs substantial money, you could apply to get state and federal money, as well,” he said.

The Westwood, Roxhill and Arbor Heights Neighborhood Council can be found on Facebook.

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