County Roundup

The Housing Authority Saves Seniors and Residents Rage Against Safe Drug Sites

Plus, the latest on Kent’s Robert E. Lee.

1. Friendly Village mobile home park in Redmond will remain both a park and affordable following King County Housing Authority’s recent purchase of the 40-acre property. The Housing Authority took over operations on Nov. 1

The prior owners of the park, which is reserved for residents aged 55 and over, said that they wanted to preserve the property as a mobile home park, according to the Housing Authority.

“What we’re really delighted about is that they wanted to maintain it as a mobile home park for the people that were there instead of selling to a private developer,” said Housing Authority director of communications Rhonda Rosenberg.

The Housing Authority paid $25 million for the park, which consists of 224 mobile home pads, putting the price of each pad at roughly $111,000. The Housing Authority took out a line of credit to finance the purchase.

Residents own their homes at the park, but pay on average only $782 a month for a space in the park. That’s far lower than rent elsewhere in Redmond and throughout King County.

Rosenberg said if a private developer had purchased the property, even one that would keep it as a park, rent prices would have likely ballooned. This would have presented a problem for many of the seniors who live there.

“These people would probably otherwise be homeless,” Rosenberg said. Redmond Reporter

2. Two dozen people from Issaquah and around King County came out to the Issaquah City Council meeting last week to give their views during a public hearing on the six-month moratorium on safe drug sites that the City Council passed on Oct. 16. And from the vast majority of the 24 speakers, the message was clear: spend tax dollars on rehabilitation and treatment for users of opioids, not injection sites that allow them to keep shooting heroin.

“We’re asking for you to push for a path forward that chooses treatment first, and stand behind efforts to keep our community safe and give truly compassionate care to the most vulnerable members of society,” said Issaquah resident Veronica Garcia, who declared herself a supporter of Initiative 27.

I-27, an initiative to ban drug sites throughout King County, had been slated for the February special election ballot, but was ruled invalid by a King County Superior Court judge last month.

The King County Council voted that if the initiative is reversed and placed back on the ballot on appeal, the Council would put forward its own initiative to have residents vote on placing two sites in the county—one in Seattle and one in another location. Bellevue, Auburn, Federal Way, Sea-Tac, Kent, Burien and Renton have all voted to ban safe drug sites.

One Issaquah resident came forward to speak in favor of safe drug sites. Kim Fan pointed out that 52,000 Americans die each year of overdose—15,000 more than the number of people who die in car accidents. Fan said that safe injection sites can reduce overdose fatalities by having trained professionals on hand to monitor users.

“It reduces public drug use and it reduces discarded syringes and the spread of HIV and hepatitis C, which can go around to someone you know,” Fan said. She also said that safe injection site participants are “more likely to enter detox and treatment services.” Issaquah-Sammamish Reporter

3. The building that houses the police department in Kent will have a new name by the end of the month. It’s a minor change, but one that officials hope will provide some clarity to anyone who might believe that the Robert E. Lee Memorial Building is named for the general who led the Confederate States Army during the American Civil War.

“Chief” will be added to the beginning of the building’s name at a ceremony at the end of the month, making clear that the building is named for Chief “Bob” Lee, who served as the head of Kent police from 1948 to 1966.

The name came under scrutiny in August during a national conversation about the appropriateness of Confederate war memorials, which has resulted in the removal of statues in numerous locales across the country. At the time, a commenter on the Kent Police Facebook page asked what the department was planning to do about the name on its building. Kent Mayor Suzette Cooke responded by talking about the former police chief during her August 15 report before the Kent City Council.

In addition to serving as police chief, Lee was a member of the Kent City Council from 1968 to 1972, was a hearing officer for the school district, and founded the Kent Juvenile Court Committee. He was also the membership salesman for the Kent Chamber of Commerce in the ’80s. It was in that role that he first met Cooke.

“Chief Lee was a great ambassador for the Chamber of Commerce,” Cooke said in a release announcing the rededication. “The business people respected his knowledge and integrity. When combined with Bob’s people skills and soft sense of humor, he proved very successful in sales.”

Vicki (Lee) Schmitz, the daughter of the man who led the police force for 18 years, spoke about her father to the Kent Reporter soon after concerns over the building name were raised.

“He was the most honorable man ever and one of the most respected men,” Schmitz said about her father.

Born in 1911, Lee was named after the general, said Schmitz, adding that doing so was a common practice at the time. He also passed the name along to his son, Robert E. Lee Jr.

The ceremony will be held at 11:30 a.m. on Thursday, Nov. 30, at the police station, 220 Fourth Ave. S. Kent Reporter

news@seattleweekly.com

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