Friday, April 15, 2011

Temporarily Inactive

Hey ladies and gents! Please continue on to my Portfolio or Mini-Blog for the most current from your guy.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Photos: Summer of Food at Seattle Met

After a period of reflection (and some gentle prodding), I compiled some of my favorite photos from the stint I did from June to December of 2009. I didn't realize at the time, but these photos actually make me extremely happy with how far I've come in terms of clarity and quality. I hope you enjoy.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

City Living: Senior centers draw heavily on fundraisers amid budget cuts

A group of seniors watches a blues band perform during the Central Area Senior Center's "Bite of New Orleans" catfish dinner on March 6. The center, which serves over 1,200 members, offers a variety of educational and recreational programs varying from computer classes to guitar lessons. (Click here to watch a video of the blues guitar performance from the Central Area Senior Center's catfish dinner.)

While the recession economy has forced governmental budget cuts affecting many traditionally well-funded programs, many of the city’s senior centers are not only surviving but avoiding programming reductions by bridging the financial gaps themselves.

“When the dust clears, the budget cuts didn’t affect the senior centers as much as it seems,” said Denise Klein, Senior Services Executive Director. “In fact, some centers got money from the United Way for the first time. I’m sure there were a few takeaways—a couple of the centers that offer adult day health were affected by the state and county budgets. But overall, it’s kind of a wash.”

About half of Senior Services’ $15 million annual budget traditionally comes from all levels of taxpayer-based sources—federal, state, city and county governments—but they also draw significantly from the United Way, fees, and donations gathered through fundraising efforts.

And though senior centers in both the University District and Wallingford have closed in recent years, seven still continue to operate in Seattle with average memberships ranging from 600 to over 1,200. In total, 40 centers exist under the Senior Services umbrella.

However, other King County senior centers have had a harder time softening the blow without the benefit of Seattle’s city funding—especially when it comes to day health programs for disabled seniors.

“Our King County funding was reduced in half this year, from $50,000 to $24,500, and the year before that the support we received through the county for adult day health was eliminated,” said Amara Oden, director of the Sno-Valley Senior Center. “We’re scrambling to make up that difference so we don’t have to make choices that impact the seniors we serve.“

While the funding reduction from the county was significant, even that didn’t cause the program to close. The Sno-Valley Center—which boasts 600 regular members and serves more than 2,000 seniors in Carnation annually—is now considering raising their fees, and like many other centers is pursuing new fundraising opportunities. Some centers have found success hosting golf tournaments and business luncheons, while others run thrift stores or write government grants.

“All senior centers spend way too much of their time fundraising,” said Klein. “I asked all of the center directors what their biggest challenge was in 2009, and each one said that it was some aspect of fundraising. They have to figure out how to get more and more creative, especially when it comes to starting new kinds of fundraisers and attracting younger people.”
However, some see a silver lining on the hard work required for senior centers to bridge the budget gap.

“With these cuts, we’ve had to generate the revenue ourselves,” said Rick Joseph, Central Area Senior Center board president. “When you expect that the money is always going to be there, it takes away from being self sufficient. So in a way, this has been a blessing in disguise.”

While not all directors and board members might agree with Joseph, none will argue the importance of senior centers to its constituents. According to several directors, they’ve seen firsthand that seniors are hurting in the economic climate—instead of having a solidified retirement, many turn to the centers as a way to supplement their limited income with and make ends meet. Amid budget cuts, they’re being forced to consider the possibility of seniors with more needs than ever meeting an inability to meet them.

“It’s important to keep making sure that seniors have their piece of the financial pie,” said Thurston Muskelly, former board president of the Central Area Senior Center. “Any time you have budget shortfalls, social programs are always cut. But these are people who built this city, paid into social security, worked in the factories during World War II—there’s a lot of sacrifice here. Now they need to be rewarded for their deeds, and this is part of their reward.”

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Bellevue Reporter: Irish expatriate creates old-country feel with new Bellevue pub

Owner Pat Coyne has created Paddy Coyne's Pub to be what is called a 'local' in Ireland – a neighborhood bar.

Shortly after Pat Coyne opened The Irish Emigrant in 1999, he realized the pub, located in Seattle’s University District, wasn’t what he set out to create.

“I always wanted a cozy, authentic, comfortable Irish pub, but I ended up with more of a college bar,” said Coyne, who moved from Galway Harbor, Ireland, to Boston in 1984 and on to Seattle in 1992. “When I opened Paddy Coyne’s, it went back to small and comfortable.”

His first namesake bar opened in South Lake Union in July 2004, and was followed by a Tacoma location in January 2007.

Bellevue now is host to the third Paddy Coyne’s Pub.

Accented by dark wood and stone, the interior (also decorated by genuine Irish expatriates) creates an ambience that conveys exactly that. And, with performances by traditional Irish flutist Leo MacNamara every Wednesday night, the experience offered is undeniably authentic.

“Paddy Coyne’s concept is built around what the Irish call a ‘local,’ your neighborhood bar that’s walking distance from your home — or as the Irish would say, stumbling distance,” said Jenny Corry, the pub’s general manager and co-owner. “Being such a metropolitan area, you wouldn’t think that’s what we’d create in Bellevue, but we have. It feels like a community, and we know most of our patrons.”

And while its Lincoln Square Location means several other restaurants and bars surround the pub, Coyne and his staff see them more as allies than competitors.

“There really isn’t anything like us nearby,” said Corry. “We have great neighbors, and we don’t really feel like we’re competing because what we offer is so different."

In addition to having a neighborhood feel, Coyne made it clear that the food would have to match the authenticity of the Irish beers and whiskeys — and even went so far as to incorporate his own family recipes.

Everything is made by hand, and stays as authentic as possible. But there’s a mix of traditional and modern gastropub – shepherd’s pie and bangers and mash grace the menu alongside burgers and potato skins. For breakfast, options range from an authentic Irish meal that includes bangers, rashers, broiled tomato and soda bread to more American meals like a breakfast burrito.

“We try to keep it as Irish as possible,” said Coyne. “I look at my pubs as my living room, so I want everyone who comes in not just to experience good food and drinks but also to feel at home.”

Friday, February 26, 2010

Queen Anne View: Off-leash area, development options dominate Lower Kinnear Park town hall discussion

On Thursday night, nearly 60 landscape architects, parks department officials and Queen Anne residents convened at the Bayview Retirement Community to give feedback on the potential options for the rejuvenation of Lower Kinnear Park. The second of three meetings followed a gathering of 40 people on Jan. 19in which neighbors voiced their concerns to community planning groupFOLKpark and architecture firm Hough Beck and Baird.

Using large maps with overlays of the proposed changes, Dean Koonts and his team of architects took turns explaining the three “preliminary drafts” they created based on input from community members at the previous meeting and from the online survey, to which there were 88 responses.

Of the 59 attendees, 27 chose to discuss the development of an off-leash area (OLA) for dogs as the meeting split into discussion groups. After an hour of dialogue, the group relayed their suggested area size (5,300 sq. feet) and their desire to integrate it into the park’s landscape.

“It would be a great asset to the neighborhood to have an off leash park considering how far away every other off leash area is,” Brad Weinberg wrote onFOLKpark’s Facebook page. “To have a designated area for off leash play would open up the rest of the park for those people who aren’t dog owners [and] would limit people from using the rest of the park as an off leash area.”

While there are 11 OLAs in Seattle, none exist in the Queen Anne neighborhood, and in 2006 the Park Department Superintendent designated Lower Kinnear Park as the best site for that purpose. However, according to Parks and Green Spaces Levy manager Rick Nishi, the allocated funding source doesn’t allow for off-leash projects until later years.

The three large draft plans were fundamentally different, but the two major components that each concept shared were increased compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act and a reestablished linkage to the waterfront via the “North Trail Link,” (.pdf) one of the ideas from the previous meeting that Koonts said “came through loud and clear.”

Plan A” (.pdf) primarily focused on the northeast slope, re-engineering the hillside and easing the grade to make it more easy to navigate. While the cost of that effort was a concern for many of the community members in attendance, there was a general consensus in support of the plan’s expanded plaza on Mercer Street. Koonts also mentioned that this option best fits a designated OLA.

The most notable feature of “Plan B” (.pdf) was its elevated trail and boardwalk, as well as refurbished and redesigned tennis courts—ideas that drew mixed responses from community members based more on cost effectiveness than the design itself.

Focusing more directly on safety and sustainability, “Plan C” (.pdf) featured popular ideas such as rain gardens and other stormwater solutions as well as less popular ones such as a connecting set of hill-climb stairs near West Mercer Place.

HBB now plans to adjust their drafts in order to create an action plan and cost estimate, taking into account the feedback from the most recent discussion. With that plan, FOLKpark plans to apply to the Parks and Green Spaces Levy Opportunity Fund in early April seeking an amount likely near $700,000. They then plan to hold the third and final community meeting on April 8 at 7 p.m., also at the Bayview, to establish a community consensus on the preferred plan.

FOLKpark initiated a rejuvenation of the five-acre urban forest after winning a $15,000 grant from the city’s Department of Neighborhoods last year. They chose HBB based on the firm’s history with sustainable green design and crime prevention through environmental design (CPTED).

Link to original post.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

JT News: UW Panhellenic Recognizes Jewish Sorority

From left to right) Lauren Brown of Hillel, President Jaclyn Leiberman and member Nicki Balk of The Jewish Sorority and Chaya Estrin of Chabad worked to create the recently university-recognized sisterhood.

Three-and-a-half years of hard work and dedicated organization came down to one vote. And that vote, deciding whether the University of Washington’s Panhellenic Council would recognize the 18-member Jewish Sorority, passed.

“It makes a lot of sense,” said Lauren Brown, director of Undergraduate Engagement for Hillel. “There’s a community of Jewish women out there and we’ve seen that build over the last couple of years, and many of them are interested in being a part of the Greek System. It’s really easy for Jewish guys who come to campus, but this gives an independent place for Jewish girls. Now they can say, ‘I really want to join a Jewish house for the best of both worlds.’”

Students at UW have the option of joining special-interest fraternities or sororities as an alternative to traditional Greek organizations. The options for Jewish women have long been limited since the Jewish-founded, non-sectarian sorority Phi Sigma Sigma left campus in the ‘80s. Even Jewish men have had multiple options—namely the Alpha Epsilon Pi and Zeta Beta Tau fraternities.

But with the granting of recognition by the campus’s sorority community governing body, that quickly changed. Now, frankly titled “The Jewish Sorority,” this long-running project already has 18 fully committed women and hopes to be housed by recruitment time next fall.

“This is really important to the UW community because the Jewish girls on campus didn’t really have a place to go,” said Jaclyn Lieberman, Jewish Sorority co-president. “But now, with the Greek community having a place for Jewish women, it’ll help all of us become so much stronger.”

Before the sorority’s creation, the only other Jewish women’s organization at UW was Banot—originally created to be the Jewish sorority—which has since evolved into a less formal bonding group for Jewish women. Most members of The Jewish Sorority were or are also members of Banot, and while overlap exists between the two organizations they’ve come to fill different purposes.

Although the sorority’s members can’t yet hold leadership positions on the Panhellenic Council, they do have every social, philanthropic and community leadership opportunity that the nationally recognized fraternities and sororities do. The sorority just doesn’t have letters—yet. When a new national organization is invited to campus, it will hopefully take them under its umbrella and grant what is now The Jewish Sorority membership from its national headquarters.

And while Chabad and Hillel are organizations nationally notorious for butting heads, the two organizations saw this opportunity as one truly important to the Jewish community as a whole and had no difficulty setting aside their differences.

“When I think about it, it’s an amazing thing that Hillel and Chabad were able to come together and bring this huge asset to the Jewish community,” said Chaya Estrin of Chabad. “If the whole world would work like that it’d be amazing.“

Though it has taken time and hard work, both UW Greeks and the organization’s members and supporters see this endeavor to create a new division of Jewish campus life as an important addition to the UW community and an exciting new place for Jewish students to live and be supported.

“AEPi only started nine years ago, and ZBT just three years ago, and they’ve both so strongly helped solidify the Jewish community on campus,” Estrin said. “I think everyone sees that having a Jewish sorority on campus will enhance the Jewish fraternities and enhance the Jewish community. Now more students can be actively Jewish and actively involved at the same time.”

Thursday, January 28, 2010

JT News: Planning For The Future

After six years on campus, Rabbi Elie Estrin and his wife Chaya — leaders of the University of Washington’s Chabad House — noticed two things. First, the Jewish community on campus has seen huge growth. Second, the Jewish student groups could accomplish far more if the students who led them were given the skills to achieve their goals.

With those thoughts in mind, Estrin began to work on a plan to provide students with top-notch leadership training. Through mutual acquaintances at Temple De Hirsch Sinai, he was connected with Jan Levy and her program, called Leadership Tomorrow, a local leadership development and community-building organization that counts dozens of CEOs and elected officials among its alumni.

“When it was suggested I speak with [Levy], that was what really pulled it into existence,” Estrin said. “She understood exactly what I wanted from the get-go and we had a really good meeting of the minds, and the format that we envisioned was really the same vision.”

Leaders were chosen from every major Jewish group on the UW campus, drawing on Huskies for Israel, Hillel, Alpha Epsilon Pi Fraternity, Zeta Beta Tau Fraternity and Banot. Estrin handpicked some students he knew would be serious about the program and would be inspired to give back to the community as a result. Others came forward and requested to participate.

“I was looking for people who would, A, learn what vision is, B, implement their vision and not get distracted by pitfalls along the way, and C, have accountability,” Estrin said. “I felt that there were a lot of students with lofty goals but they didn’t know how to apply them. We’re hoping to eventually cause a greater number of students on campus to have a much more mature outlook, with much more knowledgeable and skillful projects.”

The program, a concentrated synthesis of Leadership Tomorrow’s nine-month program that combines the conceptual, skills and application training led by Levy and her colleague Bob Ness, culminates with a project stage where teams of four or five students select a project to work on and present progress at the end of the school year.

“This is designed to make the students take responsibility for leadership,” Levy said. “The students are learning things that are applicable throughout their lives. In the first session, we asked them to write their own life mission statement, and in each session we revisit it and talk about how it’s starting to evolve.”

The desire of the students to attend was evident through their willingness to contribute toward the seminars’ cost, ensuring that they had a stake in the process.

“I only had something to gain by going,” said Daniel Hirsty, a UW sophomore who is a member of Alpha Epsilon Pi and participates at Hillel. “I have a lot of different interests, and learning how to build coalitions and be a strong leader is important. I really just want to propel myself to be a better citizen.”

Estrin plans to continue the program annually, envisioning a competitive program that selects only the top students with greatest leadership potential—and desire to attend. If all goes as planned, he theorizes by the time the freshmen taking this course are graduating there will be up to 80 students who are trained with the same leadership skills and an ability to accomplish even bigger projects.

“We’re not doing this for our organization,” Estrin said. “We’re doing this for the community as a whole. This is not a project that we’re specifically benefitting from. This is a project the entire university community, and eventually the Jewish community as a whole, will benefit from.”