THANKS TO BLATANT inequities plaguing Rainier Valley, community organizers had no problem drawing 50 neighbors to a Thursday evening bitch session on August 17. Unfortunately, the organizers--left-wing activists from the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN)--had trouble getting another constituency to attend the 7 p.m. meeting: city officials.

Six city council members promised to be there (or at least send a staffer), but only Council Member Richard McIver and Heidi Wills assistant Katy Carter actually showed up at Emerald City Outreach Ministries' second-floor meeting room, where southeast Seattle neighbors honed in on a serious complaint--lack of sidewalks. The issue has become a class-and race-conscious flash point for the southeast Seattle residents, because the city recently helped fund new sidewalks in North Seattle's Lake City.

"There's really nowhere to walk, except on the street," complains Sonya Miyamura, a meeting attendee.

Rainier Valley residents asked for sidewalks and curbs on page 63 of the Rainier Beach Neighborhood Plan. (For chrissakes! We're talking sidewalks, not garages and parks.) But according to Anne Fiske Zuniga from the Department of Neighborhoods, "The budget doesn't exist for all these sidewalk fixes." (Funding the transportation and street-area fixes for all 38 neighborhood plans would run $533 million.)

McIver told the frustrated crowd he would try to put more money into the transportation budget. But at least one wise neighbor didn't buy that solution. "I don't have a lot of confidence that just because there's more money to put in the [transportation] budget, it'll get used down here," she said.

What can Rainier residents do? Wills assistant Carter recommended they invite council members on tours of the sidewalk-challenged 'hood. Given the lackluster council turnout at Thursday's meeting, however, the advice seemed hobbled with irony.

ACORN is staging a sit-in at City Hall today, Thursday, August 24, to protest the lack of sidewalks.