Two months ago, faced with five empty storefronts on Broadway, Capitol Hill business and community leaders crammed themselves around a long table in Seattle's City Council Chambers and listed off the neighborhood's nagging problems. Their list of concerns included public drunkenness and drug use, aggressive panhandling, overflowing Dumpsters, and a low perception of police presence--all things they say are contributing to the community's decline.

When the September 21 meeting closed, the Capitol Hill representatives went home, hopeful that the city would help jump-start solutions to revitalize the faltering district ["Broadway Hit," Amy Jenniges, Aug 16]. But on October 18, the City Council found out they had to cut about $25 million from the city budget--leaving the city's checkbook closed when it comes to assisting Capitol Hill. Indeed, not much has improved on Broadway or in the rest of the neighborhood. (There are currently six empty storefronts on Broadway.)

"We don't have a heck of a lot to report," says Stephanie Pure, legislative aide to Council Member Peter Steinbrueck. Pure organized the September meeting with city officials and Capitol Hill representatives. "It's an era of uncertainty, considering the resources we have." (Despite the cuts, Mayor Schell's proposed budget did include $4.5 million to fund revitalization efforts for the University District's Ave Project, subject to city council approval.)

To the city's credit, a few things have happened since the meeting. For example, Seattle Public Utilities started working with Capitol Hill representatives to address garbage problems. On December 6, SPU and Capitol Hill leaders will host an open forum to discuss garbage issues like stepping up service for constantly overflowing Dumpsters, and distributing free locks to landlords so they can keep Dumpsters closed.

Larger problems such as street youth and drug issues are on the agenda of a human services providers' roundtable, currently led by Jordan Royer of the city's Strategic Planning Office.

"We did get funding for a caseworker," Royer says. The new caseworker will work with street youth through existing social services providers, with a grant from the city.

Additionally, City Council Member Peter Steinbrueck signed off on several proposals outlined in a November 5 letter from the Capitol Hill Safety Coalition (CHSC)--a group formed to help revitalize the neighborhood.

The CHSC wants to see animal licensing enforcement by Seattle Animal Control, improved information flow from the state Department of Corrections about ex-offenders--like sex offenders--living on Capitol Hill, and better maintenance of area newspaper stands. The CHSC chose these projects because they use existing city services, and can kick in without tying up financial resources.

With the exception of a fourth CHSC idea (police stings on aggressive panhandling), Steinbrueck is interested in granting the group's wishes. But both the CHSC and Steinbrueck know that these small projects won't fix the larger issues plaguing Capitol Hill.

"These are the things that are frankly easy to take care of, so it's natural that they get addressed first," says Randy Wiger, a resident of Capitol Hill and secretary of the CHSC. "The pressing problems are more difficult."

There are a few pressing problems on Barry Rogel's mind. Rogel owns the Deluxe Bar and Grill on Broadway, and heads up the CHSC. If the city budget wasn't so tight, he would push some of his bigger ideas for revitalizing Capitol Hill--like an increased number of police officers in the East Precinct, and more coordinated social services. But hiring more police officers and funding social services requires money that the city doesn't seem to have.

In the meantime, Rogel hopes the CHSC's recent proposals are approved by the city. "Those kind of little, hard-fought victories matter," Rogel says.

amy@thestranger.com

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