Vote YES on Prop 1

votes yesSolid Ground endorses Transportation Benefit District Proposition 1 to stabilize and grow bus service in Seattle.

Affordable public transportation is the lifeblood of a growing city and region. Our friends, neighbors, family members and clients rely on the bus to get to work, school and medical appointments.

This November, voters will have the opportunity to support our regional bus service. Transportation District Proposition 1 is a ballot measure that mirrors the increases in Metro revenue sources that Seattle voters overwhelmingly supported in April: a $60 vehicle licensing fee and 0.1% sales tax. Low-income households are eligible for a $20 rebate on the vehicle licensing fee.

In addition, Proposition 1 provides up to $2 million for low-income riders and will support outreach to help people living on low incomes access the reduced fares.

Despite questions about the changing nature of Metro’s revenue forecasts and doubts about the need for funding to stave off serious bus service cuts, it’s clear that we must continue to invest in our regional transit system. Bus ridership is up and the demand for regional bus service is higher than ever. We must develop a sustainable long-term vision for expanding transportation services region-wide.

This proposition alone will not make our transit system affordable and equitable. Rather, it is an important first step in ensuring that people can continue to rely on the bus to go to the grocery store, pick their kids up at day care, and visit family members.

We urge Seattle voters to vote YES on Transportation Benefit District Proposition 1.

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Leveraging 40 years of innovation, partnership & action to end poverty & income inequality

Mayor Mike Murray holds a press conference with co-chairs of the Income Inequality Advisory Committee, David Rolf of SEIU 775NW, and Howard Wright of Seattle Hospitality Group

Mayor Mike Murray holds a press conference with co-chairs of the Income Inequality Advisory Committee (photo from the Seattle.gov website)

2014 is Solid Ground’s 40th year of Innovation, Partnership and Action! It appears that this will also be the year our society recognizes that income inequality is a fundamental and worsening issue for the United States and the world. Income inequality is not a new issue to us. Solid Ground and other Community Action Agencies recognized long ago that poverty is a result of societal barriers and structures which favor people with privilege and oppress those without. Since the origins of community action, the poverty rate has not increased, but income inequality – including lack of income mobility – has grown greatly, especially in the last 25 years.

The severity of income inequality and its impact on all of us is why I readily accepted Seattle Mayor Murray’s request that I join his Income Inequality Advisory Committee. The 25 members of the Committee are charged with delivering an actionable set of recommendations for increasing the minimum wage within the City of Seattle. Income is, of course, important – and as we know well, just one of many factors that affect a person’s ability to thrive. I view these minimum wage negotiations as an opportunity to raise awareness and, hopefully, action on the larger issue of addressing opportunity gaps that prevent income and social mobility for all residents of King County and our state.

I appreciate that our new mayor has wisely identified that multiple strategies are needed to make Seattle an affordable and equitable city, including:

  • Increasing minimum compensation levels for low-income Seattle workers.
  • Ensuring universal health insurance regardless of employment.
  • Making affordable housing more available and closer to where people work.
  • Preserving and strengthening our public transit systems to connect people to jobs.
  • Creating a fertile environment for the creation and growth of new jobs and industries.
  • Offering education and training options structured to help working adults succeed and linked to better paying jobs in demand by industry.

Appropriately, these strategies specifically address the root causes of poverty and would positively impact many of the people who access our services. Innovation, partnership and action are what have enabled Solid Ground to be an agency with impact for 40 years. I’m confident that by working together with our public and private partners, advocating with the people living on low incomes across Washington State and in collaboration with our nonprofit peers, Solid Ground’s fourth decade will bring success in making an impact as an agency working to end poverty and income inequality.

Poverty Action at the Capitol

On Martin Luther King Jr., Day 2014, Statewide Poverty Action Network members and volunteers took their fight for social justice to the Washington State Capitol in Olympia. Over 200 members joined us for a day of action, and together, our network covered the Capitol in ‘Poverty Action Purple’ and made our voices heard, visiting nearly every member of the Washington State Legislature.

We stood for increasing support for basic needs programs, housing, health care, fighting predatory debt practices, and increasing educational opportunities for all Washingtonians. Thank you to all who participated in this inspiring day; without your support this could not have been possible!

For more information about Poverty Action or to become a member, visit: www.povertyaction.org.

Circulator bus makes the rounds

This piece was contributed by Kari Ware, Solid Ground’s Transportation Director.

Front view of a Solid Ground Circulator busAfter getting off to a slow start with just 74 riders on October 1, 2012, the Solid Ground Circulator bus is gaining momentum, with over 70,000 people served to date. Ridership is steadily growing each month. A year into the program we now average 303 riders each day!

The route is designed to get riders as close as possible to as many services as possible in the downtown Seattle core area. Riders are commenting that they wouldn’t be able to get to those much-needed services without our bus. They really appreciate our friendly, professional drivers and the dependable service.

Paratransit Evaluation Manager, Gaby Bell, acknowledged the “excellent customer service” provided by our drivers. She stated in an email that the drivers are “always polite and friendly,” and “Chuck,” Charles Sanford, “is especially wonderful, always has a smile and greeting, and makes everyone feel welcome and comfortable.”

The Circulator operates seven stops in the downtown core area, Monday through Friday, from 7am-4pm. This program, originally funded through the end of 2013 by SDOT with support of King County Metro, has been renewed for 2014. Routes and service hours will remain the same for the coming year, however we are looking to expand routes and include weekend service for 2015.

Last February, the Circulator was featured on KPLU 88.5FM in a piece by Paula Wissel, Free downtown bus is no longer a best kept secret.

There are no requirements to qualify to ride the bus and it is accessible to everyone, so feel free hop aboard when you are in the area and check it out!

As a reminder, the Circulator will be running on Christmas and New Year’s as these holidays fall on regularly scheduled service days.

You can find more information about the Circulator on the Solid Ground website.

Side view of a Solid Ground Circulator bus

Memorial statue unveiled

This post is a follow up to our 4/5/12 post, Help honor a local fallen hero. A large number of Solid Ground’s Seattle Personal Transit (SPT) program drivers and passengers are U.S. veterans – and a disproportionate number of homeless adults in King County are vets. SPT ACCESS van driver Dick Clements, a U.S. Army veteran, shared these photos and details about the unveiling of a memorial statue in honor of U.S. Army Spc. Mikayla A. Bragg.

Mikayla Bragg Memorial Statue

Mikayla Bragg Memorial Statue

On Wednesday June 6, 2012, a memorial statue was unveiled in a ceremony in honor of U.S. Army Specialist Mikayla A. Bragg of Longview,WA, who was killed in action on December 21, 2011 in Knowst Province in southern Afghanistan at the age of 21. The statue was placed in an outdoor courtyard next to the History Department at Mark Morris High School in Longview, where Mikayla graduated in 2008.

The statue, called the Battlefield Soldier’s Cross, depicts a pair of boots with a rifle standing on its end, barrel down, with a helmet resting on the butt end of the rifle. Cast in bronze, it has a bronze plaque at its base featuring Mikayla’s picture and service information.

During the unveiling, a replica of a Civil War blanket given to fallen union troops was presented to Mikayla’s family by the Patriot Guard Motorcycle Club. SPT driver Dick Clements reports, “We of the Black Horse Regimental Motorcycle Club inducted Mikayla into the Black Horse honorarily.”

According to veteran Kristopher North, who spearheaded the memorial statue project, “Generations of students will be able to see this memorial on a daily basis and know that not only was this one of our own but, that Freedom isn’t Free.”

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They are our family

Solid Ground’s Transportation Department operates Seattle Personal Transit (SPT), one of King County Metro ACCESS program’s subcontractors. To catch a glimpse into a day in the life of SPT ACCESS drivers, we spent an afternoon talking with drivers and passengers as we rode along on a Metro ACCESS van, then featured the story in our June 2012 Groundviews Newsletter.

SPT driver Roland Remolana raises a passenger, Mr. Moore, and his wheelchair onto a Metro ACCESS van.

SPT driver Roland Remolana raises a passenger, Mr. Moore, and his wheelchair onto a Metro ACCESS van.

They are our family

Every rider has a story, as does every driver. But when riding the regular King County Metro bus system, it’s easy to remain anonymous – to blend in with all of the other riders and slip away when you get where you’re going. No one has to know your name. Riding on a Metro ACCESS van is a different story. Your name and destination are known – necessary information for the driver.

And when you rely on a wheelchair or walker to get around, support from your driver can be critically important. Fortunately for ACCESS riders, SPT drivers are not only thoroughly trained in safety procedures for assisting passengers living with disabilities, they also show a deep respect for the people they serve. As one SPT driver, Mohammed, says of riders, “They are our family.”

So on an overcast spring afternoon, we ride along with driver Roland Remolana to get a sense of the SPT experience. As we hit the road, Roland turns on the radio to a 60s/70s station – the soundtrack backdrop for the day.

‘What becomes of the brokenhearted…’ ♪♫
Although this is his first day on a new route, Roland greets all passengers warmly, as if they have previously met. His face lights up as he says, “I love my job. I love to meet different people every day – talk to them.”

Roland assists the first passenger of the afternoon, Mr. Moore, who is in a wheelchair. Using the lift, he raises Mr. Moore – still sitting in his chair – onto the van, helps him walk to a window seat, then secures the wheelchair in place. Mr. Moore gazes out the window. He’s headed home, where he lives alone, after a long dialysis treatment.

A lifetime ago, in 1947, he moved to Seattle from NYC. When an old Motown tune comes on the radio, he taps his toe and sings along in a surprisingly clear baritone for his age. For the past three years, he says, he has spent “half my life” on dialysis – three times a week for four hours at a time.

Viewed through the windshield, Roland escorts Rogelia to the van.

Viewed through the windshield, Roland escorts Rogelia to the van.

In fact, the majority of the riders we meet are also on dialysis. Rogelia, a slight, cheerful woman with perfectly coiffed hair, has received treatments (and SPT ACCESS rides) for about six months. “I’m new,” she says. She describes the difference between Metro bus and ACCESS rides: “Oh, the regular bus, it takes time to wait. So this is more convenient – as long as they don’t pick up somebody!” she jokes – but often, she’s the only passenger. “It’s comfortable.” And of the drivers, she says, “They are all nice. They are very helpful. When I go to the dialysis, I have to be there on time. When we miss, they have to set up again the machine for the next  person.”

SPT driver Keith Dewey says, “You appreciate your health when you realize all the things people have to deal with and they don’t complain. A lot of them don’t want any help. They want to assert their independence, want to feel as independent as possible.”

‘And I ain’t got no worries, ‘cause I ain’t in no hurry at all…’ ♪♫
Roland quickly assesses each passenger’s need for assistance. In the International District, a young Filipina woman with a cane climbs on the van without Roland’s help. Tagalog is his first language, so they chat quietly while he stands by – not intervening – to make sure she secures her seatbelt safely before he gets back in the driver’s seat. At her home in Skyway, he walks at her side all the way up a long ramp to her door. He takes the necessary time to meet each rider’s individual needs.

When a woman boards in a wheelchair and chooses to stay seated in it, Roland patiently secures both her and the chair in place, and triple checks the six-strap system. He says, “It’s easy to put in there, like two minutes, if you know how to do it!” Then, he goes back to her home for a pillow to prop up her arm and make her more comfortable.

At the Spiritual Miracles Food Bank in Skyway, a passenger wants to board with a full grocery cart and two loose boxes balanced on top, which is against Metro’s safety rules. Roland radios in to check with his supervisor for permission first, then straps down the boxes in an empty seat. He jokes with the passenger that her very light box is heavy. She tells us, “I volunteer at the food bank,” explaining that she gets extra food to share with her co-residents in senior housing.

After she gets off, Roland says that if the boxes had been too heavy to secure, he would have had to call his route supervisor to come pick her up in a smaller van. He points to where he belted her boxes onto a seat. “See, it worked! I just strapped the box. I’d feel bad if I left, ‘cause she needs that food, you know?”

‘We’re on the road to nowhere…’ ♪♫
Roland’s route in a single afternoon winds from Capitol Hill to Rainier Valley, Beacon Hill, the International District, Skyway, South Lake Washington and Magnolia, and finally ends in Burien. He pilots the van through tight neighborhood roads, brutally torn up streets, odd-shaped cul-de-sacs.

He is the epitome of focus, whether navigating cavernous potholes or chatting with a rider while he secures her wheelchair. Roland is part technician, part case manager, and a safe driver. As dispatch calls in new pickups, he patiently handles route changes. On this day, he worked an 11-hour shift, with little time for adequate breaks. It’s a challenging job.

Roland admits, “It’s hard for the ACCESS drivers. Sometimes they’re gonna throw you in Shoreline, then go to Bothell.” He jokes, “I’m thinking, ‘Do you think I can fly?’ But he is humble: “I’m not a perfect driver, but I love everybody. Sometimes people yell at the drivers. Then I talk to them; they start laughing.” In the few short hours we spent with Roland, he certainly did leave all of his passengers smiling.

For more information on Seattle Personal Transit (SPT) and Metro ACCESS, visit: www.solid-ground.org/Programs/Transportation/Transit.

Help honor a local fallen hero

A large number of Solid Ground’s Seattle Personal Transit (SPT) program drivers and passengers are U.S. veterans. The suggestion for this post was submitted by SPT ACCESS van driver Dick Clements, who is also a U.S. Army veteran.

U.S. Army Specialist Mikayla Bragg

U.S. Army Specialist Mikayla Bragg

U.S. Army Specialist Mikayla Bragg of Longview, WA was killed in action on December 21, 2011 in Knowst Province in southern Afghanistan. A decorated veteran, her honors included the Good Conduct Medal, the Unit Citation and the Afghanistan Campaign Medal. According to a January 7, 2012 article by John Markon in The Daily News Online, “She is the first Longview soldier, sailor or airman to die in a combat zone since the late days of the Vietnam War.” Mikayla was 21 years old.

A group of veterans and friends are working to raise money to erect a memorial statue in honor of Mikayla to be placed at the Mark Morris High School in Longview, from where she graduated.

If you would like to donate to the creation of this statue, please send a check, payable to the Mikayla Bragg Memorial Fund, to: 

Fibre Credit Union
Mikayla Bragg Memorial Fund
P.O. Box 1234
Longview, WA 98632

SPT driver and U.S. Army vet Dick Clements and other Mikayla Bragg supporters send heartfelt thanks to the Solid Ground community for any contributions that are made toward this memorial statue.

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