Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Janine Gates Photography at Artwalk - Procession this weekend

Above: Sunrise from Mt. Sinai, Egypt

For Olympia’s Artswalk, Janine Gates Photography will be at the Governor Hotel, 621 Capitol Way, Friday, April 24, from 5:00 p.m. - about 8:00 p.m. and Saturday, April 25 from noon to about 2:00 p.m. Gates will be featuring pictures from her recent trips to Turkey, Jordan and Egypt.

In April/May 2007, Gates took her son to Turkey and Jordan. In the summer of 2008, she took both her children, son Tristan, then 13 and daughter Jiana, then 18, to Egypt and Jordan for six weeks.

“Both trips were just incredible. We are still mentally processing the experiences, and I’m always discovering something new in my images, depending on my mood. We have lots of stories to share. We hiked three hours in the middle of the night with only the night sky lighting our way, to the top of Mt. Sinai in Egypt to watch the sun rise. It was a very surreal, spiritual, mentally and physically challenging, exhilarating experience. It was just the three of us and a Bedouin. At various points, my daughter threw up, I was carried, at one point, because I was completely falling apart, but Tristan did quite well, fueled by several Snickers bars,” says Gates.

Above: Jiana and Tristan head down Mt. Sinai after the sunrise.

Gates makes her photos into greeting cards and prints of all sizes, framed and unframed, which will be available for sale. Go to www.janinegatesphotography.com for usual greeting card locations and a sneak peek at some of her images.

Artswalk is a free, city sponsored event held twice a year. Over 15,000 people are expected downtown, which runs from 5 p.m. - 10:00 p.m. on Friday, April 24 and from noon - 7:00 p.m on Saturday, April 25.

Above: Procession of the Species 2008

The Procession of the Species takes over the streets about 4:30 p.m. and thousands more will enjoy the festivities. It’s not too late to make something and be in the Procession of the Species! The Procession art studio is located downtown off the alley near Olympia St. and Capitol Way, near the Olympia Center. For more information, go to www.procession.org or call (360) 705-1087.

It is best to walk downtown or take public transit for Artswalk. Programs with detailed information are available all over the downtown area, featuring hundreds of artists and performers throughout local businesses. For more information, contact the City of Olympia at (360) 570-5858. For bus route and schedule information, contact Intercity Transit at (360) 786-1881.

Above: Hundreds of flamingos in the streets - Procession 2008

Graffiti: A New City-Community Partnership to Clean Up City

by Janine Gates

Above: This stop sign shows signs of having been cleaned.

Amy Stull, City of Olympia Police Community Programs staff, revealed a proposed city-community graffiti busting partnership at a public meeting of the Olympia Coalition of Neighborhood Associations last week at the Downtown Fire Station.

The partnership with public and private entities has been in the works for about two years. It is an exciting effort to address the difficult problem of graffiti.

"The Northeast Neighborhood Association has been a case study on how to best organize and maintain a graffiti reporting and abatement program," says Stull. Stull provided the group with an overview of the city’s new enhanced graffiti tracking information, available at www.seeclickfix.com.

The city has also established a new graffiti hotline, and the city police department will have the responsibility of contacting the appropriate person who should clean it up.

Graffiti has become an increasing problem in Olympia. Etching of glass has also occurred. “We weren’t doing a good job of tracking graffiti. It wasn’t being logged and it was extremely labor intensive for a neighborhood to take pictures of graffiti and to clean up,” says Stull.

It is sometimes confusing who’s responsibility that would be, so partners include Puget Sound Energy (PSE) and Qwest, because taggers often target traffic signal boxes and utility property. Representatives from those organizations also attended the meeting and spoke about their efforts. "The graffiti makes us look bad too," said Casey Cochran, PSE Communications Manager.

Above: A power equipment box on 9th Ave. SW near Capital Mall.

“Tagging,” as it is called, is a crime. The best defense against graffiti is to clean it up. Taggers do not get satisfaction when their work is painted over or removed. The city says it is very important to document the vandalism by taking pictures, and documenting the time that the vandalism occurred so authorities can investigate the crime.

If the graffiti is on private property, the owner is responsible for clean up,” city code enforcement officer Chris Grabowski said. “We’re the last resort for graffiti clean up. There are only three of us for the city - one for the Westside, one for downtown, and one for the Eastside - so it will take about a month for a code enforcement action to get results on a graffiti case,” said Grabowski. Grabowski explained the process for enforcement and penalties for continued disregard for city notifications.

“In general, neglect of property will attract all sorts of crime,” said Stull. Something will happen, Stull says, “if it looks like you don’t care, or no one is watching.”

Neighborhood association members commented on an example of one partnership, as an example of how citizens can work with businesses to address mutual issues of concern. Abbey Realty provided the Northeast neighborhood paint in exchange for regular monitoring and painting over of a frequently tagged fence on an undeveloped parcel that they own.

Asked why graffiti is left up for so long, Grabowski said the biggest reason is because the property owners are absentee landowners. Number two, the elderly or disabled might not realize their fence, for example, has been tagged, because they don’t get out very often. And, Grabowski says, "a lot of property owners are dragging their feet because they have already painted over it three or four times and they’re sick of going it.”

Stull showed the group some slides of local graffiti and explained the difference between gang graffiti and regular graffiti. Only 10% of local graffiti is gang-related. Sometimes, having a mural painted on a troublesome wall will solve the problem. Stull also recommends not having a plain, gray wall looking ready to tag, and suggested painting it a different color.

The city’s Public Works department also provides free graffiti removal kits to recognized neighborhood associations and Block Watch neighborhoods.

Rick Knostman, City of Olympia traffic and operations supervisor under the public works program, oversees signs and signals. Knostman said it costs the city about $12,000 a year to clean up stop signs alone. In 2007-2008, the city had to replace 2,400 stop signs, more than 50% due to vandalism. The average stop sign should last 10 years under normal conditions. The stop signs need to be cleaned professionally, due to minimum reflectivity requirements. Each time a stop sign is cleaned, it loses a little bit of its reflectivity.

Don Law, neighborhood representative for the East Bay Neighborhood Association, credit’s the mural along East Bay Drive as solving their most troublesome spot for vandalism.

Above: Mural on East Bay Drive.

Rhonda Ayers, Program Coordinator for Community Youth Services (CYS), says she is excited about this new city-community partnership to fight graffiti. “We just received stimulus money to start a new youth program from May 1 through the end of August to employ 25 youth so they will give back to the community.” The money became available to CYS under the federal Workforce Investment Act.

“Under supervision, the youths will work part time, possibly fulltime, cleaning up the city of graffiti, and doing some landscaping and maintenance. Anytime we can engage our youth in constructive activities, the less recidivism we’ll see. They can take pride,” says Ayers.

Above: A mural in downtown Olympia depicts scenes from the annual Procession of the Species.

For more information and to find out how you can get more involved in cleaning up your neighborhood, contact Amy Stull, Police Community Programs, Olympia Police Department as (360) 753-8049 or astull@ci.olympia.wa.us.

Website Lists Exact Address of Area Sex Offenders

by Janine Gates

Do you want to know exactly where a registered sex offender lives in the cities of Olympia, Lacey, Tumwater or Yelm? Go to www.crimereports.com and you will receive instant information based on actual case reports that have been entered by police in these jurisdictions.

Amy Stull, City of Olympia Police Community Programs staff, offered the information as a tool for citizens at Monday night’s public meeting of the Olympia Coalition of Neighborhood Associations at the Downtown Fire Station.

“People educating themselves and seeing what they can find is good,” says Stull, who admits even she was surprised to find the exact address of registered sex offenders on the program. She has informed her supervisors of this, in case they were not aware, she said.

Asked to clarify this information later, Stull said that the website information for these crime reports comes from the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs. Stull said she wants it clear that "retaliation against registered sex offenders is against the law and if there is retaliation, it might jeopardize the public's access to this information in the future."

Citizens can also receive email notices of local Level II and Level III registered sex offenders through the city’s notification program. Notification of sex offenders who move into a neighborhood is not automatic. These notices give only the block address of where the sex offender has registered. To be put on this list to receive notification, contact Jennifer Kenny, City of Olympia’s Neighborhood liaison at jenny@ci.olympia.wa.us or (360) 753-8031 or see the city website at www.olympiawa.gov for more information.

The www.crimereports.com website also provides the block locations for a whole host of offenses, including sexual assaults, thefts, breaking and entering, robberies and property crimes. The information can be sorted by crime, date, and distance between the crime and your home or place of business. “For example, we had 619 reported vehicle prowls last year. One-half of those vehicles were unlocked,” said Stull. She added that vehicle prowls are up 60% this year as compared to last year.

Jeanne Marie Thomas, neighborhood association representative from the South Capitol Neighborhood, said that her car was recently prowled. Her car, she admitted, was unlocked. Small change was stolen, and she reported it, but she did not get a case number. Thomas asked Stull if that crime data would be on this website.

“No,” said Stull. “You don’t get a case number if you just say there’s nothing you want done in response to a crime. You get a case number if you file a report.” It is, however, important to report crime to police so they are aware of crime patterns in the neighborhood, said Stull.

Asked about the crime report summary published in The Olympian on a periodic basis, Stull said that is good, general information, “but the information for this website comes right out of our files.”

For more information about the Olympia Coalition of Neighborhood Associations, contact www.olympianeighborhoods.org. The next meeting of the full coalition is June 1, 6:30 p.m. - 8:30 p.m. at the Downtown Fire Station.