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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, November 20, 2015 - Volume 43 Issue 47
SGN exclusive interview: George Pieper talks about an LGBT community center
Section One
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SGN exclusive interview: George Pieper talks about an LGBT community center

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

George Pieper, president of Seattle LGBTQ Community Development, was 'disappointed but not deterred' by the Seattle City Council budget committee decision not to explore ways to create an LGBT community center.

Pieper has spent seven years working to build a new LGBT community center since the last incarnation closed its doors in 2008. Seattle LGBTQ Community Development is dedicated to building a financially sustainable LGBT center.

At the City Council's November 16 budget committee hearing, he testified in support of Councilmember Kshama Sawant's proposal, but offered what he called a 'friendly amendment' - to ask for help from the City's Office of Economic Development and Human Services Department, rather than the Parks Department, as Sawant had proposed.

'What I'm advocating would be very different from a Parks Department-provided center,' Pieper told the SGN in a phone interview. 'I think Councilmember Sawant understands that, but she found money for the proposal in the Parks budget.

'The problem is that the money is already accounted for. I wouldn't want to fight other organizations when we could find money in other areas.'

Pieper told the SGN that he had spoken about his idea with Councilmember Tom Rasmussen, who successfully amended Sawant's proposal for an LGBT center, but had not had the time to speak at length with Sawant.

'Unfortunately it all unfolded so quickly,' Pieper explained. 'Councilmembers tend to submit their 'green sheets' in a hasty manner.' So-called 'green sheets' are amendments to the city budget that councilmembers can submit to the Council's budget committee.

Pieper's Capitol Hill group had originally hoped to find a home for the LGBT community center at the Broadway and Denny transit center now nearing completion. That project did not pencil out, however.

Sound Transit 'had a housing minimum in the package,' Pieper told the SGN. In other words, the agency wanted the development of affordable housing units included in the bid package.

'That made it more expensive and not as inclusive,' Pieper said. Seattle LGBTQ Community Development is still looking for a suitable site for a community center.

Unlike previous LGBT centers, Pieper wants his project to be financially sustainable from the beginning.

'We have a plan [for a community center] in place,' Pieper says. 'A real business plan, so we don't have to keep asking the community for money year after year.'

'We're trying to create something very new here,' he continued. 'There's a big distinction in the idea of a community center. In fact, rather than calling it a 'community center' we want to call it an 'LGBT Community Impact Hub.' We want to attract community nonprofits that already have sustainable budgets and staff.

'We already have service providers, so it's not a question of getting service providers. It's how to coordinate the services and provide a place for these services.'

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