Van crashes into two parked cars on 8th and 76th

A driver who says he was distracted by his phone crashed his minivan into two parked cars on 8th Avenue NW between NW 75th and NW 76th streets just after 11 o’clock this morning.

The driver of the dark blue minivan, William Barnes, told me he was driving north on 8th Avenue NW when he looked down at his phone, and apparently drifted to the right. He hit a parked silver car, pushing it into a parked black 1976 Plymouth Volare.

The owner of the black car, Jeff Minto, said he was asleep at the time of the crash. Nikkolas Wheatley, who owns the silver car, said he and his wife and newborn baby had just driven up from Lewis County last night to visit friends, and were inside the nearby house at the time.

“I was inside getting ready to make a bottle and heard a huge crash, and came outside to this,” Wheatley said.

Barnes, the van’s driver, was not injured, but said he had some scrapes and bruises. His van ended up backwards from the direction he was driving, and on its side.

William Barnes, the minivan’s driver, removes his belongings from his vehicle.

Mayor’s ‘Ballard Town Hall’ next week

Mayor Mike McGinn is holding a Town Hall at Ballard High School next Wednesday, April 6th to check in with the community on issues in the neighborhood.

5:30-6:30 pm: Tabling by City departments and community groups
6:30 pm: Performance by local youth performers
6:40-8:00 pm: Questions and answers with the Mayor and City staff

The Town Hall will be held in the Ballard High School commons.

Speak up for better school food

This message was in the most recent edition of the North Beach newsletter, the BeachComber. Several parents emailed us, urging us to spread the information. “The food in the schools now is terrible,” one parent emailed us. “This is our chance to make a difference. Smart food, smart children! Please help!”

We’ve got a brilliant opportunity RIGHT NOW to get better food into schools all over America, but we really need your help. The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has drafted a new set of school meal standards as part of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act.

If these new standards are passed, schools will have to begin replacing junk and processed foods with lovely fresh, whole ingredients and it will be the first time in 15 years that nutrition standards in schools have really improved1. If they aren’t passed, children all over America will be facing more years of substandard, unhealthy food in their schools. To me, that’s unacceptable.

The USDA is taking public comments on these proposed standards as we speak, so PLEASE, PLEASE click on the link below and tell them you want these changes! There are plenty of powerful food companies and groups that won’t want these standards passed because they make big money from the current system. They’ll be sending in their comments too so it’s up to all of us to stand against them and make our voices count. Please join me in doing this. It will only take a minute or two out of your day, but it could mean better lives for kids all over America.

Here is the link to sign the petition. “I went to the link myself and it takes about 10 seconds to complete,” Cindy writes. “You do not need to have a child in school to participate.” For more information on the new school meal standards, click here

Chocolate Vitale opening first retail store in East Ballard/Lower Phinney

Chocolat Vitale, the maker of rich European-style hot chocolate, is opening its first retail store on the corner of NW 65th Street and 3rd Avenue NW.

No one was there when we stopped by this afternoon, but they do have a small sign in the window and a large sign resting against the back wall, and you can see new flooring being installed.

Until now, Chocolat Vitale has had a web and wholesale business only.

Thanks to Evan and Nancy for the tips!

Crown Hill business owner attacked

Early Monday morning the owner of Thirsty Fish (9041 Holman Rd NW) was attacked by several people, a friend of the victim tells us. According to police, the victim was locking up the restaurant and heading to his car around 4 a.m. when he was struck in the back of the head by an unknown object. The victim wasn’t able to get any suspect information but did tell police that he remembers three or four people punching and kicking him. The attackers were able to get away with a bag of money, his wedding band and wallet.

Detective Mark Jamieson with Seattle Police tells us that this case will most likely be assigned to robbery detectives to investigate. The friend of the victim tells us that his wife took him to the hospital and had a CAT scan, but he didn’t sustain any broken bones or other major trauma during the attack. “I’m hoping the people of Ballard will rally around and support him and his business in light of this senseless crime,” the friend says.

Longtime Ballard pastor heading to U District

After 11 years at the pulpit of Trinity United Methodist Church in Ballard, Reverend Rich Lang is heading to the University District.

The congregation at Trinity United Methodist

“Every pastor has a limited set of skills,” Lang says, “What I do best is to help congregations refocus their mission (reason to exist). Eleven years ago Trinity was an aging, declining congregation that had lost its direction and focus. Today, the church is growing, the morale is exciting with young singles and young families as our growing edge. I think God has called me into a ‘raising the dead’ type ministry. Trinity is no longer dead. It has come fully alive!”

Over the years, Rev. Lang has been very outspoken about homeless rights and was even arrested during a protest in 2008. But as Lang says, the activism doesn’t start or stop with him. “The values of social justice run far deeper than just the pastor, and those values were there before I got here: I just reminded folks of what they already knew,” he tells us. “It was Tent City and the neighborhood’s angry response to Tent City that awoke the church to its need to be Christ even in the midst of conflict. When all was said and done what became clear was that the vast majority of our neighborhood live lives of mercy and compassion, the tiny minority of bullies could not carry the day. I’m very proud to have been privileged to be their pastor. Realistically, pastors come and go, but Christian faith is a commitment to social justice, or it is not faith at all.”

Rev. Lang’s last sermon in Ballard will be on June 12th before saying goodbye to the congregation the following week. “It will be a very difficult emotional day. One cannot say goodbye without some measure of a broken heart but that is always the risk of daring to love another. I’ll take that risk every time because the joy always trumps the pain.” He will start the next phase of his life at University Temple United Methodist Church on July 1st. As of right now his replacement hasn’t been chosen, but the successor will hopefully be named in April, Lang says.

Salmon Bay School playground enters final phase

The final design for the new playground at Salmon Bay School has been released and is being very well received, Robin Lofstrom the project manager for the renovation project tells us. “Participants at the open house loved the design, and the kids cluster around it each morning,” Lofstrom says. “In this economy, though, people are concerned about costs and the committee is working with our architect to see what possible phasing of the project might look like, which will not lose the essential elements we’ve identified that make our playspace ASD-friendly.”

A look at the final design for the new playground at Salmon Bay School. Larger images can be found here.

The next step is the phasing option. There will be a meeting on April 14th at 6 p.m. in the Salmon Bay School cafeteria to answer questions before the board meeting. During the meeting, the Salmon Bay community will vote on the phasing plan and commit to the project through fundraising and outreach. Lofstrom tells us that they plan to apply for another Small & Simple grant through the Department of Neighborhoods. This fall they will apply for other grants and do direct asks. “The steering committee is very much in need of people who can work with us over the summer to create our biggest outreach event, to be held in September or October. And we are always looking for ASD (autism spectrum disorder) advocates and grant writers,” Lofstrom says.

Throughout the project, organizers want to stay in touch with the community and hear feedback. “We very much want to stay engaged with our neighbors!” Lofstrom tells us. Click here for more information on the playground.

Wandering beagles in Ballard

Updated: “Score79” writes in comments: Great team work Ballardites, both beagles have been reunited with owner!
A favor please, if you happen upon any of my paperplate found beagle signs please remove. I’ve taken down several but know several still remain on area telephone polls. Many thanks!

Earlier: This afternoon we spotted two older beagles walking around Whittier Heights. They were on Alonzo Ave NW heading southbound toward NW 70th St. Unfortunately we were walking our own dog quite a few blocks from home and couldn’t get them to the Animal Shelter. We spoke to several neighbors who didn’t know where they lived.

Just before 6 p.m. we received this email from Autumn:

About ten minutes ago there was an older beagle loose and traveling east from 77th and 20th NW. I tried to get close but he/she was really spooked. Another person had followed it as it crossed 24th.