Kathy Nyland, director of the City of Seattle’s Department of Neighborhoods, has responded to the backlash from groups around Seattle that contend City Hall’s push to disconnect itself from the entrenched District Council system is an attempt to silence “neighborhood” voices. Here is the main thrust — the whole thing is posted here in the CHS Community section:
Seattle is a unique city, and we are fortunate to have so many valuable partners currently at the proverbial table. Those partners play an important role and that role will continue. While we are appreciative of the countless hours our volunteers spend making our city better, we recognize and acknowledge there are barriers to participation. There are communities who cannot be at the table, while there are some communities who don’t even know there is a table. This is where theDepartment of Neighborhoods comes in.
This is not a power grab. It is a power share. At the heart of this Executive Order is a commitment to advance the effective deployment of equitable and inclusive community engagement strategies across all city departments. This is about making information and opportunities for participation more accessible to communities throughout the city.
This is not about silencing voices. It’s the exact opposite. It’s about bringing more people into the conversations or at least creating opportunities for people to participate so they can be heard.
CHS reported here on the plans to shake up Seattle’s neighborhood council system to better represent communities and align with the new district-based City Council. It wasn’t a surprise that changes were coming — a consultant had been working on documenting the system and was due to release a report on conclusions — but even though the people on the East District Council representing Capitol Hill are some of the few citizens who actually pay attention to City Hall and its inner workings, members said they were caught off guard by the abruptness and tone of Mayor Ed Murray’s executive order to begin the process to create a more equitable system to engage on neighborhood issues.
Dan Sanchez, chair of the Central Area Neighborhood District Council and a onetime CHS advertiser, wrote a rebuttal to the executive order also posted in the CHS Community section that is getting a lot of attention:
You’re not a villain, Dan. But you might be part of something that is going to have to do more to share in the future.
The neighborhood councils are currently City of Seattle-supported components of City Hall’s community process to vet certain proposals and grant applications. The system is part of the fuzzy cloud of “community” that Seattle’s leaders refer to when they say they are acting on “community priorities” or tell you the “community has spoken.” The neighborhood council system mostly busies itself with city grant processes these days — the East group has been vetting these proposals for safer 10th/John crossing to Capitol Hill Station, Melrose enhancements as part of the Neighborhood Park and Street Fund process. There are also times when there isn’t much business to attend to.
In 2016, the Department of Neighborhoods will spend over $1.2 million dollars on the current council program “for outreach and engagement to Seattle residents,” according to the department. That budget including the DON employees currently in place to support it are being redirected to support a broader constituency.
“This is about making things easier and less exhaustive,” Nyland writes. “This is about connecting communities to government and to one another. This is about moving forward.”
You can provide feedback on the changes to DON:
- Send an email to email@example.com.
- Contact us at 206-684-0464 or mail us at P.O. Box 94649, Seattle, WA 98124-4649
- Join and follow the conversation online using #AdvancingEquitySEA at: Facebook –@SeattleNeighborhoods, Twitter – @SeaNeighborhood.
Or, hey, if you get inspired, write a CHS Capitol Hill Community Post.