By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
Another big change resulting from the mayor’s severing of ties with neighborhood-district councils is about to go public.
Those citizen groups had helped the city solicit and vet proposals for spending Neighborhood Park and Street Fund money.
This year, both the proposals and decisions are going to go through a citywide “participatory budgeting” process called “Your Voice, Your Choice.”
After hearing it mentioned at last week’s Morgan Community Association meeting, we arranged to talk with the Department of Neighborhoods point person, Jenny Frankl, to find out how it’s going to work.
To set the stage, here’s the list of Neighborhood Park and Street Fund projects chosen last year, through the 13 neighborhood districts (West Seattle has two, Delridge and Southwest). This year, it will include $2 million for projects in all seven City Council districts.
Frankl explained that suggesting, reviewing, and deciding on how to spend the money will be a four-phase process, and the first phase is expected to be announced next Monday. That phase will collect ideas from community members in a variety of ways. Frankl said some small-group invitation-only meetings already have been held, and an online survey-style form will be ready soon. Ideas also will be sought at various meetings involving city departments next month, so look for those opportunities. And in particular, they’re hoping to encourage youth to participate too.
In phase 2, city departments will review the ideas to see what’s possible and what’s not. The parameters this year will include a requirement that the proposals be capital projects, costing up to $90,000, to be built in a city street or park right-of-way.
Once lists of possible projects are grouped by council district, they will go to Project Development Teams, one for each district (West Seattle and South Park comprise District 1, as you probably know). These teams will be open to community participation, supported by city staff, and assisted by “neutral facilitators” assigned by the city. The teams will meet in the districts, and there also will be “an online component,” Frankl says, so you can participate in the reviews even if you can’t get to a face-to-face meeting.
Phase 3 will involve voting on proposed projects that will be on lists developed by the aforementioned teams. Each of the seven council districts will have a distinct ballot, Frankl says, and while she says there will be “voter authentication” – so it doesn’t become a popularity contest with one project possibly benefiting from an extensive campaign, for example – you can choose which district you want your vote to be in. Maybe you live here in District 1 but spend more of your time working/playing in another district, for example, and would prefer to cast your vote there.
Voting will be done in person as well as online, with ballots available at libraries and community centers, and with the chance for people to sign up to have a voting site – at a school, for example. Details are still being worked out, but the voting phase is likely to happen in June, before school gets out for summer.
Then phase four will be the final funding of winning projects, with each district having up to $285,000 to spend, as its share of the $2 million. The projects will be built in 2018.
“It’s exciting,” says Frankl, whose work expands on what she did with the Youth Voice, Youth Choice participatory budgeting project last year. And, she stresses, there’s “still a lot to figure out” – but this is the framework. For next year, she says, the process won’t be quite as compressed, and they’ll likely get going in September instead of next January. But first – watch for that upcoming announcement about the start of “idea collection,” soon.