Story and photo by Jonathan Stumpf
Reporting for West Seattle Blog
If you live in Westwood and have an idea of how to improve the neighborhood, now’s your chance.
The hot-button topic at Thursday night’s Westwood Neighborhood Council meeting wasn’t the choice of artist or location for an upcoming grant-funded mural, or whether county leadership might reopen the conversation about the West Seattle RapidRide route.
There was minimal discussion around those subjects, as well as the P-Patch that is going in at 34th and Barton at the old Seattle Public Utilities site, or about the letter of intent filed for a Parks and Green Spaces Levy Opportunity Fund grant to improve the Longfellow Creek trail near SW Thistle. The majority of the meeting discussion swirled around the very existence of the group – its shortage of membership, volunteers and general interest, and what can be done to change that.
Donn DeVore (at left in the photo above) has been running the group since September of 2009 and expressed frustration with the overall lack of effort or volunteers committed to the council during his tenure. Numerous times throughout the meeting as ideas were suggested, he said, “Unless I get some kind of help, I can’t do all this by myself.”
In attendance from the Department of Neighborhoods was Neighborhood District Coordinator Ron Angeles, who suggested the group apply for a Small Sparks grant of $1000 to get back on track. Although DeVore suggested the group use that money for a direct mailing to the 2,300 residents within the neighborhood, Angeles said, “An $800 mailing isn’t the way to go,” suggesting “some kind of plan or strategy” instead.
The eight in attendance began brainstorming ways to get the word out, increase participation in the Westwood Neighborhood Council, and encourage people to take an active role in their community. “We need something active, not passive,” said one resident. While it usually takes an issue or a really special guest to get residents out to neighborhood meetings – WNC had well-attended meetings two years ago, when the Denny/Sealth shared campus was a hot issue – the consensus was that the group now needs a plan.
Angeles and co-worker Laurie Ames suggested the group participate in a one-time strategy or branding session facilitated by a third party, saying the Highland Park Action Committee had done that successfully. Ames also suggested possibly using an outreach technique that had been tried in the Greenwood neighborhood: Suggestion boxes were placed in local coffee shops posing the question “What would you change about your neighborhood?” Ask people, she said,”If there was one thing you could change about Westwood, what would it be?”
As a result of the WNC brainstorming session, watch for more activity in the community – a Tabling Outreach Committee was formed and will be led by Mary Quackenbush — so if you live in Westwood, and have an issue, idea, suggestion or problem, you can visit the WNC website, sign up for the e-mail list, and get involved.