City scraps controversial proposals to change Neighborhood Matching Fund program, process

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

We’ve learned that the city has scrapped proposed changes to the Neighborhood Matching Fund process – changes strongly opposed by West Seattle’s two District Councils.

This came to light after the Department of Neighborhoods sent out a news release today containing deadlines and other information about this year’s process and timelines for seeking the NMF grants. Noting that the announcement made no mention of the proposed changes, we asked DoN spokesperson Lois Maag to verify that they indeed were not being implemented; Maag confirmed that it’s “status quo” for this year, and said that council chairs had recently been sent word of that.

The proposals primarily involved who could apply for the grants and who from the neighborhoods would vet applications. They were presented (and criticized) at the Delridge Neighborhoods District Council‘s October meeting (WSB coverage here) and the Southwest District Council‘s November meeting (WSB coverage here). The potential removal of District Councils from the application-vetting process was a particular sticking point.

We confirmed tonight with DNDC chair Mat McBride that DoN indeed had sent word the changes weren’t going forward. In her memo, department director Bernie Matsuno said in part:

… Over the past year, an NMF Advisory Committee deliberated and developed several proposals for the program. Due to the feedback received regarding these recommendations, we are not moving forward at this time. … We will continue engaging the community and having a more robust conversation about any possible improvements to the NMF program.

Meantime – if you are interested in finding out about this year’s grant opportunities, all the information is in the full news release made public today. One West Seattle-specific date – those interested in applying for a grant from the Large Project Fund (deadline May 4th) must attend a workshop, and the only one in West Seattle is set for Tuesday, March 10, 6 pm, High Point Community Center (6420 34th SW).

5 Replies to "City scraps controversial proposals to change Neighborhood Matching Fund program, process"

  • Joe Szilagyi January 3, 2015 (9:03 am)

    Good news for everyone but the tiny number of people in the DON that tried to expand their powers.

  • AIDM January 3, 2015 (10:09 am)

    Neither version makes much sense to me. The current policy makes it very difficult for grass roots projects that appeal to the entire city to get funded. However, not taking input from neighborhood councils is a really bad alternative. It seems like the obvious solution is to create a special committee with grant review powers similar to neighborhood councils, to review and make recommendations on city wide grass roots projects.

  • Pete January 3, 2015 (10:28 am)

    DON needs to reverse course from the last several years and get back to serving our neighborhoods. Over the last several years what Seattle’s neighborhoods wanted and needed did not play into decisions coming from DON leadership (or lack of leadership). Simply try and explain how you can go from 30+ large matching fund applications to I believe it was 6 applications last year.

    We also need to ask our mayor and council members how come the Director of DON has not been reconfirmed yet? Over a year into this administration and Bernie Matsuno’s re-confirmation is still on hold after the mayor asked the council to put the process on hold. Is he hoping the controversies surrounding his choice will die down?

  • McBride January 3, 2015 (10:57 am)

    The Large Match Fund (LMF) Does have a citywide component. Proposals are first reviewed at the District level, which is weighted at 50%. They are then reviewed by a citywide team for the second 50%. There is nothing stopping a project that has its genesis in a community from being a citywide project.
    However, the LMF is intended as a neighborhood/District funding mechanism. It is supposed to encourage and support projects within a local community, driven by the local community, and benefiting the local community. The whole idea is that the local community Might have a better idea of some of the things it wants than City Hall does.
    At issue for many of us, was the fact that these funds were being encroached upon by city departments and groups outside of a given community to implement projects that were not entirely welcome (reference the Cheasty Greenspace from last year, for example). In short, the process was becoming broken.
    None of us are opposed to funding community driven projects, whether they benefit entirely local or citywide purposes. And the LMF is not the only funding mechanism for community projects available. There is a good argument that if demand for for these projects is very high, the City should recognize this and fund appropriately. There is a better argument that funds which are allocated for the community should stay in the community.

  • nadoka January 4, 2015 (12:08 pm)

    Enough with the denials by the City Neighborhood Council and District Neighborhood Councils that seek to shift their responsibility in the failure of the NMF program to be an effective resource for the neighborhoods. Over the last four years, the leadership by the City Neighborhood Council Executive Committee and the City Neighborhood Council NMF Committee has dropped the ball in building on the great potential that the NMF program once had. The drop off in grant applications is not a result of DoN failures, it is a result of the CNC’s leadership’s failures to implement an inclusive effort at diversity, civic responsibility, outreach and transparency. The composition of the CNC Executive Committee and the CNC NMF Committee over the past four years has consisted of a few individuals who have put narrow personal political gamesmanship against the greater good of the neighborhoods: DoN has put forth programs to bring people in the many Seattle neighborhoods into the NMF program and has meet resistance at every turn by these few CNC elites. A fresh look at how to the bring back the vision that Jim Diers brought to Seattle Neighborhoods 25 years ago is sorely needed. DoN is not the problem: we need to look within ourselves for a way forward to how to clean up the CNC’s deeply flawed dysfunction.

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