By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
As first reported here on Sunday, this week’s monthly meeting of the Delridge Neighborhoods District Council has expanded to a call for, in effect, a summit of neighborhood-district council members and supporters from around the city. Wednesday’s gathering at Highland Park Improvement Club will come one week after Mayor Murray cut short a City Council-ordered review of the neighborhood-district-council system by declaring he intended to cut city ties to and support for the councils.
More on the meeting below – but first: We now have the report that was due out last Friday, expected to start the next phase of a conversation about the 13 councils, until the mayor’s move on Wednesday. Read it here. It’s the Department of Neighborhoods‘ official response to the City Council’s Statement of Legislative Intent (SLI) from last year that “required the (department) to develop a plan to reorient its programs around the new City Council district structure with a primary focus on the Neighborhood District Coordinator (NDC) program and a goal for more equitable community engagement.”
The report dated Friday (July 15th) incorporates mentions of the executive order the mayor unveiled and signed two days earlier. It declares:
“We need to expand our networks and connections, variety of approaches, and the depth of engagement with communities. We have valuable partners in our Community Councils and District Councils currently at the proverbial table. However, barriers exist that prevent some communities from sitting at that table and other communities who don’t even know there is a table. As a result, we risk muting the voices of too many, while overemphasizing the voices of too few.”
Another critique of the neighborhood-district council system in the report is the suggestion that some don’t participate because it takes too much time: “Many on the (City Neighborhood Council) also sit on their District Council and many of those volunteers are also active participants on their neighborhood organization. This can easily add up to 10 hours of volunteer time each month.” (The CNC generally has one representative from each of the 13 neighborhood-district councils.)
The report reiterates at several points that the city should move away from geographic-based engagement: “Every community group, including District Councils, should welcome new and emerging community groups and organizations into their membership. This could prove challenging as many of our existing systems and programs largely define “community” as being primarily geographic in nature, leaving out those who build and experience community around non-geographic concepts, like language, ethnicity, religious affiliation, or issue-based interests.”
This also comes up in a later section of the report discussing re-evaluating the duties of Neighborhood District Coordinators, currently including serving as city staff liaisons for the district councils. The report notes, “If this conversation continues and we reevaluate the positions, the major decision points are the balance between being geography based (current) and skill and needs-based. Because these positions are represented by Local 17, labor would need to be brought in and any proposed changes would trigger bargaining.” It suggests their jobs could be redefined into positions/roles/focuses such as “Sector Managers,” “Capital Projects Manager,” “Strategic Partnerships,” “Community Relations/Community Capacity Builder,” “Public Involvement Plan Specialist,” “Strategic Initiatives,” and staff support for the future “Community Involvement Commission.”
Speaking of that commission, the report says it’s to be created by legislation to be prepared by late September. While at least one citywide-media report following the mayor’s announcement last week said he would appoint all the commission members, this report suggests otherwise: “Details of this Commission will be called out in [a future] ordinance including the breakdown of membership appointments from the Mayor and Council as well as any At-Large positions.”
Also circulated with the SLI-response report was another document analyzing grant programs via the city’s Race and Social Justice Initiative. This is dated March, but in case you haven’t seen it, here it is.
Now, to the Wednesday summit to which the Delridge NDC has invited counterparts from around the city. When we reported on it Sunday, we hadn’t yet seen the message that DNDC chair Mat McBride had sent as a direct invitation to potential participants. We saw it on Monday and are republishing it with permission:
Fellow District Council Chairs, Members of the CNC,
I hope this message finds you well. I am writing to formally invite you to attend the Delridge Neighborhoods District Council meeting on Wednesday, July 20, from 7-9 PM.
As you know, an institution that we have all invested in and nurtured has been effectively dissolved. Throughout this process, we were not consulted. Our ideas were not sought. We were not partners, or considered for any kind of collaboration. And I find myself unwilling to let this institution die without at least providing feedback about how it can be made to succeed.
To that end, I’ve cleared the agenda and retooled the meeting to host a District Council forum. I’d like the Districts to have an opportunity to engage in the conversation that did not, but should have happened (e.g. How do you serve your community? What do you need from DoN to be successful? What is your greatest desire for your District?).
Because nothing speaks to marginalization like a large show of support, we’ve decided to go big. In addition to yourselves, I am asking that you share this invitation and encouragement with your District Council membership, along with any partners of theirs they feel inclined to share it with. We are inviting the media, and it is our intention to demonstrate that the community of engaged citizens in Seattle is significant. We have a tremendously powerful story that deserves to be told.
Because of the scope, we are still finalizing some of the details (again, this was not the sleepy July meeting I was planning on a week ago). So please consider this an RSVP to email@example.com with details to follow:
Who – The 13 District Councils, their representative organizations, friends, and supporters. In addition to your confirmation, a rough number of your expected constituents would be helpful for us to determine an appropriate venue.
What – A District Council forum, to present the feedback that should have started the conversation.
Where – Highland Park Improvement Club, 1116 SW Holden
Why – Because going quietly into dark nights was not why we got in this business.
When – Wednesday, July 20, 7-9 PM
In community and with deepest regard,
Chair, Delridge Neighborhoods District Council
While the mayor’s decree did not actually abolish the neighborhood-district councils, the removal of city support would leave them hobbled, not just without staff assistance, but also without support for costs such as renting meeting venues. Few of the community councils and other organizations whose reps comprise the ND councils collect dues, for example, so they are not necessarily potential sources of replacement funding.