Community-council meetings and district-council meetings are seldom “vote on something” type meetings. Far more often, the centerpieces are “did you know?” type presentations, as well as a chance for community advocates to share what they’re up to. And those were the components of this month’s Delridge Neighborhoods District Council meeting last Wednesday night at Highland Park Improvement Club.
Though the weather was better than the night of the February meeting – when snow was falling (remember?) – the turnout was lighter. Chair Mat McBride had booked one main guest, from an organization we hadn’t previously heard of, though it’s been active for some 30 years:
KING COUNTY DISPUTE RESOLUTION CENTER: Nilda Brooklyn visited to talk about the two main things this organization does: Direct mediation services (inside and outside the legal system), and training.
First, something she wanted to clarify: You do NOT have to be in a legal case to seek mediation services. “We can basically mediate any kind of dispute that you’re in” – family, workplace, neighborhood, and more. Some of the disputes may end up in court but sometimes it’s preferable to at least try mediation first. “It’s a voluntary, private and confidential facilitated meeting between two parties – the ‘voluntary’ is a really important point” – they can’t force anyone to participate. “When people come to the table to participate in mediation, they are there in good faith … to see if they can (reach) a resolution themselves.” While court creates a public record, mediation does not, she reiterated. “Everyone signs an agreement to create a confidential and privileged environment” – it’s not even subject to subpoena from a later legal action. The parties “get to keep their own dirty laundry (as) their own business.” A mediator is not there as a decisionmaker or judge, but rather as a facilitator – it’s up to you to work out how it works, what you want to share, what might solve the problem: “I’m there to facilitate that conversation.” Generally a session lasts about three hours.
They work with divorcing couples, can help work out or modify parenting plans (child support is the only aspect of that process that they can’t work on). How much does it cost? Sliding scale – $35 to $500 for a session fee, based on participants’ pre-tax income (but they don’t require you to show documents, they will deal with you on good faith). Family cases, $150-$550.
Their staffers come both from a legal background and from a therapy background. (Brooklyn said that from childhood, she was always the person that friends and family brought disputes to, to help resolve, so it was a natural progression for her, and besides, she said, “conflict is natural – it’s going to happen in everyone’s lives.”) Right now the mediation happens at their offices in Wallingford, but they are seeking a location more convenient to South King County.
By the way, if your dispute doesn’t get resolved during mediation, you still have the option to go to court.
As for the KCDRC training services, they offer it throughout the year, and also offer workshops that deal with certain topics – housing, for example, is a huge topic. They also offer skills workshops – such as de-escalation skills, how to deal with people in crisis, how to communicate interculturally. “Our main goal with our workshops is to disseminate as many conflict resolution skills” as possible, as well as engaging people who might be interested in a career in mediation. Fees vary.
They’re starting to work with “community circles” so that larger groups can come together to talk about issues in their community/neighborhood.
Among the benefits of mediation, as Brooklyn listed them – a problem might be worked out without a no-contact or anti-harassment order (through the courts) winding up on your record. Also, you might be able to work out an agreement outside the strict parameters that would be required in a court settlement – if you took a dispute to small-claims court, for example, money would be the only way to settle it, Brooklyn said, but a mediated resolution could involve other things (as long as they are legal).
They have mediation involved in multiple languages, she added in response to a question. The DRC has been in business for about 30 years, by the way. To find out more about its services, here’s the contact info.
P.S. The nonprofit is also “always looking for community board members” to help shape its future. Same contact info.
Also from the DNDC meeting, a few short updates:
SOUTHWEST YOUTH AND FAMILY SERVICES: The North Delridge-headquartered agency is looking to expand and seeking support for grant funding. DNDC is “historically not super-letter-writing-oriented,” chair McBride noted, but in this case is interested in submitting a letter of support. It will be crafted and circulated on the DNDC mailing list before it’s sent.
DISTRICT COUNCIL COLLABORATION: The Delridge and Southwest district councils are talking about having reps at each other’s meetings to share what’s up. “There’s a number of issues that affect both districts,” said McBride, so, he suggested, speaking with a unified voice on some of those issues would be good.
ANNOUNCEMENTS: The West Seattle Emergency Communication Hubs‘ next exercise is April 28th, and the scenario will be a “massive power outage,” McBride said … He also mentioned recently discovering that free tickets to Woodland Park Zoo and Seattle Aquarium are available at the Southwest Customer Service Center … Another freebie he recently learned about, the Seattle Fire Department will install fire alarms and carbon-monoxide detectors in residents’ homes – the equipment is free as well as the installation. … The Puget Ridge Neighborhood Council has now formally established itself as West Seattle’s newest community council, charter and all, McBride announced.
The Delridge Neighborhoods District Council, with reps from community groups and other organizations around eastern West Seattle, meets third Wednesdays, 7 pm, currently at Highland Park Improvement Club.