By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
One year into her term, Mayor Jenny Durkan hasn’t clarified what kind of relationship she wants to have with neighborhood groups – particularly what remains of the neighborhood-district-council system the previous elected mayor tried to dismantle.
So some have decided to not waste any more time waiting to see what Durkan might decide to do.
Members of West Seattle’s two neighborhood-district councils, Southwest and Delridge – which have remained active despite the loss of city support – are joining forces with community leaders from South Park to form the District 1 Community Network.
That working title emerged at a recent gathering that explored that idea of “getting together on issues that affect the whole peninsula,” not just specific-neighborhood-based, as described by Amanda Sawyer of the Junction Neighborhood Organization, co-chair of the SW District Council.
District 1 is a reference to the City Council district that includes West Seattle and South Park, and its elected Councilmember Lisa Herbold is taking an interest in the new network’s formation, attending part of the meeting and having staffers there for its entirety
Determining the precise purpose of the network is a work in progress.
“We don’t just want to create another meeting to create another meeting,” Sawyer said. She explained that District 5 – the North Seattle area represented by City Councilmember Debora Juarez – was already down the road of convening a districtwide organization, and several people from here had gone north to fact-find. The District 5 group wasn’t just working with its councilmember but also with the council’s at-large (citywide) members. That group includes reps from two prior district councils, one of which still meets, one of which doesn’t.
The District 5 group is fairly informal, said Sawyer. No bylaws. No expectations from the city, since it doesn’t officially recognize such group. She said she personally thinks there’s potential beyond the format SWDC has continued to follow – often having city reps in as guests, presenting information that is probably available elsewhere.
So topic A for the new District 1 Community Network’s founders: How to invite others to the table, not just longstanding geographically based groups? Since the city Department of Neighborhoods has reframed itself as specializing in outreach, it should be able to at least offer advice on that, participants agreed. “We need to have a reset with the city … figure out a way to have it be a two-way street,” said longtime community advocate Pete Spalding of Pigeon Point. That includes “having an ear at the city, listening to what the neighborhoods want.”
South Delridge’s Marianne McCord said having a group with peninsula-wide reputation has the potential to get “everyone to the table” with a “stronger voice.”
It’s not just about lobbying the city, it’s about information dissemination, noted Sawyer.
What participants hoped a D-1-wide group might do/be, in no particular order:
*Provide leadership for improving the neighborhood
*Provide direction on regional divisions of city departments, etc.
*Voices for underrepresented populations
*Education/outreach (the community-organized HALA-explainer meeting two years ago that drew 130+ people was cited as an example)
*Reset the conversation to be more collaborative than adversarial
*Accountability and advocacy
*A “clear place to bring up questions”
*Working relationship with the private sector – jobs, housing
*Internal warning system for upcoming topics
*Education – learning from other groups, too
Turning the D-1 Community Network into an action-based group depends on the structure, said Mat McBride, chair of the Delridge Neighborhoods District Council. Cindi Barker of the West Seattle Emergency Communication Hubs agreed that not everyone might have an interest in working on every issue, so she supported the idea of “power groups.”
Having a list of action items for the entire peninsula would help, rather than pitting neighborhoods against each other in the current city grant/voting system, to cite one example. “You don’t just have to advocate for your own neighborhood,” as one participant put it.
Maybe a district-wide council could help in advising the city on needs for the district when it’s budgeting time. City Councilmember Herbold – who joined the meeting at that point – already does that to some degree.
Much discussion focused on when to meet. Might be premature to decide that, McBride said – launch first, then decide on a rhythm/calendar. They will most likely start monthly and then go quarterly. Before the first organizational meeting, they hope to reach out to every group/organization they can find to invite them to join in creating the new network.
Followup discussions are already happening. The D-1 Community Network is an agenda item for the South Park Neighborhood Association tomorrow (7 pm Tuesday, December 11, 8201 10th Ave. S.). It was a topic at last week’s Southwest District Council meeting, where co-chair Tamsen Spengler explained, “This could give us all a bigger voice, in a new way.”
The D-1 Community Network launch meeting is tentatively set for Wednesday, January 9th – time/location TBA, but we’ll publish an announcement when that’s set.