Recently there has been a lot of press regarding the role of Seattle neighborhoods and their input into the development of policies that shape the direction of city government. Specifically, within the last two weeks The Seattle Times has published an editorial focused on Mayor Murray’s stance on the status of grass roots City Neighborhood Council as well as an editorial written by Martin Kaplan that discusses the “top down” approach that the city has taken regarding density and zoning.
City Neighborhood Councils (CNC) is a citizen-led advisory group, comprised of elected members from each of the City’s 13 districts, organized under the authority of Seattle council in October, 1987. Much of Wallingford is in the Lake Union Neighborhood District. The CNC provides a forum for a discussion of common neighborhood issues and is available for advice on policies necessary for the effective and equitable implementation of the Neighborhood Planning and Assistance Program. The CNC also provides city-wide coordination for the Neighborhood Matching Fund, Neighborhood Budget Prioritization, and Neighborhood Planning Programs. The CNC may still exist, but they will no longer have City staff supporting it and the council will not longer get to allocate City grant funding. Instead, the City will create a city-wide group called a “Community Involvement Commission” with members appointed by the Mayor.
The “long and short” of the issue is that city leadership and elected officials, are deciding what is best for Seattle neighborhoods. It seems that the view from city hall provides them with accurate insight as to what is best for Wallingford, Fremont, Capitol Hill, Queen Anne and all of the rest of Seattle’s unique neighborhoods. It has always been the case that each neighborhood, like Wallingford, has its own set of issues, unique characteristics, history, charm, citizen make up and problems and each neighborhood has its own group of citizens who volunteer their time to try to ensure that their community continues to strive to be better.
At the end of the day, it is clear that a city democracy only works if it is built from the ground up with input from individuals who live in these neighborhoods. And that input is a compromised and negotiated position of those community volunteers who make up the respective neighborhood councils and truly represents the needs of that specific community. This provides a much better view than that from city hall.
I want to encourage Wallingford residents, young and old, bikers and car drivers, homeowners and renters to join and participate in the Wallingford Community Council (WCC) http://wallingfordcc.org. The Wallingford Community Council of Seattle is a neighborhood voice representing the greater Wallingford community in interaction with city government on land use, transportation and parks. The WCC provides a place and process for neighbors to engage with each other to address neighborhood opportunities, challenges and issues.
I also encourage the residents of Wallingford to read the two editorials referenced above and to write Councilpersons Johnson and O’Brien as well as the Mayor and demand that they continue the neighborhood council input that will help develop and implement well-planned and managed growth for the city of Seattle and while you are at it, remind them that they work for you and that their performance evaluations will be coming up shortly in the form of elections.