September 10, 2016 – Neighborhoods Mini-Summit

Last month’s panel discussion, The Future of Neighborhood and District Councils, was in response to Mayor Murray’s executive order dissolving the City’s support for Neighborhood District Councils. It was moderated by Nick Licata, and can be seen here.

The panel discussed the history and intent of the District Council system and neighborhood engagement, and they dispelled many of the falsehoods being perpetuated by the Murray administration and provided correctives to them, e.g.:

  • neighborhood councils played a key role in fighting red-lining,
  • during the broad-based grassroots neighborhood-led planning of the ’90s communities welcomed density, and this process has been abandoned by Murray in favor of top-down City-managed (and developer led) planning – despite his campaign promises to the contrary
  • Murray, despite his rhetoric about outreach and listening, has himself only had a top-down, tightly-orchestrated neighborhoods summit and tightly controlled HALA Focus Groups and Find It /Fix It community walks
  • the failure of the Department of Neighborhoods (DON) and their much-touted Public Outreach and Engagement Liaisons (POEL) to actually get diverse communities to the table,
  • the District Councils never were, nor never were meant to be, “the voice of the neighborhoods” and instead are simply a means for communities to network together (ed. note: so why is Murray trying to kill this grassroots networking?)
  • the support that DON provides to the District Councils is very small and not a drain on the city budget as claimed by Murray, and that support that DON has provided to neighborhoods has diminished dramatically since its inception

As Jim Diers points out, Murray’s rhetoric is all about the Department of Neighborhoods hearing from individuals so the City can make decisions when the original role of DON was to help empower communities to do what government couldn’t do and to support connecting people within the community to each other.

The “story” that is being promulgated is that neighborhoods are NIMBYs.  “NIMBYs are created by top-down decision making and that’s the model [the City] has gone back to” said Diers.  When the City did the bottom-up neighborhood planning in the 90’s, not one neighborhood challenged their growth targets and two asked for more.

But today the City no longer is telling communities their growth targets and has removed any voice from the community in defining how that growth is to be achieved.  Instead Murray has struck a backroom deal with developers (the “Grand Bargain”) as part of HALA to simply upzone large swaths of the city without regard to impacts or any sense of good urban planning.

Peter Steinbrueck has said about HALA:

HALA would destroy the city’s 25 year commitment to the Urban Village Strategy, is anti high-capacity transit, and is antithetical to “smart growth”  because more than half the city’s 30 designated urban villages still are only about half the population and employment densities needed to support high capacity transit and complete, walkable neighborhoods. HALA is car-centric, as it extends growth and densities along the city’s many car dominated arterials and  corridors outside of the urban villages, akin to opening up the county’s urban growth boundaries on a regional scale. It is nothing more than worst city planning dumbness and a  public sale of land use development rights with little public benefit and ruinous to the city’s Urban Village focus, to strong and complete neighborhoods, and smart growth.

There was much discussion about next steps and what should be done.  There is already community action on pulling together a citywide neighborhoods summit (the SNC arranged one years ago with over 350 attendees to discuss how to get the City to implement the newly adopted neighborhood plans).

Hence the theme for this month’s meeting – a mini-summit on what to do next:

  • what are the core issues for your neighborhood and District, and which of these are shared across districts or unique
  • what can the City be doing better to empower neighborhoods and facilitate communication with the various and diverse neighborhood interests
  • how can neighborhoods broaden citywide communication and response to the City
  • what should District City Council members be doing to improve communication with their constituents
  • what can neighborhoods do to counter the developer-funded HALA and 2035 propaganda from astro-turf organizations like Seattle for Everyone and the tightly controlled conversation in the HALA Focus Groups
  • what should a citywide neighborhoods summit look like
  • what can individuals and groups do to make their communities better

We want to hear from neighbors in each of the seven City Council Districts.

As usual, you are encouraged to sit wherever you like for breakfast. We will ask you to chat with your table-mates about the questions above.  Please take notes about what you hear and jot down your own ideas.

After breakfast, we will ask you to shift to marked geographic tables 1-7.  Each of the 7 groups will talk about the issues they see within their neighborhood, District and what they’ve heard from others throughout the city.

In the last hour, we will compare notes, and give feedback on the ideas which seem the most compelling — as a “to do” list for community organizers, City Council and the Executive.  We will make note of the proposed action items, and prepare a report from this meeting for you to share with your own neighborhood.

Please join us on Saturday, September 10th  at 9:00am for for this important discussion  Bring your neighbors and help spread the word about this program.  We look forward to hearing from you.