Message from Kathy Nyland, Director of Seattle Department of Neighborhoods:
Yesterday Mayor Murray signed the 2017-18 City Budget that was adopted November 21, 2016 by Seattle City Council. The budget includes several additions and changes to the work of Seattle Department of Neighborhoods (DON), and I’m pleased to share them with you.
The department’s work has become much more important in the last year; and we see this work continuing and expanding as more issues come our way. We know everyone has a voice, and it is our job to hear them. The Mayor reminded us about the need for DON and the City Council has confirmed it.
When Mayor Murray issued the Executive Order in July mandating the City to approach outreach and engagement in a more equitable manner, it set the stage for this department to lead the City’s outreach and engagement practices. And through the Mayor’s Proposed Budget, he introduced legislation that outlined a new citywide framework for community engagement and redefined the role of DON in this work. This new legislation, Resolution 31718 and Council Bill 118834, does the following:
- Advances a citywide approach to outreach and engagement that prioritizes equity and recognizes barriers to participation.
- Demonstrates the City’s commitment to implementing equitable and inclusive community involvement strategies across all City Departments.
- Directs City departments to develop well designed, responsive, and culturally relevant public involvement plans.
- Creates a Community Involvement Commission to advise on City plans, policies, strategies, and community grant funding processes and make recommendations that advance equitable public engagement and civic participation.
- Redefines the purpose of DON and the functions of the Director.
It is now up to DON to lead this work. Going forward, you can depend on us to:
- Focus on more access and more opportunity. We will broaden our reach and work with many groups knowing that no one speaks for all.
- Implement a broad range of new initiatives and tools to encourage greater and more diverse participation. Read our workplan to learn more.
- Work with city departments to ensure their outreach and engagement work is equitable and transparent through consultation and collaboration.
How are we going to do this? Here are DON’s budget highlights that will support this work:
- Two staff members to continue their work in outreach and engagement oversight and city-wide coordination.
- Two positions to focus on improving the City’s outreach and engagement to neighborhoods during impactful construction projects.
- Two positions to provide additional capacity to the POEL (Public Outreach and Engagement Liaison) program with a focus on low-income transit options.
- One position to broaden the participatory budgeting approach to new audiences.
- One position to analyze the outcomes of DON’s programs and identify strategies and opportunities for improvements.
- One part-time position dedicated to Historic Preservation process improvements.
- One position dedicated to administer grants and contracts.
- One Accounting Technician position to serve the Department of Education and Early Learning.
- Funds to develop resources and tools to support all community organizations. These would include workshops, online trainings, and a one-stop shop for resources.
- Funds to develop a fellowship program to support community-based organizations that provide leadership development opportunities and capacity-building.
- Funds to develop and implement community satisfaction surveys to gain residents’ opinions on city services and priorities for improvement.
- Funds to support outreach efforts for the Housing Affordability Livability Agenda, including funds to review the city’s historic preservation program review process.
Several of you had questions about our Neighborhood District Coordinators. We continue working with them and their labor representatives to evolve their job descriptions to meet our new goals. Please know that there will be staff designated to assist community groups, both community-based and geography-based.
The DON staff is excited to implement this work. It gives us and the City an opportunity to rethink and reimagine how we interact with one another. Over the coming months, you will be introduced to the many tools, processes, and initiatives that DON will be leading, supporting, and implementing. Make sure to visit our Engage Seattle webpage to learn more.
Outreach and engagement is the core of what we do. Equity, transparency and “meeting people where they are” are our guiding principles. Our work is about fostering community partnerships, cultivating emerging leadership, and facilitating community inclusiveness. We are a department known for many programs; but we are about people, first and foremost. We are thankful that this adopted budget supports the good work we do and our mission of “strengthening Seattle by engaging all communities.”