The Mayor and Seattle City Council recently announced the initial 13 appointees selected to serve on the City of Seattle’s new Community Involvement Commission (CIC). The CIC will ultimately be comprised of 16 equity champions who will work to ensure that our City departments are creating and implementing equitable engagement strategies that lead to more relevant and impactful public participation. They will also provide feedback on the development of City departments’ community involvement plans. All the appointments are subject to City Council confirmation.
City Council Appointee: District 5
Mark Mendez was born and raised in Seattle, WA; and grew up in the Lake City neighborhood in NE Seattle. His father is from the US territory of Puerto Rico and his mother grew up in Lake City. Mark graduated from the University of Washington with a BA in Political Science and from Seattle University with a Master’s in Public Administration.
Mark has worked for the YMCA, Seattle Goodwill, South Seattle College, and now for Seattle Parks and Recreation. He is currently managing leadership and career readiness programs for underserved youth in the North Seattle area (https://enjoylakecity.org/just-the-beginning/). Throughout his career, Mark has had a passion for bringing together a network of partners to ensure Seattle area youth and adults, especially low-income and communities of color, get the education, training, and resources they need to be successful and obtain high-quality careers.
Mark was the Co-Chair for the North District Council for two years and is currently on the board of Lake City Neighborhood Alliance. He is also Co-Chair of the Olympic Hills Neighborhood Council and on the business development committee for Lake City Future First. Mark has been advocating and community organizing with his neighbors around a variety of equity issues in his neighborhood.
What inspired you to serve on the Community Involvement Commission?
I want to be on the Community Involvement Commission to help advise and guide City of Seattle departments to assess, improve, and develop authentic and thorough outreach and engagement to all residents in Seattle. I want to help ensure North Seattle receives equity in terms of City programming and funding. For example, the Lake City neighborhood is one of the poorest and most diverse neighborhoods in Seattle; however, since Lake City is in North Seattle there’s a perception that Lake City lacks diversity and is not underserved. In fact, the Lake City neighborhood has one of the highest poverty census tracts in Seattle, and is experiencing tremendous growth in numbers of children who are low-income, immigrants, have special needs, who are currently or formerly homeless, and seniors who are low-income.
We’ve taken to calling our Community Involvement Commissioners “EQUITY CHAMPIONS!” Do you accept this superhero moniker and what does it mean to you personally?
I think there are a lot of “Equity Champions” in our City. I would be honored to be called one, but I think there are many more people that I look up to that I would call an “Equity Champion” before me. For example, Seattle’s Gang of Four: Bernie Whitebear, Bob Santos, Roberto Maestas, and Larry Gossett, who founded Seattle’s Minority Executive Directors Coalition.
What is your unique real-life superpower?
Learning new things, networking, and bringing different groups of people together for community building projects.
What do you hope the Community Involvement Commission will bring to the City?
I hope the Community Involvement Commission will help empower the City with tools to assess, improve, and develop authentic and thorough outreach and engagement to all residents in Seattle. I hope the City will truly support outreach efforts to underserved communities with sufficient funding and expertise. For example, as Co-Chair for the North District Council, one of the major barriers for outreach in our underserved communities was the lack of funding for interpreters and translators to communicate with our underserved communities. If the City truly wants to be equitable in outreach and empowering our underserved communities, then the City should fund the resources necessary to outreach and empower our underserved communities.
Which local organization or person do you consider to be a true superhero and why?
The Gang of Four: in the politics of Seattle, Washington. “Gang of Four” (also, sometimes “The Four Amigos“) refers to Bernie Whitebear, Bob Santos, Roberto Maestas, and Larry Gossett, who founded Seattle’s Minority Executive Directors Coalition.
All four were associated with radical minority rights activism in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and all went on to leadership roles. Whitebear founded the Seattle Indian Health Board and the United Indians of All Tribes Foundation. Santos was a prominent leader among Seattle’s Asian Americans, director of the Asian Coalition. Maestas was the founder and director of El Centro de la Raza. Gossett founded the Central Area Motivation Program and went on to public office as a member of the King County Council.
Learn more about the Community Involvement Commission at seattle.gov/neighborhoods/community-involvement-commission.