The Seattle Department of Neighborhoods’ Hey Neighbor! series introduces you to the people behind the scenes working to build, strengthen, and engage the communities of Seattle.
West Seattle resident and Your Voice, Your Choice (YVYC) participant and volunteer, Kim Schwarzkopf first became involved in participatory budgeting with the Youth Voice, Youth Choice program in 2015. Kim signed on because of her commitment to amplifying youth voices and strengthening their leadership skills. In that first year, Kim worked tirelessly to connect area youth with Youth Voice, Youth Choice. Her engagement with young residents of South Park contributed to the program’s overall success: more than 3,000 area youth aged 11-25 voted from a short-list of 19 for their preferred project and allocated $700,000 in funding to seven projects city-wide.
From there, Kim’s engagement with YVYC has deepened. A member of the 2018 YVYC Steering Committee (the advisory body and working group for the program), she has learned more about Seattle, its residents, and the participatory budget process. “Being part of the steering committee has shown me how much care and consideration goes into the YVYC program,” Kim observed. After the Seattle City Council allocated an additional $1 million to the YVYC budget in 2018, Kim and her Steering Committee colleagues unanimously decided to use these funds to support projects located in the City of Seattle’s Equity and Environment Initiative Focus Areas. “We focused on centering equity, inclusive democracy and environmental justice,” Kim said. “With every new cycle, there is the potential to gain more trust and raise awareness of the possibilities to make good things happen within every community.”
Over 1,000 ideas were submitted by residents this year which meant that Kim and the rest of the YVYC Steering Committee and volunteers had their work cut out for them. According to Kim, one of the greatest challenges of the program is the project development phase. As a co-facilitator for a project development meeting in South Park, she found that “there were so many great ideas collected within one neighborhood, it was difficult to prioritize them.”
Your Voice, Your Choice is important because it is a simple way for people to get involved, connect with neighbors, and make a positive impact in their community. – Kim Schwarzkopf
Despite challenges such as this, Kim is energized by the successes of the YVYC program and pointed to the South Park community to illustrate this point. “South Park residents came together to include as many voices as possible. They posted the YVYC survey on at least six different social media sites – two of which are mostly used by Spanish speakers,” she explained. “They also worked to distribute hard copy surveys to local hot spots, like the community center and Concord Elementary, so neighbors without internet access and kids could take part.”
Efforts in communities like South Park have paid off. This year, over 7,200 people voted, and 51 community projects were selected by voters across the city. Participating in YVYC has been, Kim reflected, “an honor and incredibly rewarding to connect with people from all walks of life and learn about their communities and heartfelt projects.”
Kim Schwarzkopf: At-a-glance
What makes your neighborhood special: Longfellow Creek! It is part of our city’s second largest watershed and, thanks to ongoing community care and restoration, we’re seeing salmon again!
Absolute favorite place in Seattle: Alki Beach at sunset! But, I also enjoy being on the water—especially around the Duwamish River.
How do you like to spend your time: I like to be active and spend time with friends and family (walking, paddle boarding, snowboarding, skateboarding, and dance fitness). I also enjoy learning about our environment and local history and taking action to help build a healthier community.