by Kirby LindsayOn December 30, 2010, the Department of Neighborhoods (DoN), to cut budget costs, closed six of their Neighborhood Service Centers, including the Fremont office. They also cut three Neighborhood District Coordinator positions, but, fortunately, not that of Tim Durkan who has been serving Fremont, and the Lake Union District, since 2008.
Durkan now works, primarily, from the Central Neighborhood Service Center, located at 2301 S. Jackson St #208. Durkan can be reached by phone at 206/684-4054 and e-mail, as can his team – Christa Dumpys (206/684-4812) and Stan Lock (206/233-2045.) This is the Interim Service Model with 13 districts divided into three regions – North, South and Central. Fremont, as part of the Lake Union District, falls into Central which covers five districts.
On The SLI
At the Fremont Neighborhood Council (FNC) meeting, on February 28, 2011, Durkan described the reorganization of the coordinators, and going on in the DoN. He also mentioned that the Director of DoN, Stella Chao, who served during the cuts, is no longer with the department. Bernie Matsuno, a DoN veteran near retirement, has taken the job of Interim Director. When asked if the layers of administration identified during the budget discussions were still in place, Durkan admitted that those have not gone completely, “but there was a pretty big Howitzer.”
The decision to close the community-based offices raised alarms with many citizens, and led the Seattle City Council to issue a Statement of Legislative Intent (SLI) request to the Office of the Mayor to answer questions about DoN, and specifically to identify a reconfiguration plan for the coordinator program.
The Mayor is expected to respond to the City Council, on the SLI, by July 1, 2011. At the Lake Union District Council (LUDC) meeting, on March 7, 2011, discussion also concerned the current upheaval. Durkan, among his many duties, administers to this group which exists, in part, as a liaison between community groups that surround Lake Union and the City. The LUDC has sent a letter to the Mayor’s office, suggesting that in developing a response to the SLI, and choosing a permanent director, he engage and gather input from community groups such as the LUDC, and FNC.
“Your administration’s initiatives to promote community-building and civic engagement will succeed best by making full use of the Department of Neighborhoods,” states the letter, in three different ways. This addresses a significant fear underlying the recent cuts – that they will lead to dissolution of the DoN. “DoN is the only City entity designed specifically to build community and engagement,” the LUDC letter, dated February 22, 2011, explains.
Help When You Need It?
The March LUDC meeting examined whether the interim arrangement of the coordinators will work long term, and ways a review, with the SLI, could lead to a better, stronger DoN. At the February FNC meeting, Durkan fielded questions and comments on how the Interim Service Model hampers access to the coordinators by citizens. The SLI states that DoN activities strengthen communication and understanding between the City and neighborhoods, “and are most effective in engaging people who are unfamiliar with navigating city bureaucracy.”
The Neighborhood Matching Grant program could be considered the largest jewel in the crown of the DoN. At the LUDC, many members commented on the vital role coordinators serve in helping community dreamers and visionaries plug-in to this fund. The coordinators also prove their worth in directing community groups to other funding sources, and resources, to find those best suited to the scope and scale of their project.
How To Get Involved
At the LUDC meeting, Chris Leman mentioned that the Mayor’s office frequently says, ‘we want to hear from you.’ Certainly community response led the City Council to look closer at the DoN, so public input can significantly impact what the reorganization, and the new director, can be.
Veronica Sherman-King, of DoN, will collect feedback on the SLI, at 206/684-0270 or e-mail. The Mayor’s office can be reached through the website or at 206/684-4000, and comments on-line can also go to the City Customer Service Bureau at 206/684-CITY(2489). Public input on DoN programs can be directed to Lois Maag at 206/615-0950 or by e-mail.
If you need help from a Neighborhood District Coordinator, stop by or call the Central Area office at 206/684-4767. Nothing prevents Fremonsters from accessing help at the other service centers, including Ballard, at 5604 – 22nd Ave NW, or the University, at 4534 University Way NE.
Also, to get information consider attending an upcoming community meeting – the FNC meets on the fourth Monday of each month at 7p, and the LUDC meets on the first Monday of each month, at 5p. Both gather at History House (790 N 34th,) right here in Fremont.
©2011 Kirby Lindsay. This column is protected by intellectual property laws, including U.S. copyright laws. Reproduction, adaptation or distribution without permission is prohibited.