The City of Seattle agreed to add approximately 50,000 households over the 20 years from 1994 to 2014. In order to do this, the City’s Comprehensive Plan, entitled “Towards a Sustainable Seattle,” identified a set of “urban villages” that were anticipated to receive the most growth. The City then asked the people in each village to create a neighborhood plan that would address anticipated growth and the community improvements necessary to ensure healthy, pleasant places to live.
“ We’re letting the genie out of the bottle,” said then-Mayor Norm Rice, “and we’ll never get it back in.” How right he was!
Faced with this dilemma, I worked with the Mayor and the rest of the City Council to devise a three-pronged implementation strategy. The first prong recognized that the City was already spending most of its budget in the neighborhoods but not necessarily on the communities’ priorities. The challenge was to move from business-as-usual to responding to neighborhood plans.
Their valuable time, talent, knowledge, and perspective resulted in 38 plans, each reflecting the special character, needs, and opportunities of that neighborhood. They contain more than 5,000 specific recommendations: public art, playground, neighborhood identification, cultural facilities, streetscapes, trees for streets and parks … The completed plans were submitted to the City’s Strategic Planning Office for review and then to the City Council for approval.
Neighborhoods came through in a big way. In each planning area, a committee was formed, with subcommittees for key elements of the planning process, such as land use, transportation, etc. About 20,000 people, many of them new to community activism, participated in meetings, “alternatives fairs,” writing, exhibit construction, and even songs and skits. The result was a 20-year vision for their neighborhood along with recommended actions that would accomplish their goals.
We refocused City departments and their resources by hiring six sector managers to work with community stewardship groups and with decentralized, interdepartmental teams; fold plan recommendations into departmental work plans, budgets, and CIP programs; identify opportunities for collaboration with other partners such as the School District, WSDOT, and Sound Transit; and leverage resources from the community and the private sector.
This major reorientation of City government is perhaps the most significant achievement of the neighborhood plans. The second prong of implementation strategy was to generate additional resources by placing plan recommendations on the ballot in the form of bond and levy requests. Three major components of most neighborhood plans are supported by voter-approved ballot measures ...
The third prong of the implementation strategy was to triple the Neighborhood Matching Fund from $1.5 million in 1998 to $4.5 million this year. The Neighborhood Matching Fund supports neighborhood-initiated projects by giving neighborhood groups (formal and informal) cash awards to match community contributions of cash, volunteer labor, or donated good and services. The Fremont Troll was one of the first Neighborhood Matching Fund projects, back in 1998.
BUILDING GOVERNMENT-COMMUNITY PARTNERSHIPS THE SEATTLE STORY
Paradigm Shift Required GOVERNMENT’S SHIFT COMMUNITY’S SHIFT <ul><li>Recognize that neighbourhoods aren’t just places with needs but communities of people with underutilized resources </li></ul><ul><li>Move beyond customer service and citizen participation to community empowerment </li></ul><ul><li>Never do for communities what they can do for themselves </li></ul><ul><li>Stop focusing on self-proclaimed leaders and start providing communities with leadership training as well as assistance with outreach and networking </li></ul><ul><li>Move beyond blaming government to taking a share of the responsibility </li></ul><ul><li>Think and act as citizens rather than as taxpayers </li></ul><ul><li>Never wait for government to do what could better be done by the community </li></ul><ul><li>Make it worth government’s while to partner with the community by making it a priority to build broad and inclusive participation </li></ul>
GOVERNMENT’S SHIFT COMMUNITY’S SHIFT <ul><li>The community can’t partner with a government divided by functions, so develop a more holistic, community-based approach. </li></ul><ul><li>Recognize that community members have valuable expertise </li></ul><ul><li>Make information accessible to the community and provide educational opportunities </li></ul><ul><li>Appreciate the unique character of different neighbourhoods and cultures </li></ul><ul><li>Delegate as many decisions as possible to the community. </li></ul><ul><li>Recognize and thank community members who are effective partners </li></ul><ul><li>Government can’t partner with a community divided by factions, so work collaboratively within the neighbourhood and with other neighbourhoods. </li></ul><ul><li>Recognize that government staff have valuable expertise </li></ul><ul><li>Keep government informed and coach staff on working effectively with the community </li></ul><ul><li>Keep the big picture in mind </li></ul><ul><li>Recognize government’s role in setting policy and meeting the needs of the community as a whole </li></ul><ul><li>Recognize and thank government officials and staff who are effective partners </li></ul>
Value of community-driven planning: <ul><li>Implementation happens – plans don’t sit on the shelf </li></ul><ul><li>Resources are multiplied – government resources leverage community’s </li></ul><ul><li>Appropriate development occurs – respecting unique character of neighbourhood and culture of community </li></ul><ul><li>More holistic and innovative solutions result </li></ul><ul><li>A stronger sense of community is built </li></ul>
38 neighbourhood plans: over 5,000 specific recommendations
Other Examples of Government- Community Partnerships: <ul><li>Official recognition of neighbourhood associations: Portland, Oregon </li></ul><ul><li>System of district councils and city neighbourhood council: Dayton, Ohio </li></ul><ul><li>Block organizing: Lawrence, Massachusetts </li></ul><ul><li>Citizen councilors: King County, Washington </li></ul><ul><li>Online participation: Minneapolis, Minnesota </li></ul><ul><li>Decentralized interdepartmental teams: Toronto, Ontario </li></ul><ul><li>Community-driven planning: Golden Plains, Australia </li></ul><ul><li>Participatory budgeting: Porto Alegre, Brazil </li></ul><ul><li>Leadership development programs: Indianapolis, Indiana </li></ul><ul><li>Neighbourhood summits: Cincinnati, Ohio </li></ul><ul><li>Community Empowerment Centers: Taiwan </li></ul><ul><li>Big Society: England </li></ul>
HALLMARKS OF EFFECTIVE COMMUNITY PARTNERSHIPS: Place-focused Strengths-based Community-driven