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Since his first day in office, Mayor Ed Murray has talked about the need to create opportunities. Whether by increasing the minimum wage or expanding mandatory Pre-K education, the Mayor believes improving the lives of some can help elevate the quality of life for all. Creating opportunities has been at the heart of every initiative he has embraced and is also at the core of this service plan – service being the operative word.
In his February 2013 inaugural address, Mayor Murray shared his vision for Seattle: a city that is safe, affordable, vibrant, interconnected, and innovative. To realize this vision, Mayor Murray understands that we work better together than we do apart, and so volunteerism has become an integral part of how the city operates. Mayor Murray often refers to the value of service and what an honor it is to serve as a public official. These words and this sentiment have been a constant thread in every speech the Mayor has delivered and every initiative he has introduced. It is a running theme, in both word and in action.
Mayor Murray understands that government cannot do everything for everyone and neither can community groups, but together the possibilities are endless. Partnerships between public and private entities elevate the good work being done by all and help make cities like Seattle better and stronger. Partnerships can be a powerful combination, and that is where the challenge comes in. When more of us get involved, we create more opportunities to generate and elevate high-quality work that supports Seattle’s advancement as a national leader in innovative service delivery. We know Seattle residents are resourceful.
We know we have volunteers throughout this city giving their time, talent, and treasures to make Seattle an even better place to call home. What we don’t know are the specifics. How many volunteers? How many hours of service are contributed? How do people get involved? And, just as important, what impact are volunteers having on our city’s most pressing challenges?
These might seem like simple questions, yet the answers are anything but. The answers are complicated, they are uneven, they are sensitive, and, in some cases, they are unknown. Additionally, while many of the answers may be revealing and indicative of our good nature, others expose our vulnerabilities. We have spent the last year listening and learning. We’ve look at our assumptions and drilled down, trying to gain a better understanding of our volunteer landscape. We’ve looked at our resources and how we allocate and distribute them, questioning our reasoning. We’ve attended meetings, hosted events, and initiated many conversations in hopes of learning more, specifically about what communities want and need.
Although their reasons may vary, people for the most, want safe, vibrant and interconnected communities. Mayor Murray realizes that different communities have different starting points. He understands that there is a difference between equal and equitable. The latter has served as this administration’s North Star, a guiding principle that is represented in this roadmap. Acknowledging there are different needs and resources that need to be used accordingly, the Mayor has taken bold steps to address equity. This principle is at the root of the challenge to educate and empower neighborhoods and communities throughout the city. It is behind the spirit of service as we encourage participation, broaden access, and create opportunities.
This citywide service plan is about informing and involving, educating and engaging. By strengthening communities through these actions, we strengthen Seattle. Our city becomes stronger, more resilient, and more equitable. This service plan is our roadmap describing innovative ways to engage community and to try new and different approaches to address our challenges.
The Connected Community:
A connected community is a strong community. Strong communities are empowered, cohesive, and better able to help each other in times of need – in a word, more resilient. This service plan, which will serve as our roadmap on engaging residents as a first step in establishing relationships, focuses on connections as the foundation on which to build more resilient communities.
We have identified two priority focus areas and several high impact service initiatives and infrastructure investments to engage Seattle residents in addressing our community challenges:
- City-Community connections and
- CommunityCommunity relations
The conduit between city government and communities are important and so is the network among communities. Thus, substantial parts of this plan and the anticipated deliverables are focused on nurturing and sustaining these relationships.
Improving City-Community connections means linking communities to City services and resources. These include our Find It Fix It Community Walks and CityScoop – Summer Parkways gatherings. Both address ongoing concerns about how we interface with communities and improve our information-sharing abilities and techniques. Infrastructure initiatives, including a digital engagement plan, are also being planned to engage Seattle’s residents in addressing community challenges.
Improving Community-Community relations means creating connections among communities. Convening community and neighborhood groups to focus on building networks will be paramount in this effort as exemplified by our Community Project Grants. This program empowers neighbors to identify problems on their block and provides small grant awards to encourage community projects thereby making positive change possible.
Both approaches will require investments and an emphasis on infrastructure which will be key to ensuring success on all fronts.
Equity is reflected as we promote service and is a core part of what it means to be a community member in one of the most compassionate, caring, and creative cities in the nation. This guiding principle is included throughout this plan and builds upon the long tradition of community involvement in Seattle, and helps to ensure our city will remain a leader in answering the call to service. Our commitment to equity will guide our efforts and strategies as we target community needs, respond to community wants, identify best practices, and set clear outcomes, all while we evaluate our progress and measure our impacts.