Message from Kathy Nyland, Director

"Mayor Murray recently issued an Executive Order directing the city to approach outreach and engagement in an equitable manner. Putting an equity lens on our approaches is bold and, yes, brave. It shows a commitment to practices that address accessibility and equity.

What does this mean?

  • We often hear that meetings can feel like we are “checking a box.” The Mayor’s action means we can create processes that are more relationship-based and build authentic partnerships.
  • It means that we can create plans that are culturally sensitive, which includes an emphasis on translated materials.
  • It means we broaden access points, identify obstacles and turn them into opportunities.

What else does this mean?

  • It means we have an opportunity to recreate, re-envision and reconcile many lingering issues, including defining the difference between neighborhoods and communities, providing clarity about roles, and creating a system of engagement that builds partnerships with, and between, communities throughout the city of Seattle.
  • It means that we will be working to expand choices and opportunities for community members throughout this city, recognizing a special responsibility to plan for the needs of those who face barriers to participation.
  • It means that we’ll work with city offices and departments on community involvement to ensure that they are effective and efficient through the wise use and management of all resources, including the community’s time.
  • And it means we will expand the toolbox and make some investments in digital engagement.

Seattle is a unique city, and we are fortunate to have so many valuable partners currently at the proverbial table. Those partners play an important role and that role will continue. While we are appreciative of the countless hours our volunteers spend making our city better, we recognize and acknowledge there are barriers to participation. There are communities who cannot be at the table, while there are some communities who don’t even know there is a table. This is where the Department of Neighborhoods comes in.

This is not a power grab. It is a power share. At the heart of this Executive Order is a commitment to advance the effective deployment of equitable and inclusive community engagement strategies across all city departments. This is about making information and opportunities for participation more accessible to communities throughout the city.

This is not about silencing voices. It’s the exact opposite. It’s about bringing more people into the conversations or at least creating opportunities for people to participate so they can be heard.

Face-to-face meetings are incredibly important and those are not going away. But not every person can attend a community meeting, and the ability to do so should not determine who gets to participate and who gets to be heard.

We’d love to hear what tools YOU need to be successful, and we’d like to hear how WE can help you. Share your ideas with us:

  • Send an email to kathy.nyland@seattle.gov. 
  • Contact us at 206-684-0464 or mail us at P.O. Box 94649, Seattle, WA 98124-4649
  • Join and follow the conversation online using #AdvancingEquitySEA at: Facebook - @SeattleNeighborhoods, Twitter - @SeaNeighborhood.

This is about making things easier and less exhaustive. This is about connecting communities to government and to one another. This is about moving forward. 

Kathy Nyland, Director
Seattle Department of Neighborhoods"