David Yeaworth, (206) 684-5328, Clark Office
Councilmember Sally J. Clark
Clark: Audit Measures Success of Neighborhood Plans
Councilmember will make neighborhood planning and implementation a priority again
Seattle — Councilmember Sally J. Clark, today, received a report she requested from the City Auditor regarding the performance of neighborhood plans. The audit indicates that while neighborhood planning and the first stage of implementation were successful on many levels, more recently the city has decreased staffing associated with plan implementation, cut some programs that supported implementation and the plans have grown stale.
“This audit was really necessary as we approach the middle-age of our neighborhood plans,” Councilmember Clark said. “The results show that Seattle’s planning and implementation model have been successful up to a point.”
Thousands of people participated in the neighborhood planning process between 1995 and 1999, producing 38 neighborhood plans. City Auditor Susan Cohen reported that, though the planning process inspired a new generation of caring and concerned citizens, they often felt that their efforts were for naught.
“When the City collaborated with neighborhoods to develop their plans, people were engaged,” Auditor Cohen said. “They worked together, created common visions and goals, raised their levels of civic participation, and learned how to make a difference.
“Citizens initially were delighted at how the City aggressively moved to implement the plans but then felt frustrated later because of declining commitment and support from the City.”
Auditors researched city budgets to determine policy and funding driven by neighborhood plans. They also spoke with neighborhood residents, business people, non-profit staff, staff from other government agencies and city staff.
The report’s description of spending shows that the City’s primary success in implementing the plans has come through the voter-approved library bond, parks and community center levies, and even the recent Bridging the Gap transportation package. These electoral measures brought new infrastructure to every sector of the City.
Auditor Cohen commented, “We heard that citizens are willing to pay for new amenities, assuming that they’re the facilities and services they want.”
Thanks to economic recession a downturn in plan implementation momentum occurred shortly after the beginning of the new century. Budget cuts in the Department of Neighborhoods (DON) meant that sector manager positions were cut. The audit shows these staff were instrumental in finding ways that City departments could collaborate with the community, other agencies and private development to get plan recommendations done.
Councilmember Clark intends to make neighborhood planning and implementation a priority again for the City. The audit says that some neighborhood plans are already outdated, some because most of the initial workplan items have been met and some because of the rapid changes that have occurred “We need to reinvest in planning so people can do a gut check about the vision of their plan and also to refresh the list of to-do items they want the city and themselves to execute,” said Councilmember Clark. “Whatever that reinvestment looks like I firmly believe it must fully involve and be driven by neighborhoods.”
City Auditor Susan Cohen will present the findings of the report to the public at the Economic Development and Neighborhoods Committee meeting, Thursday, September 20 at 6 p.m. at Hing Hay Park, 423 Maynard Ave. S. in Seattle’s International District.
Attached: Highlights of the City Auditor’s Report
The entire audit is available on the Office of City Auditor’s website http://www.seattle.gov/audit/