Councilmember Sally J. Clark
City Council Receives Neighborhood District Council Audit
Report calls for improvement
SEATTLE - The City Auditor yesterday released a comprehensive audit of Seattle’s neighborhood District Council system, how it functions, and how the system has aged since inception in 1987. The audit, requested by Councilmember Sally J. Clark and citizen advocates, details recent conflicts over district council mission and expectations, and highlights the need for a renewed commitment to citizen engagement in Seattle.
Clark said, "The audit results reflect what many of us already know: there is keen interest, citywide, in real civic engagement. The 13 district councils play a key role in brokering dialogue both inside their territories and with City government. In 22 years, among thousands of important conversations and projects, we’ve had some missteps, mission drift and misunderstandings.”
Seattle's 13 District Councils cover the entire area of the city. They are city-recognized and supported organizations made up of representatives from community councils, community clubs, neighborhood associations, business groups, and other groups. According to the original legislation from 1987, District Councils were created to provide a forum for the exchange of ideas; identify neighborhood budgeting priorities; address common problems, and disseminate information back to participating organizations.
Over the past few years some district councils have struggled with membership and bylaws; have labored under city directives to diversify or carry out complex community conversations on behalf of the city; and have debated the weight or relevancy of district-level input into city decision-making.
“The audit reminds us that Seattle started a great system when we built the district councils, but that the councils can’t do it all, especially when we have an ever more diverse city and mixed ideas about what we want from the councils,” Clark mused. “I'm looking forward to working with civic engagement fans to better clarify the roles and responsibilities for both the City and the individual district councils.”
The audit makes 10 recommendations for updating the legislation that guides the district council system and improving the City’s record-keeping for the system. The full neighborhood District Council audit can be reviewed at the Office of the City Auditor's website at http://www.seattle.gov/audit/2009.htm