Imagine that you are a City Council member who, after a lengthy public process, is required to make a decision. Imagine residents coming before you on decision day, telling you that they had heard nothing about it, and they should have been involved as stakeholders, and asking for a delay, a new process or a decision different than that arrived at as a result of the process.
The most recent example is the Nov. 6 council meeting regarding the location of the planned new Justice Center, some new fire stations and public works facilities. Many individuals and business owners shared heartfelt and legitimate concerns. Fair enough.
Here’s the problem. The Public Safety plan has been a slow-rolling process for almost two years. There were two open house events seeking public input prior to the Nov. 6 council meeting. All addresses in Tukwila, including businesses, were mailed notices of these events. The city also had an online open house. The city has a webpage, a Facebook account and a Twitter account. All were used to promote the events. So where were the concerned residents and business owners during the process?
This situation occurs too often.
The city is looking for better ways to communicate. There is always room for improvement. It is unlikely, however, that any new efforts will be useful if the communication continues to be one-way.
Here is an idea. Neighborhoods, businesses in specific areas and other groups that share a common interest could form informal networks in which, on a rotating basis, one could monitor goings-on at city hall and inform the others about matters meriting attention and participation.
We all naturally pursue our happiness and well being. Perhaps you are like me. I regret that I often ignore issues that affect the rest of my community but have no impact on me. I sometimes ignore mailers or put them to one side and then forget about them. I assume that someone else will take care of the issue. I get stuck in my comfort zone and patterns.
For some residents, Tukwila is like a train station on the way to somewhere else. I’ve been there, and I get it. It is understandable that those residents may not care about public policy. As for the rest of us who hope to raise our families, and perhaps live out our lives here, we must do better.
Tukwila Reporter columnist Chuck Parrish can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.