Editor's note: This is the second installment of There Go the Neighborhoods, an occasional series on Seattle's neighborhood-planning process.
Von Paul Patu, a resident of Southeast Seattle and a member of South Pacific Islander Educational Support Services, sat patiently, and sometimes not so patiently, in the front row to one side of a U-shaped formation of tables. There members of the Southeast District Council (SEDC) were seated. Unfortunately, and perhaps tellingly, at all of the district council meetings I've attended, the council members face one another in this arrangement with their backs to the citizens in attendance.
Ten minutes were earmarked for public comment; the meeting reached that agenda item at the projected ending time of 8:30 p.m. One third of the public had already left. Weary council members, all volunteer citizens themselves, were already shuffling their papers in anticipation of wrapping up the meeting.
Von Paul's hand was always the first one up when there was an opportunity for questions or comments throughout the first two hours. Clearly he's well known to the neighborhood district council. On the City of Seattle's Web site, a flow chart shows what is called the Neighborhood Involvement Structure, in which the arrows point up from the citizen groups, nonprofits, and local chambers of commerce that comprise 13 district councils, up to the