Editor's note: This is the third installment of There Go the Neighborhoods, an occasional series on Seattle's neighborhood-planning process.
The City Neighborhood Council's primary role varies depending on whom you ask, and that's just within the advisory group itself. Each member was drawn (or pushed) to their seat by a different path. Their view of its success as an advisory board to the City of Seattle can also vary depending on whether you talk to an eternal optimist.
Vice Chair Pete Spaulding is an optimist with realistic expectations. He sums up the City Neighborhood Council's greatest strength as a clearinghouse for information, bringing together people from all over the city and making them aware of issues that may affect them. He serves on behalf of the Delridge Neighborhoods District Council, along with other representatives from 13 districts recognized by the city Department of Neighborhoods, and is an elected member of the executive board. Although often "long, dry, and boring," the meetings, Spaulding thinks, are good avenues for dispensing information for representatives to take back to their districts. For him, the City Neighborhood Council is most valuable for its informational give and take between districts and government, not for its ability to influence city decisions.
Members who are more focused on whether City Council or the mayor heed their policy tend to be less encouraged, with one stating diplomatically: "The current situation is not one in which our input is highly valued." The City Neighborhood Council is defined as an advisory board, not a decision-making one — no matter how long they labor for consensus on internal decisions. Almost to a person, current members became involved by an initial concern that hit close to their home or business — a dangerous crosswalk, a proposal to pave planting strips, threat to a greenbelt. But it takes a special breed to stay involved for years and years.
The City Neighborhood Council was created by a council resolution in 1987; its scope has not been officially refined or altered by the City Council since October 1994. The neighborhoods that comprise the 13 district councils have altered significantly in the interim, but the City Neighborhood Council's role, listed on the