On Monday evening, May 3, more than 40 people gathered at Ballard High School to talk about violence prevention, improving education — both during and after school — and minority empowerment.
The event was a community caucus, one of 75 put on by Mayor Mike McGinn’s office in partnership with the League of Education Voters around the city since March.
Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn speaks to caucus participants at Ballard High School during a community caucus Monday evening.
Dawn Bennett and Kerry Cooley-Stroum, community organizers for the League of Education Voters, are heading up the caucuses.
“Disenfranchised communities, communities of color, he (McGinn) wants to hear from all,” said Bennett at the Ballard caucus. “He’s been focused on that and he’s also speaking to the whole. So he’s not taking one away from one and giving to the other.”
Participants of the community caucus at Ballard High School discuss key issues and solutions to issues that Seattle youth and family face today
Joe Olsen, father of a preschooler who attended the Ballard caucus, said: “I thought it was great to find out so many people were thinking the same thing. So many people have the same concerns. From what the facilitator said it’s pretty much the same throughout the city and that’s reassuring.”
He added: “I think this is a wonderful opportunity to have our voices heard. It’s one of the closest things to a direct way to communicate with a city government.”
Participants of a community caucus at Ballard High School choose which issues to further discuss by marking issues with stickers.
During his inaugural address McGinn announced the Seattle Youth and Families Initiative. According the initiative website, its goal is “to identify challenges youth and families face and to collectively mobilize towards solutions so that all children in Seattle can succeed.”
“There is a sense in Seattle that we can do better and that we need to do better,” said the mayor. “The problems we’re talking about aren’t new, which tells us that they’re probably difficult problems to solve.”
The initiative was divided into three phases. The first was a series of five large group workshops, which took place in February and March throughout Seattle. At these participants broke into small discussion groups.
“By involving the broader community and mobilizing the broader community, one, you can make sure you’re working on the right things, but two, their voices can help spur action from those with the power to make decisions,” said McGinn.
The second phase consists of the community caucuses, now under way until May 14.
The third phase is the Kids and Family Congress, which will be held on June 5 at Seattle Center. More than 250 delegates selected from the workshops and caucuses are expected to participate. Input from the three phases will help the mayor shape next year’s budget and families and education levy.
“My intention is that this is the type of an effort that will go through all four years of my term, and at the end I hope we will be able to show measurable results,” said McGinn in an interview at the caucus.
Estela Ortega is the executive director of El Centro de la Raza – a local Latino advocacy group – and co-chair of the initiative. “I’ve been just amazed in my 37 years of doing community organizing, just the number of people of color that have participated,” said Ortega at the Ballard caucus. “We’re talking 65 – 70 percent of the audience is people of color. So it’s been fantastic to see folks come out and express their opinion.”
“He (McGinn) is encouraging all of us to roll up our sleeves and get involved as well,” said Cooley-Stroum. “He’s not saying I am going to solve all these problems now that you tell me your problems. He’s encouraging us to partner with him to find solutions and make it work.”
For more information on participating in or hosting a community caucus please contact Kerry Cooley-Stroum (206-910-1400). All caucuses must be completed by May 14.
A community caucus will be held at Franklin High School on Thursday, May 6 at 6:30 pm.