Councilmember Licata left office on January 1, 2016.
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Urban Politics #121: New Dept Of Neighborhoods Head

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By City Councilmember Nick Licata.

With assistance from my Legislative Assistant Newell Aldrich on this issue.

Urban Politics (UP) blends my insights and information on current public policy developments and personal experiences with the intent of helping citizens shape Seattle’s future.



  • Correction
  • Selecting A New Neighborhoods Dept Head
  • A New Neighborhood Group Forms


With regards to the State Film Office, some readers of the last UP issue had difficulty reaching the URL for contacting state representatives. The difficulty was a result of a period placed at the end of the URL. Another way to identify your rep is to go to and put in your zip code.

Selecting A New Neighborhoods Dept Head

On December 19th I sent a letter, along with CM Richard Conlin, to our new Mayor Elect Greg Nickels, asking that as the incoming and outgoing chairs of the Council Committee with policy and legislative oversight of the Department of Neighborhoods, we thought it critical to address the subject of the hiring process for the new director.

Mayor Elect Nickels had pointed out during his campaign that Seattle’s quality of life is directly related to its strong and diverse neighborhoods and their active citizens. The mandate of the Department of Neighborhoods (DON) is to “Preserve and enhance Seattle’s diverse neighborhoods; empower people to make positive contributions in their communities; and bring government closer to all people, ensuring that it is responsive.”

Because his dismissal of Jim Diers raised concerns from citizens who had contacted our office about a possible change in the citizen orientation of (DON), we encouraged him to continue the cultivation of citizen participation and empowerment in his search for a new director of that department.

We pointed to the inclusive hiring process for the Chief of Police that used a search committee from a broad cross section of community interests as a possible model. Later I discovered that when former Mayor Charles Royer had hired Jim Diers it was through an openly advertised process that employed a 10-member panel of community and City representatives.

So there is some precedence for using a citizen search committee for making recommendations to the Mayor for heading the department that most directly impacts neighborhoods. When Diers was hired he had a staff of less than ten, now the department has over one hundred employees.

We closed our letter by asking for an opportunity to meet with the Mayor at his convenience to discuss this proposal. Since then I have had the opportunity to meet with the Mayor’s staff and they have assured me that the Mayor is actively pursuing an approach that will use a citizen search committee to make three recommendations to him.

At this time there is no job description for the position nor plans for using paid advertisements to announce its opening. I do not know how membership on the search committee is being determined although the Mayor’s staff informed me that I would be given more information next week about its composition.

I believe that the more inclusive the process for selecting the next head of the DON, the more likely it is that we will get such a person when the Council approves the new appointee.

A New Neighborhood Group Forms

I attended a meeting of a new community group, Neighborhoods Rock, last Saturday morning to listen to about 30 folks from around the city discuss the future of the Department of Neighborhoods. Marco Lowe, the Mayor’s Constituent Outreach Coordinator, was also in the audience. The group discussion was lead by two community leaders, Joyce Moty and Lisa Merki.

The discussion was open ended but emphasized preserving the Department of Neighborhoods and its programs. The following were specifically identified for support.

— Neighborhood Service Centers
— P-Patch Program
— Neighborhood Matching Fund
— Historic Preservation
— Involving All Neighbors
— Leadership Development Workshops

Other points raised, not in any order of priority were:

— Retain the effective and talented DON staff

— Continue Neighborhood Planning Implementation with DON oversight and financial support.

— Establish and fund a Sister Neighborhoods Program to partner achieving neighborhoods with underserved neighborhoods, communities of color, ethnicity, abilities, schools and special populations.

— Support District Councils and individual neighborhood groups.

Lisa Merki had contacted the Mayor’s office requesting a meeting with representatives of their group. A list of representatives had not been finalized by the end of Saturday’s meeting and a time had not yet been set to meet with the Mayor. Also a number of those attending had sent emails supporting the Mayor establishing a search process for identifying a new DON Director and encouraging him to involve neighborhood representation.

Keep in touch…

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