Talk to Your City Leaders

The other night I watched an episode of Eric Liu’s excellent show, ‘Citizen University TV’. Eric spoke about how to make yourself heard in government. The next day I was leafing through Seattle Neighborhoods’ pamphlet, ‘Get Informed, Get Engaged, Get Organized’ and came across the same suggestions Eric made. We complain about what the city is or isn’t doing (as amply evidenced on the Pinehurst Seattle Facebook group), but do we ever directly engage with anyone who can do something about it? If we don’t, how do we expect our leaders to know what we want? How do we expect things to change for the better? Here are three ways to make yourself heard, from the pamphlet. My comments and/or Eric’s suggestions are in brackets [ ]:

Meet with a City Councilmember

Each City Councilmember has their own website, where you can find their contact information and upcoming office hours. Contact the Councilmember who serves your district [District 5’s is Debora Juarez] or is on a City Council committee that addresses your concerns. You can make an appointment or let them know in advance that you’ll be visiting during their office hours – that way, they can schedule a time to talk with you.

Provide public comment to the City Council

If you want to make a comment at a City Council meeting, show up 15 minutes early and sign up outside the Council Chamber. There will be 20 minutes for public comment – you will have up to 2 minutes to share yours. If you can’t make a meeting, you can always provide your input by sending an email or letter. Learn how to make a public comment here. [Eric says that telling a story to make it personal is effect, instead of just facts and figures, or just your opinion. He says decide ahead of time what you want to say, practice saying it in 2 minutes, and even if you’re reading your message, look up once in a while to look people in the eye.]

Get involved with a commission

There are over 70 City boards and commissions in Seattle. You can apply for an open position on any commission that interests you.  Members provide feedback and advice that impacts decision-making on issues that affect Seattle, including community involvement, families and education, ethics and elections, traffic management, public safety, housing and human rights. Find out more by visiting

[So, if you’ve met, commented and/or joined a commission and the leaders don’t take your advice? That does NOT mean they didn’t listen. It only means that they listened and decided to do something else. They have to juggle all kinds of constituents’ wishes and needs. Keep trying; keep telling them what you want. And keep voting!]

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