Jan 30, 2010

Rainier Beach Coalition Town Hall

On Thursday the 28th over two hundred people attended the annual Town Hall meeting put on by a partnership between the Rainier Beach Coalition and the South Lake High School. The crowd was diverse with a wide range of ages, ethnic backgrounds and social status. There were numerous High School students in attendance and the overall feeling of the meeting was relaxed, hopeful and positive.

The program started with a meal combining food from a variety of back grounds. The food was put out first in the words of the main organizer, Gregory Davis, "If we feed you first you better be cooperative later," to laughter in the audience.
The participants were also given a series of sticker dots in order to vote on the main themes that the coalition and the community would focus on for this year. The themes were built around the main thrust of last year's community actions. The themes were: Economic Development, Education, Public Safety, Environment, and Youth and Young Families.

The Town Hall was split into a presentation portion that included both a performance by the Rainier Beach Seattle Youth Orchestra, and a power point presentation about the Rainier Beach art around the community. The orchestra was made up of seven children and a tap dancer from the High School who ad libbed to the performance of Beethoven's "Ode to Joy."

The second part of the meeting were break out sessions with the community members going to their chosen theme to express their dreams and desires about actions the community could take in order to address challenges in their communities. The members were told to dream big and to make suggestions and share ideas that weren't pragmatic, but idealistic. The break out sessions would then be used by the coalition to make connections and partnerships with viable means of making those desires come to fruition.

Community groups need to take a lesson from the very successful Town Hall meeting. The openness of discussion, the choice of following the interests of the attendees and the combination of entertainment , recognition of community members, and of course a free meal, gave the entire meeting a feeling of a friendly gathering instead of a Town Hall.

The organization was fluid and the agenda was changeable and responded to the needs and whims of the community members.
Getting the community to give up an evening of their week to discuss the future of their town and attracting the attention of a deputy mayor and a city council person is an impressive feat and should be emulated. Sometimes giving up control is the best way to retain it.

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