Last summer, a diverse group of Seattleites came together out of deep concerns over the serious issues facing our city. We are long overdue to finding solutions to put us on the right track and to our great city’s full potential.
We have endured a full year of the COVID-19 pandemic, complete with home lockdowns, limited access to public spaces, and shuttered businesses and schools. The lockdown shined a glaring light on our community challenges and painful impacts to individuals, families, and businesses.
In addition, our city still faces a growing and worsening homeless crisis.
Rounding out this perfect storm, we were shocked by the horrific murder of George Floyd, leading to widespread, peaceful demonstrations demanding racial justice in our public safety system.
George Floyd’s death released a dam of pent-up frustration and anger in Black and other communities of color resulting from decades of injustice, police brutality, and our country’s painful racist past.
Unfortunately, some of these peaceful actions by day gave way to mayhem by night perpetrated by a small faction bent on causing destruction. This violence left our neighborhood districts with destroyed community spaces and storefronts of large and small businesses alike.
In short—the COVID nightmare and economic disaster left in its wake, worsening homelessness and racial reckoning, have put our city into an economic and social tailspin with no cohesive plan and strategies from our city’s leadership to address these burgeoning threats.
As we walk around Seattle, it has almost become unrecognizable. Is this the city we want?
As concerned long-time city residents, we evolved into an all-volunteer effort—“We R Seattle:
Recover, Restore, Reimagine”—to engage all of us, neighborhood by neighborhood, to address these major issues. Over the next few months, we will convene “virtual” community conversations.
Our goal with these conversations will be to hear your perspectives to:
- Define a shared vision for moving our city forward,
- Come to consensus over our most critical priorities,
- Lay out solutions to address them.
This will culminate in a Citywide Summit where representatives will map out the consensus around vision, priorities, and plans of recovery to move our city forward.
This effort is not new. We have done a similar effort through a historic and successful public engagement, known as the “Education Summit,” led by former Mayor Norm Rice in 1990.
People with knowledge of that experience have called it out as a strategy and a potential road map for us today. That effort enabled thousands of our city residents to engage with civic and city leaders to address bitter divisions and focused on defining priorities and solutions. Those conversations resulted in concrete achievements, such as the Families & Education Levy which continues to benefit our children today.
This pandemic created an unprecedented organizing challenge, but our unique outreach approach will support grassroots participation from every corner of our city.
‘We R Seattle’ has come together to find a way past the divisions and warring factions that have polarized us. If we are to have any hope of carving out a path forward, we need to unify our communities around a shared vision, with clear goals and strategies—and that begins by giving all voices an opportunity to be heard.
Go to “We R Seattle” at https://rseattle.org. We need to hear from you—and you deserve to be heard.
— David Della
— Felicia Cross
— Gayle Johnson
— Henry Wong
— Linda Thompson-Black
— Rosa Melendez
— Sue Tupper