Monday, January 5, 2009

King County Countywide Community Forums

Aloha Ms. Sheary-

I am the outreach coordinator for the King County Countywide Community Forums (CCF).  The Community Forums is a network for community members to meet and engage in small group discussions on current issues and give feedback to our King County elected officials.  The CCF initiative targets residents and those who work in King County to become engaged with our elected officials and local communities over important matters and issues.  The current issue for the CCF is Citizen Priorities for County Government.  With the county facing a major budget shortfall and cuts to dozens of important human services and other programs, forums participants are asked to provide feedback on their values and priorities for the region.

As the KC Dems has shown a strong commitment to civic engagement in the community, we were hoping that you would be willing to help us get the information about the forums out to the members or your organizations. We hope to have an inclusive and diverse representation of King County in order to provide county council members with a representative picture of how diverse populations are impacted by the budget. If you know of any youth who are in need of service hours, this would be a wonderful way to earn community service hours and to get them involved in civic engagement.

How does King County Countywide Community Forums run? 
You register as a Citizen Councilor to attend or host of a group.  Forums are organized in homes, workplace or libraries throughout King County and you can pick the place and time most convenient to attend a forum.  Along with up to 11 fellow citizen councilors, watch a short video presentation on the topic at hand, discuss the issue among group members and fill out a comprehensive questionnaire. The forum takes about 2 hours.  The survey findings are presented to county officials, the media and are posted on the King County website.  The forums are held only three to four times a year and you are free to attend as many as you want.

A round of Countywide Community Forums starts with the selection of topic by the Auditor, based on the recommendation of a regional Steering Committee.  The Auditor appointed Volunteer Coordinators, who are unpaid citizens and are currently the original sponsors of the initiative, develop all the materials for the forums, subject to the Auditor’s approval. Citizens sign up as Citizen Councilors.  During an approved participation window, all councilors are invited to participate in forums held by fellow councilors in homes, libraries, or offices throughout King County.  A forum is attended by 4-12 councilors who choose the time and place most convenient to them.  Participants introduce themselves, watch a short video, discuss the issue for about an hour and complete a detailed questionnaire.  Questionnaires are mailed back and compiled by the Volunteer Coordinators into a report that can then be shared with County Council, the media, councilors, and is posted on the Auditor’s website.

Why should I participate?
Community members participate at a civic level giving voice on issues that are important to them.  The CCF initiative is outreaching to those who are rarely invited to the table.  We are seeking to gather data through surveys and community discussions to impact public policies.  These diverse voices are rarely heard, so they cannot be considered when public policy is being shaped and formed.  This is an opportunity to meet and to engage with local community members and community leaders; an opportunity to learn about how public policy should be shaped and reformed by the voices of its people.

Purpose and goals of the KC Countywide Community Forums initiative:
The stated goals for the program are to enhance citizen participation, civic engagement and citizenship education.  The program also offers the opportunity to inform policy makers, and by extension, make county government more responsive to its citizens. In particular, the initiative sponsors viewed the program as an opportunity to improve on the traditional public hearing process by offering an accessible alternative. It can also be argued that, because of its organization and roots, the program builds social capital, supports democracy and helps strengthen the community. 

You can sign up at http://www.countywidecommunityforums.orgor go to for more information. We value your participation and look forward to having you become part of the Community Forums. King County Countywide Community Forums is an intergenerational initiative that welcomes people who live or work in King County and are sixteen and over to participate.

Please feel free to call or email me if you have any questions.  I’m excited to support this community based initiative and hope you will join me in sharing this opportunity for civic engagement on issues important to your daily life.  I also have a small blurb that can be sent to your email networks and newsletters.

Looking forward to hearing from you.
Lika McFarland
206-235-8014 / 206-772-2595

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