Even simple “aha” moments can be profound. It’s a wonder my most recent “aha” moment never occurred to me before.
While talking with a Black Issaquah resident at the peaceful Black Lives Matter (BLM) protest on the steps of City Hall, we lamented the obvious lack of diversity on the city’s volunteer commissions and City Council. The city has struggled for years to find ways to attract more people of color and diverse backgrounds to those positions.
I asked him: “How do we appeal to people like you to apply?” With a completely surprised look on his face, he said: “Tell people that’s what you’re looking for! How else would I know?”
Aha! Of course. How would I know if the city was looking for someone like me unless I was told? I wouldn’t. Through more specific and direct messaging and marketing, the city can engage more diverse participation on boards, commissions, and elected bodies. It is a real opportunity to seek out new voices to contribute to the dialogue in Issaquah. The BLM movement provides endless possibilities for addressing systemic inequalities of all sorts. The call to action is to harness this energy and enthusiasm. The time to seize this opportunity is now.
The City Council is listening with intention to act. Budget deliberations this fall will include a review of the police department budget in response to calls for reforms since the horrific death of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis. Rather than defund police, the council’s most recent dialogue focused on re-imagining the delivery of public-safety services, focused on the needs of Issaquah.
The city’s police budget for 2020 is $11.7 million (including jail, court, and other services), which represents 23% of the general fund. Police have become the ever-larger safety net we rely on for calls that are not emergency or criminal in nature — barking dogs, loud parties, and mental health crises. Perhaps some functions could be accomplished by other professionals, such as social workers. But determining whether and how much funding could be diverted to non-police functions should be an objective evaluation of historic data and current trends, not a random percentage cut. More significantly, your voice needs to be part of that decision-making. You can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. And please watch the video recording of City Council’s June 15 and June 29 meetings on this topic on YouTube.
To create a truly welcoming and inclusive community we should think bigger. Higher-level. Bolder. One resident wants Issaquah to better reflect the “color-full” people who live here. Her ideas include adding murals around town depicting Black, Chinese, Japanese, Hispanic, and Native American history; installing mirror mosaics from India and Chinese dragons in public parks, and having Pride events. In short, let’s celebrate diversity, not simply talk about it.
We have a moment in time. Seize it. Find your “aha” moments, then share them with family, friends, and the people you expect to change the system. Collectively, our “aha” moments can transform our community and future.
Note: The views and opinions expressed here are solely the author’s and do not express the views or opinions of the Issaquah City Council.