Collaboration in Civic Spheres

Countywide Community Forums Round Six: King County Wants To Hear From You, On Budget Dilemma

by September 20th, 2010

Our parent program, Countywide Community Forums, has launched its Round Six series of small group discussions – but also including a quick and easy online-only survey option – to capture collective wisdom on how King County can best address its budget dilemma. The county faces a $60 million general fund deficit for next year and more deficits in the future unless big changes occur. This might mean finding new ways to raise funds, or it might mean greater concessions by organized labor and further cuts in the county workforce. A sales tax hike on the ballot November 2 could ease the strain somewhat if passed, but not completely. And the larger issue, as county leaders note in our Round Six video, is a “structural gap” between rising annual costs and declining revenues.

The CCF process is based on the idea that smaller groups provide a better opportunity than large public hearings to discuss and learn about the tough issues with which decision-makers grapple. It’s a privately-funded program supported mainly by the Spady family of Dick’s Drive-Ins in Seattle. Anyone who lives or works in King County can join in. To participate, you choose to host a meeting yourself or attend one that already scheduled. For events, we provide all necessary materials. Participants view a short, informative video, talk for up to 30 minutes in groups of 12 people or less, then fill out a brief survey, which is tabulated along with other survey results into a final report to King County government, the public and the media. Another way to participate is to simply watch the video and take the survey online.

To get started, go to the CCF home page, then click on “register” (if you are already a member, just log in). After completing the easy registration, please click on “process.” Then you can choose to host or find an event, or “take the survey” right away online. If you choose the latter, the video is embedded in the survey. Another useful page is reached by clicking on “Learn,” where you’ll find all the latest news stories on King County’s budget challenge. You can also get trained as a discussion facilitator, which has proven to be an excellent skill to have, professionally, for many people.

Here is a write-up at our blog with links to the final report in our last round, earlier this year. The topic was King County’s performance in the areas of customer service, public trust and public engagement. As you’ll see, participants had kudos for the County but also some specific suggestions for improvements. You’ll also see that ample space is given for open comments by participants. Any idea you have on the topic(s) goes into the final report. County officials are using some of the information in the Round 5 report to improve their efforts.

Making government more responsive and effective is a job that doesn’t stop. CCF is rare in that it’s an ongoing advisory process, not a one-off event, and is directly and officially connected with county government. The time is now to get involved. Round Six runs through Oct. 17, so don’t delay.

Finally, while we encourage participants to set up their own “forum” meetings using the easy tools at our Web site, or take the survey online, we are also ready to come to your class, workplace or group meeting and run a forum for any size group. After viewing the video, we simply break up into groups of 12 or less if there are more than that number present. We can also provide facilitators for each of the smaller group discussions. Feel free to contact me directly at mattr (at) ddir (dot) com.

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