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Sequim Speaks, and city listens

If Thursday's kickoff meeting was any indication, the city's new Sequim Speaks advisory committee is shaping up to be a success.

About 60 people attended the 90-minute meeting April 23 at the Guy Cole Convention Center to hear city staff and committee organizers explain how the new group will work.

"I'm glad to see you all talking with your neighbors; that's why we're here tonight," said Interim City Manager Linda Herzog.

Sequim Speaks will be another really good way to speak to or hear from the city council although perhaps a more formal method than "over the back fence," she said.

"I hope you enjoy the conversations and hopefully volunteer to serve on this committee. You don't have to fill out the application tonight but you won't be allowed to leave until you do," Herzog said with a laugh.

The doors opened about

45 minutes before the 6:30 p.m. start to allow people to mingle and read the banners and graphics around the room listing potential cultural, social and economic issues designed to get people thinking.

Each of the city's four quadrants had its own display with a sheet of butcher paper to list concerns from that area's residents.

Before the small group meetings started, organizing committee member Sharon DelaBarre addressed the audience.

"This can be a resource for other organizations and even developers. The only constant is change but we can help ensure we can identify the direction that change will take. Thomas Jefferson said it's important to have an informed population because an informed population can be trusted," she said.

"No matter what issues we face, it's safe to say we will never always agree but we will have the opportunity to work through them with a group such as Sequim Speaks," DelaBarre said.

City Councilor Ken Hays, one of the group's proponents, said it began as an opportunity to talk about anxiety over growth and development but has morphed into something more powerful.

The quadrant concept evolved out of the idea of neighbors talking to each other and since they are a frequent topic among neighbors, roads made for a natural dividing line, he said.

The Dungeness Valley was included because some people own property or businesses inside the city but live outside, he said.

After explaining the committee's structure and purpose, organizers had audience members, who had signed in according to their quadrant, meet in small groups to discuss potential issues.

When they reconvened, Hays said it's hoped that most conversations will take place outside of the committee, building and strengthening the community and neighborhoods, Hays said.

The committee's structure will make it difficult for one group or area to dominate the agenda or discussions, he said.

A dissenting voice came from City Councilor Erik Erichsen, who said the whole process is a double-edged sword since the council must honor what they hear from the committee to make this work.

"We will get what we ask for," he said.

Reach Brian Gawley at bgawley@sequimgazette.com.

Compass points

Issues listed by northwest quadrant residents: views, farmland, airport, trails, irrigation ditches, City Hall, traffic, Sequim as the county's retail center, historical issues

Northeast quadrant: dialogue, involvement, information, sustainability and economy, cultural enrichment, vision, growth, parks development

Southeast quadrant: lack of Senior Center funding, infrastructure, roads, handicapped access and services and housing

Southwest quadrant: history, land uses, revenue and budget



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