Monday, September 17, 2007

Kathryn's SWAN SONG: A Tribute

Nikosi’s Motto: "Do all you can with what you have in the time you have in the place you are." [Nikosi Johnson, age 12, fighter for mothers and children affected by AIDS in his native South Africa and throughout the world]

I promised Kathryn Hanowell that I would not print her 'SWAN SONG', dated SEPT 12, 2007, so I won't.
At least not entirely.

As Bellingham's first Neighborhoods Coordinator, Kathryn has truly found her niche, and it shows!
In the short time she has been involved in her capstone role before retirement she has set a standard of sensitivity, creditability and civility that will be hard to sustain.
But, we must!

At the time Kathryn assumed -and began to define- this role, the Mayor's Neighborhood Advisory Committee [MNAC] seemed to be teetering on the verge of ineffectiveness, if for no other reason than the Neighborhood Representatives simply felt that way.
Many wondered whether it was worth their time to even attend the meetings, much less believe they could make a difference.
It was a defining moment when the Administration recognized the significance of the pervasive atmosphere of discontent and took action to address it.

Kathryn's assignment to the care and feeding of our neighborhoods, whether planned or not, was brilliant!
But even her gentle and even-handed presence did not calm these waters immediately.
That took time.
Kathryn was patient, listened a lot and acknowledged people's concerns and frustrations.
She also thought a great deal about the concerns expressed and took great care in detailing these before presenting possible solutions.

I really don't mean to embarrass Kathryn with these comments, but I have been watching how she has handled a few crises, and believe she deserves a lot of credit for bringing them to much better conclusions -or at least pointed them in better directions- than many thought was possible.
That takes more than talent.
It takes a personality that is inherently helpful in nature, and a maturity that understands the dynamics at work in building frustrations.

These troubling things took time to develop, and they will take time to figure out how to resolve.
Even with that understanding, Kathryn knows that the only real answer is a continued dialogue that is respectfully conducted.
A sustained, continuous process of improvement based upon understanding the root causes of frustrations and not just their symptoms.
As an astute analyst of these things, Kathryn has been absolutely tireless in her dedication and we owe her our thanks, as a community, for helping us begin to heal the often self-inflicted wounds we have suffered.

OK enough of the serious praise, even though much more is deserved.
Here’s a few of Kathryn’s tongue-in-cheek future 'headlines' -borrowed from her SWAN SONG, that she conjured might eventually appear in the Bellingham Herald: [Note, true to form, there is something for EVERY Neighborhood!]

• Alabama Hill neighborhood records lowest traffic speeds

• Apartment renters say BIRCHWOOD best for kids

• Columbia annual meeting draws thousands to Squalicum Park

• CBD Residents and Bar owners cut deal on closing hours

• Cornwall Park neighborhood applauds Freeway underpass to hospital

• New Edgemoor multi family housing preserves views

• City reports Fairhaven fully developed; residents enjoy relaxed pace

• Guy leads tour of third north end park; library branch expected

• Record salmon run in Padden and Connelly Creeks; Happy Valley Association credited

• City reports no impact on growth from Lettered Streets downzone

• Meridian Neighborhood Association celebrates 10th year

• Mount Baker North and Mount Baker South hold confab on traffic

• Sidewalks on all Puget streets; neighborhood activists credited

• Neighbors’ community building work pushes Roosevelt economic development

• Cyclists crash at San Juan ribbon cutting; Samish leaders call for traffic calming on new bike lanes

• Matsumoto publishes: Right Sizing Urban Villages: the Sehome Experience

• Lake Whatcom phosphorus declines; Silver Beach neighborhood credited

• Whatcom Land Trust names South neighborhood association “Steward of the Year” for Chuckanut Reserve trails work

• Council passes South Hill view ordinance as proposed by neighborhood

• Sunnyland neighbors refurbish Memorial Park tables and restrooms

• Whatcom Falls neighborhood demographics unchanged for fifth year

• Starbucks attempts hostile takeover of Nelson Market; neighbors call for city-wide boycott

• WTA prepares for auto-free WWU

And, last but not least:

•Neighborhood Services Coordinator retires; Mayoral candidates promise more funding for neighborhood services

Thank you, Kathryn!