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Redmond Citizen Academy gives residents a crash course in city government

Kim Dietz (left) and Jeff Churchill review various aspects of housing within the City of Redmond that may be discussed during the six-week Citizen Academy, which begins Thursday. - Samantha Pak, Redmond Reporter
Kim Dietz (left) and Jeff Churchill review various aspects of housing within the City of Redmond that may be discussed during the six-week Citizen Academy, which begins Thursday.
— image credit: Samantha Pak, Redmond Reporter

The City of Redmond is offering residents the opportunity to learn more about various aspects of the local government through a six-week Citizen Academy.

Covering topics ranging from development services and transportation planning to utilities and housing, the academy kicks of the first of six meetings tomorrow (April 21) at 6:30 to 9 p.m. in the Council Chambers at City Hall, 15670 N.E. 85th St. The academy will hold its meeting every Thursday at Council Chambers through May 26.

The Citizen Academy began in 2004 and has been held every few years but Kim Dietz, a senior planner for Redmond, said it will now be held on a biennial basis to tie in with neighborhood plan updates. This year's updates will be for Sammamish Valley and Southeast Redmond.

"We really hope that community members want to attend," she said, referring to the two neighborhoods.

Dietz said the meetings will cover city-wide issues. They will also focus on specific aspects regarding the Sammamish Valley and Southeast Redmond neighborhoods.

Although she has been involved in the Citizen Academy in the past, Dietz will have a larger role this year, as the meetings' facilitator. She said the meetings will start with a presentation by city staff lasting roughly 20 minutes, followed by a question-and-answer session and then a discussion about what citizens would like to address in the next year. The final portion of the meetings will dive into specific aspects of the two neighborhoods.

Dietz said people attend the academy for a number of reasons: To learn about and understand city government departments and policies; learn the city's goals and visions for the future; and learn how the city works with the community to create policies that will realize those goals and visions. She said some people also attend because they want to take on a leadership role in helping facilitate possible changes.

"Some citizens attend (the academy) so they can build a knowledge base to join our boards and commissions or run for office," Dietz said.

Jeff Churchill, another senior planner for Redmond, added that some people attend because they want to learn more about a specific topic.

"I think people appreciate the opportunity to ask a lot of questions," he said.

Churchill, who was a facilitator for the last Citizen Academy in 2009, said his favorite part of the Citizen Academy is giving people the tools to communicate with their government and teaching them how to use their government more effectively.

Dietz said her favorite part of the academy is introducing various city programs to people because it encourages community involvement.

For example, when the Citizen Academy was held during the Idylwood and Overlake neighborhood updates, they introduced the Green Redmond program. As a result, Dietz said the two neighborhoods are very well represented in Green Redmond.

While they do cover a range of topics, one of the biggest challenges Dietz and Churchill face is narrowing down their choices to only six because there is so much information. However, Churchill said they have usually covered issues that citizens are especially concerned about such as transportation.

"We always hit the favorites," he said.

Meeting attendance ranges from four to 40, depending on the topic, but Dietz said they have always had a positive response from participants.

She and Churchill said people can attend as many or as few meetings as they like. The meetings will also be recorded and offered on-demand. Videos will also be available on the city's website at www.redmond.gov.

Dietz added that agendas and additional details will also be available for each meeting online as individual meeting dates approach. General meeting minutes will also be available online after each meeting.

Citizen Academy schedule

  • April 21: Introduction to the Redmond Citizen Academy and Comprehensive Planning
  • April 28: Development Services and Public Safety
  • May 5: Human Services and Housing
  • May 12: Transportation Planning, Transportation Calming and Transportation Demand Management
  • May 19: Tour of Traffic Operations Facility, Utilities, Natural Resource Management and Parks, Arts and Recreation
  • May 26: Financial Planning and Community Indicators

For more information, visit www.redmond.gov/residents/citizenacademy.

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