Charlie Bush: Local revitalization through innovation
Charlie Bush is no stranger to the importance of neighbourhood revitalization. This is particularly true as his team at the City of Sequim, Washington has been recognized for its innovative approach in creating a more engaged community.
Bush, Sequim’s city manager, sat down with Municipal World CEO Susan Gardner at the 2019 Transforming Local Government Conference (TLG) in Reno, Nevada to discuss the city’s innovation award for the project, Extreme Neighborhood Revitalization. The initiative is both a combination of single projects across the city, as well as ongoing programmatic activities the city developed in partnership with Habitat for Humanity.
“We did 14 projects in total; three of those were on private property. We worked really hard to do outreach to our community; we got three projects out of that. Then we did other city projects,” Bush said. “It raised the community standard. It’s a great feeling. Our city council is very pleased, our community is pleased.”
Community Outreach Leads to Alley Cleanup
The project kicked off with Rally in the Alley. The effort saw the city focus on a single alleyway, bringing in dumpsters and encouraging people to bring out their garbage. In about 90 minutes, the dumpsters were full. By the end, Bush said, city staff were already looking at what they could do next.
From there, staff developed the aptly named Sequim Service Fest. The festival involved about 30 city staff members, the entire Habitat affiliate, various interns, and volunteers.
Bush said the recognition of Sequim’s revitalization project by the Alliance for Innovation (which annually puts on the TLG Conference) was satisfying for the entire city team. That said, it wasn’t a first such effort.
Goat Project Built on Innovation Approach
In 2018, Sequim took part in the Alliance’s Innovation Academy. The city’s Vege-lantes Project was recognized as part of that process. Now a part of regular city services, the original pilot project saw the city use goats to removal vegetation from local storm ponds, which tend to be located on some steep terrain.
“One of the things I think has helped our innovation effort … is the ability of staff to think more broadly about their role in the city,” Bush said. “It isn’t just mowing the lawn at the park, but suddenly it is how do I engage with residents around the park? I think it has just changed the tone of how we do business. We are much more connected with our community.” MW
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