Tags Posts tagged with "activism"


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Simple steps to follow when you spot a makeshift, illegally posted sign in your neighborhood

By Mohammed Nuru (@MrCleanSF)


Homemade, handmade, and hastily posted signs posted all over the City contribute to blight, distract from the natural beauty of the neighborhoods, and are illegal. I encourage you to act now with this simple solution: rip ‘em down and recycle ‘em as you see them.

Standing at a bus stop and see a garage sale sign taped to the glass? Eye a flyer stapled to the utility pole? Rip it down

and recycle it. Easy as that.

As I travel around the City, I marvel at each of the distinctive and beautiful neighborhoods that are truly the characterand foundation of our world-renowned urban habitat. The historic public art, innovative urban designs and creative use of space sets apart San Francisco neighborhoods as hotspots for pride, personality and livability.

The perpetual plastering of stapled and taped-up postings and temporary, DIY flyers leads to chaos and a kind of lawlessness that is degradation to the community.

Yes, there are official guidelines and restrictions for posting signs on public property: where they can be posted and how. How many have taken the time to study these rules? And imagine the resources involved in monitoring each utility pole. Think of how much time it would take for a crew to seek out every flyer, dispose of it and hold the posting party in question accountable.

That’s why I ask you to join in on being a part of the solution: rip the posters down and recycle them whenever you see them. And when you observe an illegally posted sign repeatedly and if it is a chronic offender, report it to 311.

The sign-posting requirements were established to reduce litter and blight and minimize obstruction to ensure safety.


Quick guide to the rules:

  • Signs must not be larger than a standard piece of paper.
  • You can’t use tape or string.
  • The sign can’t be placed higher than 12 feet from the ground.
  • It MUST have the posting date, and
  • MUST be removed within ten days after an event or election date.

Public Works has the authority to remove prohibited signs and administer penalties of up to $500 for chronic offenders. If DPW sees the same sign over and over, then crews will seek to hold the person or company posting the signs accountable.

On top of reporting and removing signs, you can also help by promoting alternatives to the posters. Utilize other methods of getting information out to your neighbors. Quick and easy ideas include using Craigslist; neighborhood social media accounts and blogs (like Haighteration and Ocean Beach Bulletin), and even innovative Smartphone apps (like Blockboard for the Mission). Tell others how to access these tools and encourage community members to incorporate them in neighborhood communications.

If you are interested in getting a FREE scraping tool from DPW, all you need to do is sign up for Adopt-a-Street. It takes a second. Email volunteer@sfdpw.org and write “I want to pull down and scrape off illegally posted signs in my neighborhood”.

There are several groups of concerned residents who are a part of the movement to keep the City free of illegal postings. They are fed up with garage sale signs flapping in the wind, tired of carelessly posted campaigns signs and outdated event posters, and sick of the taped-up, hand-drawn flyers that are just plain unsightly to look at. These residents are leading by example: when they see ‘em, they pull ‘em down.

I invite you to do the same.

Mohammed Nuru

Interim Director, Department of Public Works


If you have any good ideas to help with this issue, send a tweet to @MrCleanSF.

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by Elisa Chavez

I recently had dinner with some college friends, all of us in our early twenties and fresh out of school. We met up at a cozy restaurant, hugged, and proceeded to eat cozy comfort food and get extremely riled up about the state of the world. Campaign finance, giant corporations, media representation of the Arab world, we covered it alland eventually, as the social analysis reached a fever pitch, one of us burst out, “So what do we do about it?”

An embarrassed silence fell over the table.

I often find that the enormity of the world’s problems overwhelms me. My brain can’t pick a place to settle; instead, like a hummingbird experiencing a panic attack, it flits from one issue to the next without ever alighting onto a course of action. There are just too many problems, with too many potential solutions to choose from or worse, no apparent solutions at all.

Courtney Martin offers an antidote to activist’s ennui with her 2010 book Do It Anyway: The New Generation of Activists. The book, which offers eight portraits of young Americans engaged in progressive, socially conscious work, is written around the core belief that we can’t save the world singlehandedly and shouldn’t push ourselves to; however, there are opportunities in every life to make small, daily commitments to a better world.

Her subjects range from the low profile– a case manager at Homeboy Industries, a firebrand environmentalist from D.C. to the high profile, including Rachel Corrie and Rosario Dawson. Martin writes eloquently and with obvious empathy, and her subjects are all incredibly interesting people with compelling stories and laudable guts. But does her book deliver? Does it really provide readers with small ways to lead more activist lives?

For me, the largest obstacle was the fact that her book is not about small ways to participate; it’s about young people who made the career decision to be full-time activists. That’s not small! It’s their vocations, in some cases their entire lives. Then again, these stories really are great. If the book had truly been written the way I was expecting, a better title might have been “Do It Anyway: Last Weekend I Went to a Soup Kitchen and I’m Thinking About Donating to Heifer International.”

I think the trick is that Martin’s book is not a how-to guide or a detailed blueprint. You turn to it for inspiration. Given her varied cast of characters, I believe there’s something in it for everyone, whether your focus is going green, education, art, or peace activism. I also believe that because the book covers such a broad range of activist experiences, some of the stories will jump out at you over others. My favorite was “An Altar Boy With A Gun”, Martin’s portrait of Homeboy Industries case manager Raul Diaz. I can’t remember the last time a piece of writing made me laugh and cry and think about the way I engage with my community.

So maybe “Do It Anyway” isn’t going to give you a magazine-article rundown on five ways to conserve energy in your house. I’m still waiting for the definitive activist’s bible for daily life (although I have this sneaking suspicion it will only ever exist in my head). And actually, I think Martin does offer some practicable advice. In the weeks after finishing her book, I haven’t been able to forget what she says in her epilogue:

“We must hold these large-scale revolutions in our hearts while tackling small, radical every day acts with our hands.


Courtney E. Martin is a senior correspondent for the American Prospect and an editor of Feministing.com. She is a 2002 recipient of the Elie Wiesel Prize in Ethics, has written two other books, and has had her work in Mother Jones, Newsday, the Christian Science Monitor, and other publications.

Mohammed Nuru, Deputy Director for Operations, SF Dept of Public Works

Every month the Department of Public Works (DPW) dives into each of the eleven Supervisorial Districts around San Francisco to rally volunteers and partners to make San Francisco residential districts, commercial districts, schools, and parks safer and cleaner through our Community Clean Team program.

Arbor Day – March 12, 2011

Created over 10 years ago, by then Public Works Director, San Francisco’s current Mayor, Ed Lee, Community Clean Team has become a mainstay in the DPW’s operations.

This year we brought the Community Clean Team in with a bang at the Ping Yuen Housing Development on February 12th where we celebrated the Clean Team kick off and Chinese New Year with fireworks and Lion Dancers; volunteers helped with landscaping projects, school improvements and even repainted the Broadway Tunnel.  In March, we celebrated Arbor Day at Washington High School in the Richmond District where we planted dozens of trees along Geary Boulevard, and in April we worked in and around the Tenderloin and South of Market cleaning up trash, and removing graffiti in honor of Earth Day.  In between those Community Clean Team events, we’ve hosted special events with volunteer partners from all around San Francisco and the greater Bay Area – our partnership with Starbucks’ Global Month of Service event helped us clear over 60,000 pounds of green waste from the Great Highway, and plant over 500 plants.

Since February, over 3,000 volunteers rolled up their sleeves and dedicated at-least three hours to work side by side with Department of Public Works employees. Volunteers help leverage the city’s resources tremendously; DPW employees alone cannot complete the amount of work our volunteers complete.  And during these challenging economic times, utilizing volunteers has become one of the most cost-effective ways to accomplish our work.

Over the past three months, our 3,000 plus volunteers contributed at-least 9,000 hours of community service to the Department of Public Works, totaling $270,000.00 worth of labor.  I can comfortably state The Department of Public Works San Francisco works more with volunteers than any other Public Works organization in the nation.

Help us continue our momentum by volunteering for the Community Clean Team May 21st in honor of National Public Works Week at Balboa High School beginning at 9am.  For more information email us at volunteer@sfdpw.org

Along with Mayor Lee, all our volunteers, our key partners like Recology, PG&E, Walgreens, Luxor Cab Company, Clean City Coalition, the Academy of Art University, Starbucks, Hilton-Financial District, and the Emerald Fund help sustain the program.

Thank you to all our partners, all who have volunteered, and all who will volunteer.  Together we have and will continue to make a difference in San Francisco.

Mohammed Nuru is Deputy Director for Operations at the San Francisco Department of Public Works (SFDPW).  Follow him on twitter @MrCleanSF

Starbucks Event 4/9/11


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Adam Greenfield, Inner Sunset Community Organizer

You probably understand community as knowing your neighbors, helping each other out, feeling a sense of commonality and connection, and so forth. But how does one actually begin building community? In this writing, I focus on one element – an element without which full community cannot happen: Bringing civic life back to the streets.

Why is the street so important?

Whereas the street was once the place for connection and for lingering, it is now a place of hypermobility and danger. That this common space could, in daily life, be for anything else is now unquestioned; it is apparently rude and dangerous to act otherwise. When we retreated from the streets, the roar of traffic then pushed us off the sidewalk into our homes. The retreat was complete.

In the street, recurring faces become familiar and familiar faces become friendly. From there we begin sharing our lives. Pushing back into the streets is essential; it is also easy, cheap, fun, requires little time, and is liberating. Below I’ll list some ways that you can do this, ranging from instantly doable to achievable with some resources or a little courage.

Neighbors learn lindy hop together in the street at the Inner Sunset Street Fair, organized by people in my neighborhood. Photo taken May 15th 2010 by Chris Duderstadt


Introductory thoughts

There could be said to be two main parts of the street: The sidewalk and the road. Reversing the retreat into our houses will likely involve pushing first back onto the sidewalk and then into the road (with parking spaces as a mid step between the two). Thus, I divide the below suggestions into these different areas.

I intend to motivate you to act. Don’t spend too much time thinking; start doing something as soon as possible. Below are my suggestions but you’ll probably get more excited about your own ideas. Think for yourself about how you could push into the street.

We need a culture shift in how we view the streets, especially in moving beyond seeing streets as places dominated by automobiles. I think that culture shift would include the following:-

  • Performing as many daily functions in the street as possible.
  • Considering the street as a place for lingering, not just movement.
  • People depend less on laws and rules and more on negotiation and compromise.

Step 1. Start with the sidewalk

My 30th birthday party on the sidewalk outside my house. Photo taken October 10th 2010

The sidewalk is the place to begin bringing community back to the public realm. These daily activities are suitable for individuals or groups to do on the sidewalk:-

  • Eating meals
  • Drinking tea or coffee
  • Reading
  • Writing
  • Doing physical exercise
  • Making art
  • Playing music
  • Daydreaming
  • Smiling or waving at passersby
  • Chatting, or doing any of the above, with friends

Due to their tendency to degrade the public realm or to make people feel excluded, I recommend keeping the following away from public places:-

  • Phone conversations
  • Computers
  • Sunglasses
  • Smoking

Step 2. Move out to parking spaces

The ever more popular "Park(ing) Day" event. Photo by Steve Rhodes.

Once you get used to sidewalk activities try moving beyond and doing the below in parking spaces.

  • Dinner parties
  • Book clubs
  • Discussion groups
  • Board games
  • Music, acting, or other performances

These activities can be more enjoyable if you create a living room feel outside. Loot your house or build a street reclaiming kit by visiting garage sales. To create such a space, you could bring:-

  • Rugs
  • Cushions
  • Chairs
  • Plants
  • Tables
  • Ornaments
  • Materials to create a border around your space on the road side

Some people go a little further and create “linger nodes” that can be left outside all the time. Such nodes can involve benches, potted plants, and community notice boards. I recommend visiting the City Repair website for more ideas on this subject.

There are two San Francisco-based initiatives that deal with using parking spaces as civic gathering spaces:-

  1. Park(ing) Day: This event began in San Francisco in 2005 and happens once a year in September. Organizations or groups of people transform parking spaces into small parks in all kinds of weird and wonderful ways.
  2. The parklet program: I theorize that this is the City of San Francisco’s official response to Park(ing) Day. Parklets, which are becoming very popular, are “sidewalk extentions” that stay out all the time and anyone can apply. Applicants submit a design, get approval, find funding, and build the parklet. As far as government programs go, this is still relatively unbureaucratic but you do have to find all your own funding. There’s no next application round confirmed but I hear that round should come eventually.

Step 3: Reclaim the roads

Parachuting at the Inner Sunset Street Fair 2010. Photo by Chris Duderstadt.

Right now, in San Francisco there are two main City-sanctioned ways for communities to use the road for something other than storing or moving automobiles (the Sunday Streets event also offers possibilities for street activity if an event’s route passes through your neighborhood). Both are temporary approaches – see here for more information on these approaches.

  1. Apply for a block party permit ($150 to close one block for the benefit of the residents of that block)
  2. Apply for a street fair permit ($480)

However, these options are expensive and time-consuming for communities and require months of advance notice. In the long term, to properly make our streets places of community once more, we are going to need to forge new flexible, low-cost solutions that work better for communities…

…Solutions like the “Playing Out” scheme in Bristol, England, where streets are closed regularly for short periods after school hours for children to play in the streets. This short video may inspire you:-


Playing Out from Paul Gilbert on Vimeo.

Start talking with groups in your neighborhood, and elsewhere, about how schemes like this might happen where you live.

Your street, your home

Your street is part of your home. This is your space and you should feel welcome there. In fact, the more you are there the more everybody benefits. Using the street is a service to yourself and your community.

For further reading, I strongly recommend reading the book Mental Speed Bumps (author’s site, Amazon link) and visiting the Creative Communities website, where you’ll find many inspiring suggestions included in the MSB book.

Whatever you do out in the street, make sure it’s fun and promotes community and harmony. I promise that if you push back into the street, your life and that of your community will never be the same again. You can change the world on your own street and now is the time.

Friends and neighbors join me on my stoop at my birthday party. This was inspired by the famous Art Kane Jazz Portrait photo from Harlem 1958. Photo taken October 10th 2010.

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Lynn Luckow, President & CEO, Craigslist Foundation

On June 2, 2011, hundreds of people who are passionate about their communities – from local government to neighborhood activists to nonprofit leaders – will gather for Craigslist Foundation Boot Camp to connect with one another, grow their skills and expand the tools and resources they use to strengthen and enrich their neighborhoods.
Boot Camp includes keynote presentations, more than 20 workshops and discussions, and interactive sessions where attendees get to learn not just from session leaders but also from one another. Two workshop themes that will be explored this year are collaboration and storytelling:



The current economic crisis drives the demand for workshops that address collaboration, facilitation and the skills to successfully lead collaborative organizations. With ever more limited funds and resources, we have to work better together. But working together presents new challenges and requires new leadership skills. In addition to a NEN-led workshop on “Community Engagement 2011” we’ll offer workshops on Courageous Leadership,  “Using Collaborative Consumption and the Sharing Economy to Strengthen Neighborhoods,” as well as hands on skills for facilitation and collaboration and “Creating a Shared Vision for Your Community.â

In a session led by Joe Lambert of Center for Digital Storytelling, attendees will learn to craft and record meaningful stories from their lives or their organizations and share these stories in ways that enable learning, build community, and inspire justice. Several other workshops will demonstrate how to identify and utilize opportunities to tell their story, easy ways to use digital images and video to bring the story to life, as well as platforms for discovering and sharing best practices.

This year we are also excited to publicly present our new online program, LikeMinded, an innovative community storytelling platform generously supported by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. Like Boot Camp, LikeMinded is all about connection and collaborative learning, and serves to help success stories travel better between communities throughout the country.

We should all live in great communities. Strong, healthy, democratic, sustainable, collaborative places. We built LikeMinded to make that happen, and make it possible for good ideas to travel from your block to every block. Take a look at www.likeminded.org,  and share stories of your good work for others to learn and get inspired by today. And as a friend of NEN, save 25% on Boot Camp through Friday, April 15.


Lynn Luckow

Craigslist Foundation,

President & CEO


Happy New Year!

We are pleased to announce the second of four Park Town Halls . We invite you to join us on Saturday, January 29, 2011 from 10am to noon atSoMA Gene Friend Recreation Center to share your thoughts and potential solutions with city decision makers regarding your parks!

This meeting will be citywide in scope and will help to inform park budget decisions that are on the horizon. Help us spread the word by forwarding this email to your contacts.

As you can imagine, this fiscal year (2011-2012) will be another tough budget year. We look forward to working closely with leaders and elected officials to make sure parks remain a priority.

For our parks,

Meredith Thomas
Executive Director









Second Park Town Hall Meeting: January 29, 2011

Throughout 2010 – 2011, Neighborhood Parks Council will be hosting a series of four Park Town Halls to hear your views about managing our parks, get your creative solutions to challenges, and identify concerns BEFORE park decisions are made by officials.

The first Town Hall was held in late October. We encourage you to join us at the second meeting on January 29, 2011 from 10am to noon at SoMA Gene Friend Recreation Center . The location of each Town Hall will vary, but the meeting scope will remain citywide. Come represent your park and neighborhood!

Recreation & Park Updates

Budget Planning for Fiscal Year 2011-2012

The Recreation and Park Department must follow specific budgeting instructions from the Mayor’s Budget Office each fiscal year. The Department’s initial budget proposal for fiscal year 2011-2012 is due on February 22, 2011. At this time, the Department will need to propose how it plans to achieve a General Fund reduction of approximately $6.79 million over the course of next year. Click here to learn more and to get involved.

RPD Commission Schedule Changes Effective Now

The Recreation and Park Commission has amended its bylaws, changing its regular meeting time as well as by adding both a capital committee and an operations committee. Click here to view the new schedule.

Get Involved!

Balboa Park

Join NPC, TPL, RPD, and Friends of Balboa Park for a community meeting on Thursday, January 13th. Attendees will have the opportunity to give feedback on the proposed community art project and park signage as part of the park and playground renovation. Click here for more information.

Glen Canyon Park

The Trust for Public Land is partnering with RPD to vision and design a Park Improvement Plan for Glen Canyon Park and will be holding the second of six community workshops this Thursday, January 13th, from 6:30-8:30pm at the Glen Canyon Recreation Center. Click here to learn more.

Ocean Beach

The San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association (SPUR) is spearheading a new long-range planning effort for Ocean Beach, and will be hosting a special public workshop. This “Open House” will be held on January 15, 2011, from 9 am until 2 pm (you can arrive whenever you want and stay as long as you choose) at the SF Zoo. This Open House represents a great opportunity for the public to weigh in on the project and submit ideas to SPUR’s design team. Click here for more details.

Guerrero Sidewalk Greening

Join the Guerrero Park Neighbors for their sidewalk garden planting on January 22nd.

Sports Basement Fundraiser for NPC

Join us on February 2nd at the Bryant Street Sports Basement and enjoy a 10% discount while supporting NPC! NPC will receive 10% of the profits. Sports Basement will be providing beverages and snacks to whet your appetite for shopping. Contact council@sfnpc.org with any questions.

2010 Youth Leadership Award – Mitzi Chavez from NENtv on Vimeo.

Congratulations to the 2010 Neighborhood Youth Leadership Award winner Mitzi Chavez for her work as a youth mentor, educator and peer leader.

“She is truly a positive role model. Her intellectual curiosity and intelligence, open-heartedness, and her communication skills are three of her greatest attributes. This combination shows through in her work both in and outside of Peer Resources. Whether a mentor or an educator, Mitzi’s welcoming nature and true passion for helping others regardless of their diverse needs and backgrounds has had a great impact in many lives,” said resident Sarah Brant.

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Darlene Weide, Executive Director, Community Boards

Communication—or to be more precise, miscommunication—is at the heart of almost any dispute.  When there’s an issue at hand, something that troubles or annoys one person, getting it to stop requires some type of communication with the other person (or persons).  I think we’ve all been here.  You can try talking to him, or maybe leaving a “nice” note on her windshield, or possibly even involving the authorities like calling the police.

At Community Boards we always encourage people to talk with each other.  Yet where there’s a conflict, there are lots of strong emotions that’ll make talking and hearing a real challenge.  This is where “miscommunication” rears its somewhat ugly head.

Communication has multiple levels.  First you’ve WORDS.  Words are slippery things; the same word usually has multiple meanings to different folks.  If you’re arguing with someone, it’s hard to ask questions to clarify meaning.  And it’s not uncommon for an upset person to pepper an angry exchange with profanities and expletives.  And let’s face it, some people are more articulate than others.  They stay focused and articulate no matter what, while other people become tongue-tied stutterers.

Next there’s TONE OF VOICE.  Angry voices get louder, fearful voices can drop in volume so as become almost inaudible.  Tones, too, are open to interpretation.  A “raised voice” to one person is “yelling” to another.  This raised voice can indicate anger to one, assertiveness to another, and sincere engagement with the issue by a third.  Tone of voice can be inflected with sarcasm, doubt, dismissal or disdain.  Tone definitely colors meaning.

And then there’s BODY LANGUAGE:  facial expressions, gestures, stance, proximity, the movement of arms and legs.  Body language is heavily influenced by culture and ethnicity.  Stepping forward can be interpreted as a threat, a response to a perceived challenge or simply a way to close space.  Extreme arm and hand gestures (even “extreme” is open to interpretation) can merely indicate emphasis, act as a stress release or be the precursor to possible fist in the nose.

Image by greekadman, Flickr.

Factor in the above when conflicts arise between folks raised in different cultures, speaking different languages (with varying levels of fluency in a shared language), and you’ve got  the potential for a real mess.  Miscommunication is all too sadly the norm here.  At Community Boards, we’re both well prepared and well versed in multi/cross-cultural disputes.  We provide intake and mediation in English, Spanish, Mandarin and Cantonese.   Below are some examples of our expertise in action.

A Cantonese-speaking Chinese family was the first to move into an almost entirely African American neighborhood in Visitacion Valley.  The man operated his own small plumbing business, and parked his panel van on street directly in front of his home.  He’d purchased it used, and it was usually dirty because he worked construction sites.  Directly across the street, an elderly Black woman thought it was an ugly eyesore that detracted from the neighborhood she’d worked hard to keep nice.  She tried talking to him once and got no where.  She called the police, DPT, her district supervisor multiple times to complain.  Her supervisor sent her to us.  Our Cantonese-speaking intake person contacted him; he agreed to meet with her.

Their mediation included Cantonese-speaking and African American mediators.  During the mediation she explained that she couldn’t understand him because of his accent, and he had “snapped” at her and wouldn’t look her in the eyes. He responded that she had kept wagging her finger at him, which was disrespectful.  He went on to explain that the van was basically his place of business; he parked it in front of his home for security since it had been broken into before.  As a result of their discussion, she introduced him to a mutual neighbor with an empty garage, which he then rented for secure, overnight parking.  He would keep wash the van regularly for the times it would be parked on the street.

A lesbian couple purchased a tenancy-in-common that shared a common wall with an apartment building.  A Latino couple with three sons (all under five) lived in the adjacent apartment.  On their side, the common wall was a long hallway with hardwood floors; for the couple, the wall included their bedroom and a home office.  Noise became a serious concern.  The children used the hallway as a place to play and run, making all the loud noises young siblings make: laughing, yelling, arguing, crying, playing with toys on the hardwood floor.  The TIC owners tried talking to them, but they found the English/Spanish divide was too challenging.  Plus they sensed some possible homophobia—the husband always frowned or scowled at them.

They came to Community Boards at the recommendation of a friend.  During their mediation (which included a Spanish-speaking mediator), they explained that they ran a business out their home, which meant they were almost always there, working.  The mother understood her boys made a lot of noise, but that meant they were happy and healthy, which is what every parent wants.  As to homophobia, she and her husband admitted it made them uncomfortable, but it really wasn’t any of their business.  As part of their shared agreement, the couple helped pay for a runner for the hallway while the family agreed to “quiet time” for their sons during part of the day.

At Community Boards we encourage people not to jump to assumptions about what another is saying.  In a city as diverse as ours, it’s all too easy for miscommunication to exacerbate any problem into something more.

Darlene Weide is Executive Director of Community Boards, a San Francisco-based nonprofit organization founded in 1976 that empowers communities and individuals to resolve conflicts peacefully and appropriately.


Developing a consensus amongst neighborhood organizations is vital if they wish to succeed.  Professor and long time community organizer Jim Diers discusses his past work in the Seattle Office of Neighborhoods, the incentives of strong planning and how he’s bringing a back bone to the Democratic party.

Download this episode (right click and save)Show Information

Guest: Jim Diers, Professor, University of Washington
Related Event: Santa Rosa Community Summit
Related Organizations: Seattle office of Neighborhoods, Asset-Based Community Development Institute
Host: Michael Pawluk
Additional Credits: Moontan (music)


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