The room fairly glowed with imagination, enthusiasm, and love of Renton when residents and business owners gathered at Blossom Vegetarian for our first ever “Fixing Renton’s Future” meetup on Saturday January 19th. The attendees ranged from lawyers to auto mechanics, babies to retirees, city officials to brand new residents. They gathered with the common goal of creating a better future for Renton. Hope was spoken and received.
After introducing themselves and setting some ground rules, while enjoying some delicious food from Blossom Vegetarian, they broke into smaller groups at each table to give some thought to the assets Renton has. They answered with the things they really appreciate, love and consider strengths of this city and community.
You can see some common themes that arose in these three groups. Rentonites love:
- Our location. Just outside of Seattle, we are close to everything important in this region, yet without the big city density and traffic.
- Diversity. Renton’s face has changed dramatically in the last ten years. We’ve gone from being primarily a white city to being a minority majority, and we think it’s awesome!
- Our parks and trails. Our summers are not complete without picnics at Gene Coulon Beach Park and walks along the Cedar River trail.
- Great restaurants. Renton has the makings of a foodie destination. We rarely need to leave the city to find a great night out.
- Unique city-wide events. From Renton River Days to Oktoberfest, there is something for everyone here!
- Our diverse business community. We’re proud of Boeing, Paccar, and other big businesses that keep so many people our city constructively employed. We also love the small-town closeness we experience in the small business community.
- We love the historic sections of town. The history museum, even if we don’t go often (or ever), is something we are proud of and smile about each time we drive by.
- The Seahawks. The Seahawks’ decision to grace our city with their practice facility did more for Renton’s self-esteem than anything since the beginning of the century. Rentonites feel they have a reason to be validated by other cities: if we’re good enough for the Seahawks, we’re good enough for you, thank you very much.
We wrapped up by talking about how it is important for us to move forward keeping in mind our strengths. Rather than trying to recreate our city, we want to capitalize on our assets and allow them to catapult us into a brighter future.
With the ideas heard in the Fixing the Future film as a starting point, we brainstormed ideas for how to improve our local economy. As we unpacked those ideas, we coded them: blue for ideas that we have direct control over and orange for ideas that we can have influence over. We also had a green code for ideas that we had no control over, but there were none of those on our list, thankfully. Such a practical, intelligent group was participating!
We consolidated the list of ideas within our direct control and voted on the ideas we considered most interesting.
Our top favorites were:
- Beautifying our city with more flowers, seasonal decorations, recognition of holidays, such as Independence Day, Veterans Day, etc.
- Educating the our city about the importance of shopping local, and
- Expanding the Farmer’s Market.
A close runner up was
- A local gift card, which is one expression of an alternate currency. It’s another way to keep money in our city, and small businesses in particular.
At our next event we want to focus on the assets that we, as a group of Renton-lovin’ people, bring to the table. Let’s get to know each other in a better way, and see where we each fit in to bring our plans and ideas to fruition!
Between now and then, we can start to take action on the above steps by:
- Talk to people about the importance of supporting small, local, independent mom & pop shops. I (Amanda) want to coin an acronym, SLIMPS, but Ian thinks it’s stupid. Anyone else have a better way of saying this?
- Invite neighbors and friends to participate in this important work with us. Invite them to our facebook, twitter, blog, etc., and to our next event. Stefeny Anderson wasn’t here to say “what about the youth?”, so I have to say it for her. I would love to see some teens and mature tweens getting involved as well.
- Participate in our Facebook Group. Since it seems that the forum didn’t take off (unfamiliar medium? Difficult to navigate? Not enough content?) we have created a Facebook group for discussion. It is open to the public. Please participate and add your friends. http://www.facebook.com/groups/319359004830793/
Looking forward to seeing all the great things this group can do as we move forward together!