The cities of Maple Valley and Covington had the same guest speaker come to their cities to explain why it is important for the community members to have a close relationship with their cities.
Peter Kageyama is the author of the book “For the Love of Cities,” which is a book about “The mutual love affair between people and their place,” and how it is important for citizens to consider their emotional connections with their places, according to the book’s website.
He spoke in Maple Valley on April 4 at Lake Wilderness Lodge and then at Covington on April 5 at Kentwood High School.
Kageyama said he speaks to different communities to get his message across to them.
“I was traveling around working with some other cities and I was running into these people who were absolutely in love with their cities, no matter how messed up that city might have been,” he said. “As a reoccurring theme, these people made a huge difference, the unofficial ones the ones who aren’t being paid to do this stuff, but just because of their sense of community and their sense of love for their place manifest in some amazing ways. I realized nobody was talking about them. I said ‘You know what, if I’m going to write a book about communities, that’s the story I want to tell.’”
The turnout at the workshops in Maple Valley and Covington had large turnouts according to both mayors from the cities.
Sean Kelly, Maple Valley mayor, said there were about 80 community members that showed up and participated in the event.
Jeff Wagner, Covington mayor, said about 100 people attended the Covington workshop.
Both mayors said they saw people that they had not seen before.
“The really cool thing was I looked around and probably a good 40-50 percent of them, I didn’t recognize. So the way I interpreted that was it got people to come that normally would not come to a city function,” Kelly said.
Wagner had similar sentiments — “We had over 100 people show up and it was very, it was great. There were people there that I had not seen at a Covington event. I’ve been going to Covington events since I moved there before we were a city in 1988. It was nice seeing everybody and how everybody there, from toddlers all the way up. Everybody was engaged, everybody participated.”
One of Kageyama’s main goals when visiting cities is to show people that love matters in cities and that community members should leave “love notes” in their city.
Love notes can be events, art and other unique features in cities. He said cities tend to get caught up in financial matters and forget to form a bond with their cities.
“My job is to remind people to be emotional about their cities because when we add the human part to the mix, we add a whole other tool kit of things to the smarts that we bring to the table,” he said. “So we don’t just get technical solutions to things, we get solutions that have heart, that have emotional depth, that move people’s souls.”
Kelly and Wagner had similar goals for their cities. They wanted their communities to participate in city events and to share their ideas. “The main goal was to get people involved in the city and we want to work on making people feel like their part of our city,” Kelly said.
At the workshops, community members were able to come up with ideas about how they would like to see improvements in their city and what love notes they would want to make.
At the Maple Valley workshop, two projects were awarded a $500 grant to bring their ideas to life, according a press release from Maple Valley. The projects were Luminarieas of the Lake and Cedar River Tunnel Painting.
In Covington, the agreed upon winner for the $500 grant was a group who came up with the C-Town Water Balloon Showdown, which was generated by teens to hold a community water balloon fight and picnic to kick-off summer, according to a press release from Covington.
Among the many aspects of Kageyama’s job, he said his favorite thing is learning about new cities just by visiting them. He said somebody asked him where he gets his ideas. His response was, “I just take notes.” With his notes, Kageyama is able to spread his ideas and help other communities love their cities.
Wagner said he enjoyed seeing all the community members getting involved. “My favorite aspect was seeing everybody who showed up engaged and everybody was positive. Everybody looked like they were having a great time,” Wagner said.
People who are unsure of Kageyama’s teachings is what he describes as one of the more difficult aspects of what he does.
“The hardest part sometimes is some people who are a little skeptical about this thing. And I don’t actually think that’s hard to get over,” he said. “I’m very used to having that conversation with folks and getting over that hurdle. I guess the hardest part is you’d like to think maybe at some point you don’t have to do that anymore, but you kind of do.”
By the end of both nights, both mayors felt like the workshop was a success.
“I felt like it got people to feel more comfortable coming to the city, so we can partner with our citizens and our community groups,” Kelly said.
“I had people coming up to me after the event thanking me for holding that and several of the people want to get more engaged in the city and start volunteering, getting on commissions, doing weekend participation and we actually chose one of the projects to fund,” Wagner said.