Last night, 362 residents attended the Youth and Family Initiative meeting held at Denny Middle School, walking, driving, and trundling in on chartered school buses to the upbeat sounds of the All City Marching Band.

It was the most successful meeting to date, says Aaron Pickus, spokesman for Mayor Mike McGinn. What, besides bodies in seats, constitutes success? Pickus says that at each meeting, issues unique to neighborhoods are emerging. “We’re hearing a lot about [a lack of] job availability for youths, especially in the southeast part of the city,” he says, “along with disparities in academic performance based on income level, race, and neighborhood.” Pickus cites one Seattle Public school study, which shows that only 29 percent of African American students are meeting math standards for their grade, as opposed to 78 percent of white students. In addition, “Forty percent of students in Seattle public schools are on federal subsidized lunch program,” Pickus says, “and sixty percent of those students are not proficient on math tests.”

Over 1,000 people have participated in the four city-wide community meetings, informing budget recommendations McGinn must make later this year. “We need that broad base of support to figure out which city services are helping people raise a family and which ones aren’t,” Pickus says.

The final public meeting will be held next Monday, March 22 at Garfield Community Center, from 7:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m..