As the Research and Policy Intern for the City of Walla Walla, a position I’m holding during my third semester at Whitman College, I have worked primarily on a few core projects. Under the direction and guidance of the City Manager, Nabiel Shawa, my work has allowed me to broaden my understanding of politics beyond the classroom. My first research assignment evolved into a rather labor intensive one. Mr. Shawa assigned me the task of researching how and why other cities use business licenses, something Walla Walla currently does not require. Such licenses are a means to both organize and categorize the many businesses in the city while also bringing in a small revenue which would then pay for a Fire Safety Inspector. Thus the presence of a business license would increase safety in the city. Mr. Shawa asked me to research every city in Washington, listing how many have a business license, how many of these licenses are accompanied with a fee, if that fee is annual or a down payment, and if the city has a business and occupation tax. This led to researching and using a variety of state data bases, and following up with a majority of cities by phone to ensure that the information was correct. The process was time consuming, but it was also very interesting to see a variety of trends emerge among cities, including how they organize their businesses and tax their citizens. The project also proved to be a great alternative when I was tired with my school work. Plus, I gain a great sense of calm when organizing a mass amount of data into excel spread sheets and graphs! In addition to this research project, I also had the opportunity to support the Mayor’s ‘Kitty Hall’ – an event held at the city hall in which the city government partnered with the local Humane Society to encourage residents to adopt a kitten.
I am now beginning my work on a second research project for the City Manager. The goal of this project is to study demographic changes in Walla Walla over the last several generations. With a recent increase in certain crimes, including gang violence, the city and police department are interested to see if learnings can be gleaned from historical trends in the past. Whether such trends may be connected to changes in immigration and culture, or other factors, can hopefully be learned by looking through the Whitman College archives (which Mr. Shawa has expressed great admiration for). I am excited to do this, as it greatly feeds into my interests in both politics and history. It is also an interesting area to look into considering some of the challenges Whitman itself faces. The city and the campus share more issues than most students realize. Working together to address these common themes could help burst the Whitman bubble. As I learn more about the city I want to encourage students to look for ways to get involved with the community. We are more connected than you may realize and the more we contribute to the Walla Walla community, the more we better our campus community. Mr. Shawa and I have discussed this goal and I am so grateful for this opportunity to work with him, and I look forward to continuing my work within Walla Walla in the semesters to come.