Archive for Friday, October 13, 2006

City wants goals for cleanup funding

Neighborhood association leaders OK with changes

October 13, 2006


Providing money to neighborhood associations in some of Lawrence's poorer areas of town is a good investment, city commissioners were told Thursday.

"This has been one of the ways we have been able to stabilize some of our neighborhoods," said Marci Francisco, a state senator who also serves on the city's Neighborhood Resources Advisory Commission. "These neighborhood associations have really fostered a sense of community and an ability to know your neighbors that I don't think would have existed otherwise."

For the most part, city commissioners agreed, but said they want further discussion about how the city chooses to spend about $1.5 million in federal funding it receives for neighborhood and housing issues.

About $40,000 of the city's allocation from the Department of Housing and Urban Development goes to employ coordinators and pay for operational expenses of five neighborhood associations that qualify for federal money because of their average income levels: Brook Creek, East Lawrence, North Lawrence, Oread and Pinckney.

At a study session with the Neighborhood Resources Advisory Commission, city commissioners said they still supported the neighborhood association funding. But commissioners said they want to start seeing more evidence the funding is producing tangible results.

Commissioners told members of the advisory board to start requiring all applicants for the money - which also includes social service agencies such as The Salvation Army, Independence Inc. and Habitat for Humanity - to produce specific, result-oriented goals they should meet to continue to receive funding.

For example, neighborhoods might make goals of reducing the number of blighted homes in the area, or cleaning a certain number of blocks of sidewalks.

Neighborhood association leaders who attended the meeting said they were fine with the new standards.

"I think they are positive changes," said K.T. Walsh, a member of the East Lawrence Neighborhood Assn. board. "I think we all should be able to point to changes that we've made that have improved our neighborhoods."

Other changes discussed by the commission may not go over as well. Commissioners discussed - but reached no consensus - whether the city should try to use the federal money to do larger projects, which would mean fewer groups and organizations receive funding.

"I think sometimes we do try to spread the help around a lot, and we sometimes undercapitalize it and never really get to the heart of the problem," Mayor Mike Amyx said.

For example, the city this year spread its $1.5 million allocation among 17 neighborhoods or organizations. That's in contrast to a strategy that would have the city invest a large majority of the money into a single affordable housing project or a program to aggressively reduce blight in a particular neighborhood.

Walsh said she would have concerns about any changes that would make it more difficult for neighborhood associations to receive funding.

"Our five target neighborhoods are fragile," Walsh said. "Even to go one year without funding would be very dangerous."

Margene Swarts, the city's community development manager, told commissioners that next year's allocations likely won't provide any increased flexibility. Swarts said the city likely again would receive $1.5 million in federal funding, or slightly less depending on how many cities are included in the Community Development Block Grant program.


just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 11 years, 6 months ago

"hand wringing whiners"

Still whining because your hand-wringing doesn't get the results you desire, I see.

Richard Heckler 11 years, 6 months ago

I ditto pelliott.

Neighborhood Associations keep an eye out for dilapidated housing and encourage certain homebuilders to seek out a particular lot and build a new home. The committee that suggests how to dispense the federal money is generally picky. There is a fair amont of that money that helps low income homeowners make necessary repairs and replace HVAC systems etc. Neighborhood clean days once a year is money well spent as some parks get some special attention.

I too suggest that it might be best that coordinators come from the neighborhood.

As to how many show up at any given meeting varies no doubt however when a hot controversial issue surfaces it is not unusual for a room to be packed with a variety of opinions. At that point neighborhoods I believe are thankful for the neighborhood associations.

Our meetings usually include a vocal group of senior citizens who have history of the neighborhood which helps keep things in perspective.

A fair amount of side walk problems I speculate are related to landlords.

pelliott 11 years, 6 months ago

I really appreciate the East Lawrence association. The faces change, but then they come back. Some peope have been there a long time, some own, some rent. One of the things I like, is it helps us get to know each other. it is a safer and better place to live because of the contact.. I lived in West Lawrence for a while, then moved back. We do need better sidewalks and we have a lot of elderly, people are in their yards a lot. A lot of the housing stock needs more than tlc, but many of the humble homes are better built than some of the new housing stock. I am glad the ELNA helps us communicate with each other. Of course some are pills, the guy who comes to one meeting, tells everyone what they should be doing, then storms off. But usually if everyone listens a little bit to the other side, there is respect and civility. That goes a long way.
I know a lot of the people in other neighborhood associations. I am thankful for them. I like living in a neighborhood, that isn't a planned development. Not that those aren't ok, I just like East Lawrence. If you and your neighbrs want to get together, keep things up and actually have a little fun too, this is a plot? It is hard enough for the average working stiff to be heard at City Hall, you get called a crank if you even show up at the meetings. The ELNA helps us figure out what the city is up to and also prods City Hall to keep thinking of us as someone who counts. It isn't that the neighborhoods associations have a lot of power, the power is where the money is, the developments, the owners, but not all the power.

lynnd 11 years, 6 months ago

"respect and civility"?????

not sure if pelliott has been at some of the same meetings i've been to....some of them have been downright nasty.

I have to agree with Pogo on much of the post. It's time for the neighborhood assn "boards" to stop representing their own personal opinions and start representing the neighborhood instead.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 11 years, 6 months ago

"It's time for the neighborhood assn "boards" to stop representing their own personal opinions and start representing the neighborhood instead."

Just what does that mean? Everyone in every neighborhood has personal opinions, and they will bring those with them and express them to neighborhood assn. meetings.

No one can reasonably object to making these assn's more accountable and more representative of the "neighborhood's interests." But determining exactly what those interests are will always be governed by who shows up.

So quit complaining about those who have shown up over the years, and if you want your opinions to become the "neighborhood's opinions," show up, roll up your sleeves, and get to work.

lynnd 11 years, 6 months ago

Bozo: I do show up. What I am referring to is the fact that one of these neighborhood boards in particular has recently, blatantly, disregarded not only one but two votes taken at membership meetings. Even though the membership voted to support something (by an overwhelming majority), the board still continued to present the neighborhood stance as "opposed" to the project, simply because the few board members who showed up at the meeting were opposed. That is clearly not representing the neighborhood. Yes, there will always be differences of opinions, and that's fine. But the board has a responsibility to represent their membership, not their own personal opinions, even if they personally disagree with the membership.

I do take issue with Pogo's latest comment - I believe the neighborhood associations need to continue to exist. I think the associations can do a lot of good things for the neighborhoods. And as a former volunteer at Headquarters, I strongly disagree that they "haven't done diddly." The day you sit there and answer a phone call, spend an hour talking with someone in a crisis (large or small crisis, it doesn't matter), and hear them tell you "thanks for being there" at the end of the call, you will understand.

lynnd 11 years, 6 months ago

It is an interesting idea to require a certain percentage of neighborhood residents to be members of an association in order for the association to be 'legitimate'. It does seem that there's a few loud folks, who have the time to spend at endless meetings, who end up controlling things for an entire neighborhood. Fortunately I think that in at least one area of town, neighborhood residents are starting to get fed up with this and are getting involved in order to have their voices heard.

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