Magazine article Nation's Cities Weekly

Neighborhood Empowerment: New Thinking and Strategies for Community Partnerships

Magazine article Nation's Cities Weekly

Neighborhood Empowerment: New Thinking and Strategies for Community Partnerships

Article excerpt

Across America local governments are redefining their relationships with their communities.

How cities are nurturing neighborhood organizations and rebuilding a sense of trust and stewardship through meaningful citizen participation was the focus of Neighborhood Empowerment: New Thinking and Strategies for Building Partnerships with the Community, one of the Leadership Training Institute seminars presented during the Congressional City Conference.

"We can no longer look good to our citizens by keeping our distance," moderator Veronica Nowak told participants.

Nowak, communications and neighborhood connections coordinator for James City County, Va., described citizen empowerment as a process, rather than a program or "flavor of. the month. "

Michael Dove, neighborhood partnership director for St. Petersburg, Fla., and one of four session panelists, described his city's Neighborhood Partnership Program, which was begun in 1993 to counter declining property values in older sectors of the community.

Seven neighborhoods characterized by aging housing stock and crime and code violation problems were targeted for co-ordinated, individually-tailored assistance by teams comprised of employees of every city agency.

The city started neighborhood organizations where none existed. The groups receive grants for projects ranging from landscaping to drug awareness campaigns and must match city funds with cash, services or donations of supplies.

The Long Beach, Calif. Neighborhood Improvement Strategy, which targets nine neighborhoods troubled by serious social, economic and physical problems, represents a departure from the prevailing philosophy of providing uniform services.

Dennis Thys, manager of the city's Neighborhood Services Bureau, said such a program is more effective when funds are not diffused throughout the city and ensures that areas with the worst problems receive additional support. …

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