The 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech when Park Central Square was filled with over 5,000 people. The candlelight vigil for Hailey Owens, where Commercial Street overflowed with over 10,000 celebrating the life of a child taken from our community too soon. Each August’s National Night Out event, when the entire Springfield community comes together to give residents a chance to get to know each other and their local first responders.
The results are powerful when individuals come together for a common purpose.
Leaders from Springfield’s 21 registered neighborhoods and the Neighborhood Advisory Committee (NAC) are working throughout the year to reduce crime, enhance housing stock, promote education and training, and improve infrastructure.
Police area representatives presented crime statistics for 2018 and hot spot areas for all the registered neighborhoods at the most recent NAC meeting on Feb. 13. It revealed an overall decrease in Part 1 crime of over 18 percent. Crimes against persons were down almost two percent and property crimes dropped by 20 percent. The most significant gains were main in car thefts as the Springfield Police Department encouraged residents to not leave their keys in running vehicles, lock their doors and secure valuables out of sight.
The police area representatives will continue to partner with neighborhoods to expand neighborhood watch programs, everyday courtesy of getting to know your neighbors and emphasizing the importance of “see something, say something.” Every resident has an important role to play in reducing crime and fostering a greater sense of security.
Enhance housing stock
Addressing chronic nuisance properties continues to be a main area of focus for NAC. This includes advocating for more building inspectors and creating new economic incentives for renovating single-family homes. Neighborhood teams meet regularly with City staff from building development services, planning and police to collaboratively find ways to address problem properties.
The upcoming update to the City’s comprehensive plan will allow citizens to have a voice in shaping the future development of Springfield. NAC is an active participant in this process. Look for more information in the coming months on how you and your neighborhood will be able to share your ideas through community meetings, major events and digital surveys. Vision 20/20 produced a myriad of impressive results – Jordan Valley Park, Hammons Field, Center City revitalization, expanded greenway trails and alternative transportation, etc. – and this new process can be just as successful with your help!
Promote education and training
Springfield is fortunate to have strong educational systems from early childhood to its universities. However, too many of our citizens are under-employed and lack the skills to obtain higher-paying jobs. Community Partnership of the Ozarks offers programming to obtain GEDs, credentials for green jobs and to strengthen financial literacy. Last year’s passage of the OTC levy increase will provide even more opportunities for acquiring new skills that are highly sought after by local employers. Neighborhoods are a grassroots connection to these important programs for educational attainment.
NAC convened a committee to provide input on the 2016 school bond issue. After its narrow defeat at the polls, the School District formed a new community-wide task force that included Becky Volz (one of the members of the NAC committee) and many of the neighborhood concerns were addressed, including preserving neighborhood schools, renovating properties whenever possible, not combining elementary and junior highs into K-8 campuses, providing more details on proposed changes, and reducing the overall size of the new bond issue. The members of NAC thank the School Board for listening to concerns from our neighborhoods.
NAC has worked closely with Public Works on the Neighborhood Initiative program over the past three years to invest in projects to improve sidewalks, public parks and community gathering places. Neighborhoods applied for these projects and a NAC committee made recommendations to the City for priorities for funding.
In addition to renewing the Neighborhood Initiative program in the renewal of the capital improvement sales tax on April 2, city-wide funding has been allocated for sidewalks, storm water and traffic signals/calming. It is important for the City to continue to hear from the citizens who are closest to these improvements in order to maximize their effectiveness.
Springfield’s neighborhoods continue to band together with partners from across the community because we have witnessed first-hand the positive impact of collaboration. We celebrate our shared successes and support one another when unexpected challenges inevitably arise.
In the words of Margaret Mead, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”