What do the reps do?
They discuss issues pertinent to neighborhoods – crime, nuisance properties, health, parks, streets and sidewalks, neighbors in need, planning and development, community engagement, need for jobs and so on. As a group, they identify concerns that cut across multiple neighborhoods and seek solutions.
How do they operate?
Through engagement with appropriate City staff and other stakeholders, NAC delves into the challenges faced in making improvements. For example, several years ago, the City’s ordinances were written in such a manner that it was very difficult and time consuming for City inspectors to address properties that were overgrown with weeds, falling apart and dangerous – so-called nuisance properties. NAC encouraged City staff and City Council to address the issue and as a result, the City Code was revised and now the ability for City staff to address such properties has significantly improved. As there is still more to be done in this area, NAC continues to keep nuisance properties front of mind.
In some neighborhoods, a significant issue is infrastructure: lack of sidewalks, storm drainage problems, needed park improvements and so on. Recently, NAC representatives put forward specific recommendations to address these issues through the newly launched Neighborhood Works Program, and this year, we can expect a first set of projects valued at about $400,000 to commence.
Health is a concern across all neighborhoods – particularly for those who are homebound and may lack health resources. Some neighborhoods have benefitted from the door-to-door services of Neighborhood Health Advocates who perform blood pressure screenings and facilitate access to health services for some of our most vulnerable residents. NAC is advocating the expansion of this valuable program. It is right now making a difference in lives but the need is greater than the program’s capacity.
As our City competes to attract businesses, a central factor is the quality of life, and this speaks to the sense of community and vibrancy of our neighborhoods. NAC desires strong integration of neighborhood planning with business and commercial planning. Based on a NAC recommendation from 2016, a neighborhood planner is soon to be added to the City Planning & Development staff. Collaboration between a professional planner and a neighborhood association results in a neighborhood plan or assessment that articulates purpose, direction and character of the neighborhood. Such plans provide a context for determining how new commercial development can be a positive enhancement to a neighborhood. We seek continuing emphasis in this critical effort of neighborhood planning and assessment in 2017.
We all know that many stressors in a community relate to jobs or the lack thereof. NAC is engaged with the Missouri Job Center to help get the word out on good job opportunities and training. Perhaps you know of someone looking and struggling to find suitable employment. Will you join us in the small and quiet ways we can to encourage them to seek employment?
Most have probably never heard of the NAC because its approach is not grandstanding. Instead of simply articulating problems and expecting them to be solved by somebody else, NAC engages with the City and other stakeholders at the detail process level because often this is where barriers and challenges are found and improvements can be creatively postulated, tested and implemented. NAC provides a thoughtful and collective voice for neighborhoods as a valued contribution to the positive development of Springfield.
Perhaps you have concerns and a desire to be part of the solution to problems in your neighborhood. Perhaps you just want a place to make a meaningful difference to a neighbor one-on-one or at a larger scale. Perhaps you are one struggling and could use a helping hand. If so, we encourage you to join your neighborhood association – or if your neighborhood doesn’t have one, join one that has open borders, or even initiate the process to form one in your neighborhood. Might we each resolve in 2017 to take a step toward betterment of our neighborhoods?