A new report evaluating the city’s community engagement process has some Downtown neighborhood organizations lobbying forsurvival.
In Loring Park, some neighborhood board members interpreted the report as an indication that the current neighborhood-based system could dramatically change in the future. Neighborhood Revitalization Program (NRP) funding is currently scheduled to end in 2009.
“I think we’re out of business after ’08 and nobody is going to save us, except ourselves,” Board Member Terry Thompson said.
City Coordinator Steven Bosacker said the community engagement report is intended to be much more than a commentary on neighborhood groups. He said the changing demographics in the city drove the decision to look at whether community engagement connects all people in the city. The other big question dealt with resources, he said, which includes the declining Community Development Block Grants used to fund neighborhood contracts.
The report recommends that the city delineate a clear community engagement process for each type of city decision and develop a consistent, two-way communication system. Community organizations need not be geographically organized, the report said.
Bosacker said hundreds of responses to the report continued to pour in on the last day for feedback. He said he heard one message again and again:
“We have a neighborhood system that does some really high-quality work, and future shifts or changes should not throw away what has been developed,” Bosacker said.
Jana Metge, executive coordinator of Citizens for a Loring Park Community, attended five community engagement meetings and said she repeatedly heard conversation pointing out grassroots initiatives launched by neighborhood groups. She noted projects in Loring Park such as the maintenance of the Berger Fountain and the expansion of the 50-cent bus fare zone.
“This caused a lot of investment in the city that would not have happened without NRP,” she said.
Metge said she heard residents say they want assurance they will have time during city decision-making processes to offer genuine input.
“They want a process, they want time, and they want things laid out so they know what’s happening,” Metge said.
A coalition of neighborhoods submitted a collective response to the neighborhood report. The response asked about the volume of resources necessary to realize successful community engagement and asked where and how those resources should be allocated.