Perhaps it is the weather, but I have never seen so many neighborhood associations worked up over an issue or problem as right now. The issues range from crime, to density and redevelopment, to traffic and environmental problems. The challenge for neighborhood activists is to figure out both priorities and which issues can we impact.
The reason CONA does a goal setting session at the start of each year is to try to allow everyone to help choose the issues that we will attempt move on for the year. Some issues like crime end up with areas where we can make a difference like Court Watch, crime watch, and other neighborhood level efforts to control crime. However, it also has the areas that can only be handled by policy makers like the Mayor and Police Chief or Sheriff. CONA spends a considerable amount of time lobbying for changes in staff levels, recruiting policies, priorities, and policing policies. Obviously, change happens only when the policy makers either have the ideas or buy into the proposed changes. Sometimes, we simply disagree. We need to raise issues so that the political leaders address our concerns. So if you have an issue, please speak up.
I believe the most serious problem is one of police staffing. The police department has a huge percentage, more than half, of officers who will be eligible to retire in less than five years. The department is losing much too large a share of officers after a few years. So we have a department heavily weighed towards rookies and near retirement veterans. We have to find a way to fix this before a majority of officers retire and we have a department of rookies. Community policing and the other pro-active efforts suffer greatly in this environment.
At the same time, we need to work on modest sized, neighborhood level problems and solve them one at a time. This is what we do best. It is the series of little victories in each neighborhood that can have a dramatic impact AND we can do this. So when you are frustrated with the big issues, please fix another little problem. This is how we can change the world!
Council of Neighborhood Associations