The Year of Moving Forward

The Year of Moving Forward
At our 4 person wedding reception in DC

Monday, July 2, 2007

Bessemer Neighborhood Association

The comments continue to pile up on my post about Faith and Republicans. Check it out. Because one commentor (guess who) is so critical of Christians who want to be inclusive and of homosexuals for demanding equality, in a few days I will make a series of posts about the Bible and homosexuality. Many of you have seen this before, but apparently he has not.

Last night there was a meeting of Dartmouth Avenue residents and others who are interested in organizing in such a way as to work toward making our community a safer place and improving our quality of life. One thing I learned…people are not going to get to a 7:00 meeting at 7:00, as we didn’t begin till about 7:15, allowing some extra time for late arrivals. But there were still people coming in at 8:00. In the end, there were more people present than at last weeks Vigil/Rally at the same location.

The second thing I learned was we can not (or should not) restrict our efforts to Dartmouth Avenue or Bessemer’s south side. The problems we will be addressing are not restricted to this neighborhood, or even to the city of Bessemer (as we had at least one Lipscomb resident present). And many of the solutions will be city wide in their scope. However, I hope that our group will realize that if this group encompassed all of the frustrated citizens in Bessemer, that no church or building in the city could hold us all, and if every angry and frustrated resident of Bessemer was allowed to express their opinions, we would still be over there listening.

Not to say that everyone’s opinion is not important, I’m just saying that to be effective, this group has to concentrate on the problems of our community and neighborhoods, and I hope that as more people from other parts of Bessemer come, they will return to their neighborhoods and form their own “subgroups” of the Bessemer Neighborhood Association.

We did not elect leadership, but we did name block captains for certain blocks that were represented. While the responsibilities of the captains have not been identified yet, one thing they will be doing is distributing information about future meetings to people on their block (and surrounding blocks until we have captains throughout the area). As for leadership, Elvira, Susan and I will remain as a “steering committee” until officers are named. And since no other leaders were named, we will take it upon ourselves to develop some operating rules so that the meetings might have a better flow and our time might be better utilized.

Here are some important points from the meeting. We are (at least starting out) using the MAP-IT model, so we will Mobilize (get people involved), Assess (the situation, including naming our strengths and resources as well as our problems and weaknesses), Plan (that begins next week), Implement (carry out our plans) and Track (our progress).

Here are some random thoughts. We need to take a multi-pronged approach to the problem of violence. Some of these solutions may be reactive, such as increasing police patrols or placing a sub station in the area. I say reactive because this is to fight the criminals that are already present (but they are also proactive in that they will help to deter crime). Other solutions are proactive, in that they might help to prevent young people from turning to drugs and crime. Examples are building a recreation center, having quality after school programs for youth, and offering quality pre-kindergarten for all kids. Statistics show that these types of efforts reduce future crime rates by certain percentages.

We are thinking outside the box. For instance, fighting crime does not just involve arresting the bad guys. Things like tearing down abandoned buildings, a noise ordinance, litter control programs and beautification projects all help to make an area less attractive to criminals. They show that the residents are in control and that the residents take pride in their community and have respect for their neighbors. So our organization will not just be another neighborhood watch group, but we will be developing goals that improve our quality of life in many ways.

One thing that I hope will be a side effect of this effort, is that it will lead to the formation of neighborhood associations in each district that are funded by the city, like Birmingham has. For instance, I envision District 7 having two associations, divided by 14th Street. Just something to anticipate, not something we are focusing on now.

Our next meeting is Tuesday, July 10, at 7:00, at Broken Vessel Full Gospel Church.

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