This past Saturday a group of 20 or so very dedicated community members spent the better part of the day sharing with the City what is important in our neighborhoods and what should be considered as we plan for the next target area to focus our Housing and Urban Development funds.
The effort is part of a partnership the City has with Roanoke College, Freedom First Credit Union, Change Lab Solutions from Oakland, California, and the New York Academy of Medicine, focused on enhancing the City’s response regarding health outcomes and community involvement. This same partnership is assisting the City by infusing health outcomes in policies throughout the work we do, especially as it relates to the comprehensive plan update underway.
Talking About What Matters
The day included presentations from neighborhood advocates who have previously been, or are currently, active in one of the City’s target areas, Planning, Building, and Development Department staff, and others. The topics covered and explored included past efforts, important neighborhood concerns, health considerations, and target area selection criteria. In each instance, most of the time during the day was set aside to allow City staff to hear directly from the community members.
I was fortunate enough to attend about two hours of the day and listen in on the conversations. Much of what I heard is consistent with what we have heard whenever we engage with our neighborhoods: the importance of public safety, good neighborhood schools, access to goods and services, transportation options, property maintenance, etc. I also heard an interest expressed in making sure opportunities exist for folks to remain in the neighborhoods as they age and as the neighborhood itself evolves. In addition, participants revealed their interest in making sure there were opportunities for residents to access quality jobs, healthy food, and safe, well-maintained parks and sidewalks. Most pointedly, I heard a sincere reminder to all involved that it’s not about projects, plans, or initiatives, but rather about people – what a great reminder of why it is we do what we do!
The information gathered at the meeting will be used to assist us in choosing the next target area, which we will likely move to in the next two to three years. Fortunately, we have many successes in our previous target areas to highlight and to justify the continued practice of concentrating our efforts in specific neighborhoods.
Coming Together to Make Things Happen
As always I was proud of our staff and the work they did with this effort. I am proud of the partnership we have assisting us in this effort. I am proud of the support and emphasis the Mayor and City Council place upon this type of work. Most especially, I am proud of those community members who spent their valuable time helping us to get it right, an effort that will help us make their neighborhoods and thereby Roanoke the best place it can be!
- Bob Cowell