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Old 06-04-2004, 09:14 PM
Glenna Rose
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Default Re(2): garden police gone wild?


Have you bothered to ask people why they don't participate? I bet you
could learn a lot by their answers.

That is an issue that has been addressed over and over and over. Answers
are such as:
"It's going just fine."
"We didn't think what we said matters."

"I don't have the time."
"I don't care"
There have not been any helpful suggestions; we try anything that anyone
thinks might work. We do get different faces depending on the topic.
This last meeting when the police department did a meth presentation was
reasonably well attended (better than most!), but even knowing a meth lab
might be next door didn't get folks to the meeting.

Our last several Boards have very actively tried to get people out to
attend meetings (this encompasses nine years). We always have a good
turnout for the annual neighborhood cleanup when they get to dump their
trash (not garbage) for free and have a good supply of yard debris dumped
at the recycling center (giving each household two truck loads free). We
usually have a reasonable turnout at socials. However, when it comes to
attending meetings, the interest just isn't there.

We've tried different nights, different times of the month, making certain
there is a monthly meeting so people can better remember (vs. every other
month which had also been tried). We get lots of comments about how great
our neighborhood park looks and the improvements there (done by the
association through a grant from the City which must be applied for by the

Even the meeting specifically about five Level III sex offenders living in
one house only had a dozen attendees. (Ours was the only neighborhood in
the county with that problem, and the house was located within two blocks
of the most popular Dairy Queen in the area.)

Effectiveness of our association? Ordinance has been changed to disallow
so many offenders in one household with State law being changed to reflect
similar regulations. The maintenance code is more reasonable. Our park
is not only attractive and safe, but also has good participation. We have
semi-effective traffic control within our neighborhood (nothing ever is
100 percent!). The list goes on and on. The residents like what the
association does, but do not regularly attend meetings.

One of our best attended meetings was, and this is absurd, when I created
a crossword puzzle about our neighborhood and put it in the newsletter.
The answers would only be available at the meeting. We actually had four
people attend the meeting only to get the answers!

We have speakers from various agencies (our best attended meeting was the
tax assessor talking last year when our property was being re-assessed!),
presentations from groups within the community, etc. We advertise well
ahead of time (via newsletter delivered to every household) of things that
will affect most people (sex offender concentration, junk ordinance, tax
issues, cleanups, etc.). Our newsletter usually carries articles written
by a variety of people from the neighborhood.

Sadly, our neighborhood is one of the more active. It is a universal
problem, at least in our community. Some associations are not at all
active. This is truly sad since our City agencies listen to our
neighborhood associations and act accordingly. Not all cities are so
fortunate to have a city government that responds to the citizens. The
greatest concern of all is that we will lose that. The two big issues this
past year (offenders and property maintenance) are a good example of how
we are listened to. With the offenders, there was only one neighborhood
involved, but we got action on it which has spread throughout the state
and will ultimately lead to housing and better help for the offenders who
no one wants next door but need someplace to live also. No one objected
to one here and there, but when there were eight in one household
including five Level III, that was way over the line. In that case, it
was the property owner that was really at fault as she actively solicited
the corrections department for renters . . . after all, she didn't live

Four citizens can complain about something and they are ignored. However,
those same four can be part of an association and send a representative to
a Council meeting, and they are heard and responded to. That is exactly
why those of us who are fortunate enough to live in a community with
City/County sponsored neighborhood associations need to be in involved.
If you cannot attend a meeting, simply call an officer and let them know
your thoughts or just a thank you. If an issue is going to be discussed
and you cannot attend a meeting, write a note and drop it off so your
voice is heard. There is no one so busy they cannot make a call or write
a note. I just don't believe that.

Being able to continue such things as growing a garden with a variety of
plants may be dependent on us speaking out. If I had not spoken up, no
gardener in our city would have been allowed to use non-commercially built
tomato cages or even bean poles or to have raised vegetable/flower beds,
or raspberries (and other branched berries). No one else cared that
attended any of the meetings; most only cared about appearance. I have a
garden and truly feel that I should be able to grow raspberries,
indeterminate tomatoes, and pole beans/peas if I choose to. It's all done
within my backyard which has a 5-6-foot chain link screened fence around
it, so how is it anyone's business? Gardens are not generally health
hazards or safety hazards. But because they aren't "manicured," many
people don't want them even allowed. Sadly, this could eventually happen
in any community if people don't pay attention.

If you have suggestions about participation at neighborhood association
meetings, we are all ears!


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