By LESLIE COLLINS
January 30, 2013
Neighborhood residents and community leaders gathered around the table Jan. 23 to discuss ideas on how to improve the quality of life in Historic Northeast.
Mattie Rhodes Community Center, 148 N. Topping, hosted the meeting “Northeast Talks,” which stemmed from a recent shooting involving youth near Budd Park. About a month ago, Mattie Rhodes hosted a community meeting to discuss violent crime in Northeast and possible solutions.
“We just wanted to provide an environment or a space where we could continue that conversation because it seemed to have been helpful to others in the past,” said Susan Garrett of Mattie Rhodes.
Those in attendance included neighborhood residents, East Patrol Zone police officers, Mattie Rhodes representatives and representatives from the probation and parole office and city prosecutor’s office.
“We are not here to run the meetings,” Captain Zimmerman said. “We’re just a resource for the community. That’s all. Period. We don’t decide what topics are going to be talked about.”
East Patrol Community Interaction Officer Jason Cooley stressed that officers can’t change a neighborhood by themselves.
“If you want a long-term fix to neighborhood problems, it’s got to come from the residents,” Cooley said. “The residents have to take ownership.”
While some voiced frustration with residents simply coming up with ideas and not taking action, both Scarritt Renaissance Neighborhood Association President Leslie Caplan and Mattie Rhodes Community Organizer Sandy Ruelas stressed that persistence is vital.
“You can’t give someone initiative, but you can inspire people to be motivated to do something. Persistence is key,” Ruelas said.
During a recent Scarritt neighborhood clean-up along Roberts and Thompson, additional residents pitched in when they saw the group working along the street, Caplan said.
“It kept spreading,” Caplan said of additional residents helping with the clean-up.
Other ideas discussed included:
•Better communication needed between Northeast organizations
•Neighborhoods should share with each other the strategies/activities that have been successful for them
•Northeast Spotlight – at the beginning of each meeting one Northeast resident will share about the positive things happening in Northeast, whether that’s sharing about a reading program, neighborhood organization, etc.
•Instead of simply thinking of ideas, more residents need to put their ideas into action and spearhead projects
•One neighborhood resident said she’ll sit on her front porch to read a book and relax, but also keeps a pen and paper ready in case she sees something suspicious
•More activities, like a block party, need to be held to unite the entire Northeast and allow residents to get acquainted with each other; To help with this initiative, Mattie Rhodes has pledged $500, which can go toward refreshments and other scheduled activities.
Northeast Talks will meet the fourth Wednesday of every month from noon to 1 p.m. at Mattie Rhodes, 148 N. Topping. The goal of the meeting is to discuss community concerns and solutions and improve the quality of life in Historic Northeast. All are invited to attend.