“It’s all about community”


By Leslie Collins
Northeast News
March 14, 2012

When Leslie Caplan saw the housing stock in Northeast, she knew she wanted to live here.

The spindles, the turrets – she adored everything about Victorian homes. For 20 years, she worked in Northeast, eyeing the properties, dreaming of the day she’d call one of those historic homes her own.

Two years ago, her dream became reality when she moved into the Scarritt Renaissance neighborhood, and now she’s serving as the neighborhood association president.

Asked why she wanted to run for president, Caplan said she wanted to help Scarritt look at the bigger picture.

“It’s about community – all different types of people coming together about all different types of issues that are presented here. I just felt like maybe we could bring additional voices to the table.”

While she may be a new resident, Caplan’s Northeast roots are deep. She helped found the Cliff Hanger Run, worked with the University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC) to establish an integrated preschool at Assumption Church to accommodate disabled infants and preschoolers, and worked in advertising sales at the now defunct Northeast World newspaper. She also served on the board for the Northeast Alliance Together, now the Northeast Kansas City Chamber of Commerce, and currently serves on the board for Northeast HELP (Health, Education, Labor and Public Safety).

For 16 years, she’s worked at Newhouse, a domestic violence shelter for women and their children, and currently serves as president.

“My background has mostly been providing services to families – whether they be handicapped or abused. It’s always been in that field,” she said.

As Scarritt Renaissance Neighborhood Association president, she’s taken on a new responsibility and said she sees “a lot of potential” in Northeast.

“That excites me,” she said.

As for her favorite highlights in the neighborhood, she listed the Kansas City Museum, Cliff Drive, Concourse Park and the housing stock.

Asked what she’d change about the neighborhood, Caplan said she’d like to see crime decrease and the issue of abandoned houses and property codes violations addressed. She’d also like to organize more block watches, not only to reduce crime but to help neighbors become acquainted with each other and bond.

“I think we need to continue to build on the assets we have,” she said.

Bylaw changes

During the Jan. 2 election of neighborhood association board members, the neighborhood encountered a few issues. Following the meeting, a resident pointed out the meeting violated several neighborhood association bylaws, which included being held on a holiday, electing at-large positions, electing too many board members, allowing residents to pay dues at the annual meeting and vote the same night and electing board members who failed to attend a majority of the neighborhood association meetings.

Caplan said the violations were not intentional and resulted from outdated and complicated bylaws as well as people “doing it the way it’s always been done.”

Neighborhood association members voted to ratify the election results and voted to make several changes to the bylaws to prevent future issues. Those changes “basically put into writing what people kept hearing existed, but nobody could point out for sure where it was in the minutes,” Caplan said.

Goals for neighborhood

In addition to preserving the historic housing stock, Caplan said the top two concerns of the neighborhood are security and property codes violations. Caplan said she will work with the neighborhood to develop strategies to address those issues.

“I also want to get more people involved because a neighborhood can’t sit back and expect that a board is going to solve all their problems or the block watch captain is going to solve all the problems on their block,” she said.

More residents need to attend the neighborhood meetings, voice their input and volunteer – whether it be addressing neighborhood concerns or helping with events like the neighborhood’s annual Scare-It Halloween.

“It’s about all of us coming together,” she said.

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