Tuesday, October 14 at Bryant Square Park, citizens of the CARAG community kicked off its Phase II NRP planning process. With an estimated $470,000 to spend on neighborhood approved endeavors (the remaining $130,000 has yet to be identified by the City of Minneapolis), a notice was mailed out to all households requesting their presence at a Visioning Town Hall meeting. While hopes may have been high regarding turnout, the reality of such was considerably less (20 people), but a good discussion, nonetheless, ensued.
The conversation began with our Executive Coordinator, Scott Engel, making introductions and giving a brief overview of the NRP process. Next, our current NRP steering Committee (Aaron Rubenstein, Howard Verson and Kay Graham) revisited the nine strategic areas upon which the Phase I plan was developed (i.e. Housing, Community-Building, Economic Development, Transportation, etc.), and a lot of ideas were generated such as putting a focus on energy efficiency in housing; youth block clubs and alley beautification projects to build community; giving loans to, as well compiling a directory of, home based businesses; master classes taught by our seniors and other intergenerational activities; increasing pedestrian safety with self-defense classes, and renewing bicycle road markings; developing art and music summer camps, and partnering with neighboring schools; and taking an active role in various “greening” activities that will contribute to communal sustainability. These were just a few, amongst many wonderful ideas, that were voted upon by residents, using the familiar “sticker dot” priority method. The results of the voting were not available at the conclusion of the meeting and will be reported in a future issue of this newspaper.
Although all who came contributed, it was noted that considerably more input would be needed to develop a cohesive plan for in a neighborhood with a high percentage of renters, remarkably few were in attendance. We have seniors who feel somewhat isolated and whom may need more than a postcard to join up. And, there was the overwhelming absence of young voices in a setting which would befit their natural curiosity while challenging our sometimes too serious minds. In short, many communal and diverse faces went missing that evening at a time when we all need to feel connected, to feel a sense of ownership to this place in which we all live. Therefore, in order for that to occur, we determined that a concerted effort of change be brought to our usual methods of outreach and an increase made to our staff. The Phase II survey online is a good start, however, it is not accessible to those without access. While it is available at the CARAG office, many residents have no idea where that is, nor of CARAG’s existence on their behalf. And unfortunately, just as many have not taken the time to read the various neighborhood publications. So given that set of variables, who must shoulder the responsibility for bridging this gap of knowledge? Without question, and without hesitation, we must believe it rests equally on all of us.
In the “golden days” of town hall meetings, everyone was familiar in some way because they depended on each other to make their towns thrive. We need to adopt that same philosophy. In order to have a successful plan, we need an engaged constituency. We need to seek out and place a high value on as many viewpoints, volunteer efforts and available resources as we can unearth. We need to conduct face to face gatherings in as many places within our community as we can find. We are a diverse group of people and therefore we have unique ways of being. We must make our way, not only boldly, but without fear, into those places and graciously welcome what we can learn about each other. For our lives are no longer what they used to be. And, neither, for that matter, is NRP. So we must take time to recognize this for what it really is: an opportunity, under the guise of neighborhood revitalization, to come together as a vibrant and thriving community. You can count me in. Can I count on you?
Pamela D. Taylor is a new member of the CARAG Board and lives in CARAG.