NSN Meeting with Housing and Community Development - 4/29/09
Written by NSN Coordinator   

On Wednesday evening, April 29, 2009, more than 40 neighborhood leaders attended a meeting at the Ward 6 office to interact with the management team of the new City Department of Housing and Community Development.  Neighborhoods represented included: Mountain View, Enchanted Hills, San Antonio, Sam Hughes, Miramonte, Dodge Flower, Palo Verde, Colonia del Valle, Catalina Vista, South Park, Midvale Park, Barrio Viejo, Old Fort Lowell, West University, Garden District, San Clemente, Old Spanish Trail, Blenman Elm, Toumey Park, Limberlost, Hedrick Acres, Elvira, SNAPP/Sunnyside, Glen Heights, El Encanto, Samos and Peter Howell. Representatives from PRO Neighborhoods and the Downtown Tucson Partnership attended as well.

City of Tucson staff members participating included Albert Elias, Andrea Ibanez, Rebecca Ruopp and Teresa Williams. Mr. Elias will become director of Housing and Community Development when the department becomes active July 1, 2009.  Ms. Ibanez will be an assistant director, Ms. Ruopp a neighborhood planner, and Ms. Williams an administrator of Code Enforcement after July 1.Jigsaw Parts of current City departments Urban Planning and Design and Community Services, including neighborhood services, will be folded into the new department.

Department Staff Remarks

Mr. Elias started the meeting with a summary of the current City reorganization process.  Ordinance 10656, establishing the new department, was passed by Mayor and Council April 21, 2009. He reviewed the reasons for these changes: 1) to save money - 18 positions eliminated and 2) to better position like functions in proximity to each other.

Ms. Ibanez described the combination of the old Department of Neighborhood Resources with Community Services five months ago.  She confirmed that current services now offered to neighborhoods, including mailings of flyers and newsletters, will continue next budget year.

Ms. Ruopp talked about the current Oracle corridor revitalization project now underway as a new model for a comprehensive approach to the needs of a neighborhood.  She spoke of the need to find ways to make neighborhood planning more efficient, of a dream she has for a Neighborhood Resource Center and wondered aloud about how to better use the skills and experience of "citizen emeriti" (former, long-time neighborhood activists and leaders).

Ms. Williams described the efforts of code enforcement inspectors as they do their jobs in responding to code violation complaints from citizens. Questions from the audience brought to light the problems some neighborhood leaders have in finding out the status of a complaint resolution or even whether a complaint about a given address has been filed.  Unsatisfactory access to databases seems to be part of the problem.  Volunteers to fix the problem, in a tight budgetary time, were suggested.

Neighborhood Leaders' Comments and Concerns

A number of leaders made comments about current neighborhood conditions and community level issues. These included concern that the City does not adequately support neighborhoods when dealing with developers and commercial interests.  Changes of commercial property ownership and neighborhood stakeholders makes it difficult to carry through on hard-fought decisions.  A more balanced approach from the City and the re-establishment of trust is needed.

Making actions of City government match plans and policies was discussed.  The City's General Plan will come up for review soon.  Several neighborhood leaders wanted to make the Plan a worthy guide, with enforcement teeth, for City programs and department practices, rather than just a vague document with little value to the community.  Mr. Elias agreed that the General Plan should address several large scale and possibly controversial issues facing the community, and that action consequences should be monitored for compliance with the plan.

Other Comments

Other items discussed included neighborhood leadership succession planning, instilling neighborhood plans into the long term life of the neighborhood, planning for the social environment (e.g., crime prevention) as well as for the physical environment, enhancing the "tool kit" neighborhood leaders have for solving common problems, and the importance of beginning a community-wide discussion of economic diversity and expansion beyond a construction-centric local economy. Also, there was a good bit of discussion of the Neighborhood Protection Ordinance - both its content and its enforcement. A number of participants thought there was good reason for a followup meeting on this topic.

Good Meeting

Housing and Community Development members actively participated in the conversation and took a number of notes.  Many participants thought the meeting went well and were pleased with the optimistic approach taken by Mr. Elias and his staff. Additional meetings and points of interaction are desired by both the City and neighborhood leaders.

Last Updated ( Friday, 01 May 2009 )
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