Thirty eight neighborhood leaders signed the attendance sheet for the May 8 Neighborhood Support Network meeting at the Ward 6 offices. They represented South Park, Sam Hughes, Colonia Del Valle, Enchanted Hills, Elvira, Rosemont West, Feldman's, Garden District, Rincon Heights, Peter Howell, Midvale Park, El Encanto Estates, Jefferson Park, Blenman-Elm, Richland Heights East, Palo Verde, Limberlost, Dodge/Flower, Stella Mann, Poets Square, Civano Neighbors and Doolen-Fruitvale neighborhoods.
The potluck was a happy event. Everybody brought something interesting and tasty. As was hoped, lots of people had lots to say to each other as they munched their lunches.
The first session of the afternoon gave neighborhood leaders a chance to hear from experienced City Council Aides Abe Marques (Ward 5), Renee Sowards (Ward 4) and George Pettit (Ward 3). Abe lead off by noting that high frequency issues he deals with have not changed all that much: noise, speeding, dogs and cats. Gang members most often cause trouble for each other, not citizens at large.
Renee noted that graffiti and speeding were frequent complaints heard on the east side. She discussed the effects of Parks & Recreation's budget reductions, including pool closures, reduced hours and fewer recreation classes. 792-CITY is still available for questions (though a call back may be needed) and that trash rolloffs are still available, for now, to assist in neighborhood cleanups.
George focused his comments on communication, noting Karin's monthly communication meetings and Ward 3's support for groupings of neighborhoods such as Ward 3 Neighbors Alliance which meets monthly. There was discussion of various City departments' dependence on the general fund and/or on outside funding (HURF, HUD, other Federal agencies, grants, etc.).
There was extended discussion of newsletters and the City's support for them. The recommended budget (due out May 18) should give some feel for the level of support likely for next fiscal year. Several neighborhood associations were supporting their own newsletters through advertising, fundraising and/or using volunteers to handle distribution by walking routes through the neighborhood. No one was (yet) selling subscriptions or actively seeking grant support for neighborhood communications.
The second session in the NSN meeting featured Deputy County Attorney for Neighborhood Protection Brad Holland, talking about problem properties. Rental property owners are responsible for the people they allow into the neighborhood. Landlords range from “clueless to evil” and everything in between. Brad noted that "clueless" is not a defense. We should make sure that our neighborhood's property owners know what is acceptable. If a property is "not acceptable," then don't just quote the statutes, etc, but let him/her know it is unacceptable.
Brad had a number of tips for dealing with chronic problems, including asking the property owner whether he/she had an attorney. If yes, contact the lawyer. The lawyer then is ethically obligated to inform the client about the legality of what ever the complaint is, and will explain the laws, saving your time. Brad explained that under AZ law landlords with notice of a nuisance are liable. Just notifying the property manager does not close the loop; it needs to go to the property owner. So when you write to the landlord/owner include the phrase: "This letter serves as notice." Brad recommends forming a committee or subcommittee under the neighborhood association to deal with problem properties, to make it a collective "We" rather than one individual lodging the complaint.
Some problem property owners let the police handle the problems created by their tenants. Police are not the landlords' property managers. Police Community Service Officers (Midtown's is CSO Becky Noel) will work with owners in an attempt to resolve continuing issues. Explain problem(s) broadly in the letter, to include everything with the idea that a judge will review. Include police case reports (calls for service) at the property. Photograph and document everything you can. Don't approach the owner until documentation, with dates, times and particulars, is in hand. In building a case against a property owner with a nuisance property, you need to have multiple people complaining, and be able to paint a picture understood by reasonable people that "there are horrible outcomes embedded" in the problem being reported. For your information, Laura Brynwood is the Chief City Prosecutor. You may mail Brad with information if desired (
). (Some of these notes came from Barbara Lehmann and Alice Roe.)
NSN members in attendance agreed that the May 8 meeting format was good - not too long and a good way to share time together.