Question #3: Neighborhoods and Economic Development
Economic development efforts have been focused on the city’s central business district for the past quarter century, while the residential neighborhoods have received less attention. Propose a residential neighborhood development program.
Our city is a city of neighborhoods; they are the lifeblood of our city. The strength of those individual neighborhoods creates the vitality of our city. Each neighborhood has its unique characteristics and needs. I am a product of our neighborhoods. We will assist neighbors in identifying their needs and resources and in mobilizing programs to meet those needs. We will rebuild our city from the neighborhoods up ensuring that the residents play a key role in the rejuvenation that is so sorely needed in many areas.
Our plan for strengthening neighborhoods will:
§ Establish the “Clean It and Lien It” program. This program will clean our neighborhoods of vacant and deteriorated buildings that decrease the quality of life in the neighborhood. We will clean the property and secure its building exterior, lien the property to recover costs and finally execute on the lien to sell the property to individuals willing to restore the property to a single family home.
§ Establish the “Curb Appeal Task Force” – This program will equip the code enforcement officers with a hand-held PDA loaded with the exterior code violations that give our city a soiled appearance. As they walk down the street they will record properties that do not meet the standard for things like peeling paint; dirty and/or broken windows; trash not properly stored; sidewalks; etc. If we want our neighborhoods to be good, they must look good.
§ We will implement the “Neighborhood Pride Program” in Easton. This effort is a total concentration by every city department in one area during a one-week period of time.
§ Create a part-time position of Director of Neighborhood Development for the purpose of mobilizing neighborhoods to address their concerns and celebrate their strengths. This individual, along with the Mayor, will encourage more involvement and leadership in the neighborhoods. We work with those leaders in creating a comprehensive vision for the city. This individual will also oversee the Neighborhood Pride Program.
§ Create a “Neighborhood Network” homepage on the city website where residents easily identify what is happening in their neighborhood and how they can be involved in its progress.
§ Actively communicate and meet with neighborhoods on a regular basis holding at least one “town meeting” per quarter in one of the neighborhoods.
§ We will create “Mayor Hours” in key locations throughout the city and at flexible times of the day and take City Hall to the people.
First and foremost, we need to get more money into the city coffers. In order to do that, an impact fee on any new development will greatly increase the money for the parks and recreation departments. One of the biggest ideas I have in mind for the neighborhoods, is to propose a resolution to help fund neighborhood gardens. There is vacant property within 2-3 blocks of every single block in this city. Let's get the neighborhoods together to help beautify the area. The other idea I have in mind, is for an adopt a park program. Let's get corporations in to help fund the parks, and keep them clean and up to date.
The main component of my platform is the creation of programs to promote first-time home ownership in the residential neighborhoods to deconvert rentals back to owner-occupancy, and the creation of some sort of tax credit to promote owner-occupancy of one unit in a multi-unit building. This would be funded by pursuing state and federal monies, as well as through a portion of an impact fee charged to developers of larger projects. I believe this will not only make the neighborhoods cleaner and safer, but will also promote economic development by attracting businesses to serve these homeowners.
Neighborhoods throughout the city are very unique and each needs to develop and implement their own plan for economic improvement. I would propose the development of neighborhood committees that could identify the needs of the neighborhood and then develop a plan that could be implemented to achieve the needs. These committees would work in conjunction with various departments of the city to insure that the plans conformed to city zoning, historical, and building criteria. Once the plans are developed the city government working with the citizen committee would work to implement each plan.
As the neighborhood plans are developed the city needs to develop a Comprehensive Economic Development Plan that integrates the plans of each of the neighborhoods while at the same time charts a course for future economic development throughout the city. I believe that the only way that taxes can be significantly lowered in the future is through steady economic development.