Wednesday, May 06, 2009

The Great American Cleanup and the Metro Action Commission: A Little Consideration Goes a Long Way

I have a neighbor who likes to host parties. Beforehand, he goes door-to-door and leaves notes apprising folks of the times of his parties and warning that on-street parking may be limited. He's not required to do it. He's just being considerate, which creates good will with others on the street. It's one more thing I appreciate about the dude.

Metro is not required to inform Salemtown residents about how their neighborhood is going to be used as a staging area for the Great American Cleanup on May 14, including a landscaping project to benefit the Metro Action Commission (MAC) at 5th Avenue & Garfield Street. But it would have been considerate to send us something in the mail or ask our Council Member Erica Gilmore, who passed a Great American Cleanup bill at a recent council meeting, to give us some kind of heads up. Doing so might me appreciate MAC enough to support their project and budget initiatives in the future.

As it stands now, a POD was placed on a vacant lot adjacent to MAC, and one resident asked the Salemtown e-mail list this morning if anyone knew the purpose of the POD. I found out from the lot owner that he agreed to allow Metro to place it there for the May 14th event. This same owner has been trying for months to deal with the permission that MAC seems to give to its clients to park on his lot without his consent. He has been e-mailing MAC executive Cynthia Croom since March with little response and no assistance from her.

To make matters worse, with the economic downturn, the number of days that people come asking for assistance for utility bills from MAC seems to have increased. Whenever they visit MAC they dump heaps of trash on sidewalks, streets, and yards. Hence, the intersection of 5th & Garfield is increasingly trashy. MAC staffers told some neighbors that they will only clean up the trash literally on the MAC property, which is an old school building. Otherwise, they pass the buck for the rest of their clients trash to Metro Public Works, but they do not actually contact MPW to clean up.

Hence, the irony of staging the Great American Cleanup at the Metro Action Commission. They're responsible for a significant portion of the trash that might will be cleaned up around Salemtown on one day, and yet they'll continue to look the other way at future litter. And they're going to have their property landscaped for their lack of neighborliness. But I wonder why they still occupy the school building when Ms. Croom told me in 2005 that MAC was moving to Downtown in 2006. Given their propensity to empower littering on the streets of Salemtown, I wish they would have followed through with that move.

When Ms. Croom appeared before the Mayor's budget hearings recently to request that her commission be funded as she wished, I saw several council members behind her, two of whom were Erica Gilmore and Megan Barry. I'm not sure how supportive those members are of MAC, but I would like to see them encourage MAC to be a better neighbor to their other constituents in Salemtown and keep us better apprised of national events staged here.


  1. Your councilperson should have sent a notice to neighbors that this was going to happen. I know that mind would have.

    A think an e-mail gently reminding her of her constituent responsibilities is in order.

    And if you have a neighborhood association then I think whomever is in charge of that should have a regular ongoing dialogue with MAC to be kept aware of events such as this to keep neighbors informed.

    It helps tremendously to be organized into a neighborhood group of some type, even if it's just a few streets.

  2. I agree. What has happened to the association?? Salemtown needs a viable and interactive association with developers AND current residents/office managers. I may be missing something and hopefully my current distance from the neighborhood causes me to be ignorant. If I am, please let me know as I have been recently ask to join. I am not sure what joining means at this point.

  3. No, screw the developers and offices. I'm talking a RESIDENTIAL neighborhood association. People who live in the neighborhood have far different interests from people who are making money off of their property.

    Trust me on this. People who live and sleep and raise their families in a neighborhood have far more invested in what happens to it than people who do those things elsewhere. I'm not saying don't communicate with the other interest groups, of course not. But it's inevitable that there is going to be conflict and if I'm a property owner and resident, I'm going to side with my neighbors over someone who just sees my neighborhood as a paycheck.

  4. In my business experience, I have found that the more inclusive and open people can be the better.

    I certainly recognize that many developers are disrespectful of obtaining feedback from those they build around. But I take issue to a broad brush perspective with ALL developers.

    I built my first development in Salemtown starting in 2006. To date I haven't made a dime and in fact have lost money on the development. However, I am very proud of the fact that I listened to people and obtained feedback that actually helped us win an award from the Metropolitan Historical Commission. I could not have done that with an attitude of not caring about the neighborhood or the folks around me. It is something that I believe will serve me well with future projects...another words, I am investing in an area that I believe has potential financial benefit to Trust Development as well as the residents that decide to live here. That is part of our pitch to a part of an area that has tremendous potential both from a quality of life perspective AND an investment perspective. In normal economic conditions, few if any of the American public buy homes to lose money....they buy partly as an investment.

    Let's face it, Salemtown is an area that is going through tremendous change. Some have been for the better and some not so. Developers are here in Salemtown for the forseeable future. MAC is here for the forseeable future. Doesn't it make better sense to engage and be inviting to everyone that has an interest in the area? I pay property taxes and upkeep just like everyone else who owns in the neighborhood. It is impossible to agree on every issue, but an association that is vibrant and inclusive will far better serve the interests of the RESIDENTS than one that doesn't or for that matter is dormant.

    I think we are on the same page. My comment was meant to underscore that doesn't it make sense to engage all the people who have an interest in a neighborhood? If not, at a minimum, doesn't it make sense for there to be an active forum for folks like myself to bring ideas to and get feedback?

  5. Jim: you should be proud that you were one developer who invited feedback from lots of people on your award-winning project. As I've said in the past, I supported your S-town developments because you were willing to incorporate family-friendly detached single family homes. They add balance to our rapidly duplexified, increasingly empty-nestered community. I've had other developers tell me that they will not entertain feedback and they would just as soon maintain blight than offer balance. MAC has not been a responsible neighbor, and as you have found, they are slow to listen to community feedback.

    I hope you will consider joining and participating in SNNA. Yours is a voice we need to hear on a more consistent basis. Plus, you can add balance whenever the other developers show up to SNNA meetings to try to throw their weight around.