Working off where the previous post on “Neighborhoodism” left off, there are a number of conclusions and questions that can be formulated regarding the right way forward for mayors and administrations working with neighborhood groups, such as:
- First, there is a question about the essential nature of the neighborhood movement. It is a movement, and therefore should be seen as not static, but evolving, perhaps cyclical. It is partly demographic: younger people, grouped in locations and sometimes, called to various service roles. Over time, their groups evolved – in response to issues, opportunities, their own internal needs – for example for staffing, supplementing door-knocking, organizing, mass meetings and protest.
- City hall needs to be able to see what community organizations are operating at what levels and with what characteristics, and then determine the appropriate city hall stance toward each. This is not trivial, since city departments tend to operate according to routines that treat subjects the same, for their convenience, not the public’s. A special office for neighborhoods is one approach; hiring department heads and workers drawn from the movement is another. Devising different levels and types of support depending on neighborhood organization capacities to perform desired functions is another.
- Recognize that hiring neighborhood leaders to city hall jobs, while it may be helpful or even transformative in city hall, can undercut or destroy the neighborhood movement.
- One suggestion has been to think in terms of two different levels of neighborhood organizations: differentiate protest and advocacy from service delivery, for example. Leadership training could be a third. Done properly, city or foundation support for the latter could mitigate the costs to the neighborhoods of city hall hiring of workers away from the neighborhoods.
- Recognize the impermanence of city hall policy approaches – while some progressive mayors or regimes have lasted a long time – Burlington, VT since 1981 – others were cut short by death (Washington after four and one-half years) or political opposition (Kucinich after two years). Flynn lasted ten and one-half years – a reasonably long time, but only one real estate cycle. The conclusion from this would be to sort out the kinds of things and relationships possible in the short run (one election cycle) from what is possible given the kind of stability that transcends election cycles.
- Note the importance of institutional support outside of city hall – notably foundations, non-profit groups of various sorts, and university programs that intervene and support neighborhood level organizations. These groups provide supports ranging from housing finance, to student interns, to political voice. They can vary greatly, and constrain or enhance what city hall can do, and the extent to which city hall and neighborhoods had pursue or even agree on joint objectives.
- Worry about institutional memory. Records of neighborhood organizational histories, leader biographies, city hall initiatives, physical artifacts like buildings and streets need to be kept – officially perhaps in a library or historical society, but also informally by individuals and organizations. Universities are an obvious resource for this, if they can create units that are locally oriented, or willing to connect local histories to regional and national ones.