By DAVID GREEN
Neighbors get together for a “block party,” discuss problems in their neighborhood, and take action to find a solution.
That’s the plan behind Fayette council member Ruth Marlatt’s idea that she calls “Project Pride.”
Marlatt, a former mayor of the community, told council last week that she would like to see residents work together to improve the community.
“I feel that if people were given the opportunity to voice what they feel the needs of their neighborhood are, then the next logical step is working on a solution,” Marlatt said in her presentation. “If they can successfully discuss and work on a problem then they are taking positive ownership of the community once again. They are then also realizing the pride that they feel as homeowners in solving a problem.”
Marlatt’s idea is to divide the village into areas, such as Irene Court, South Cherry, South Gorham, etc. One person in each area could serve as a leader and the host of a “block party” at a home or other location.
Invitations would be sent to people in each area and reminder phone calls would be made.
“The party would be a place to meet and listen to a few encouraging speakers talk about how to improve their area. The speaker would lead them in discussion of identifying the existing problems of their neighborhood,” Marlatt said.
The group could then list the major needs of the area and work on solutions. Discussion could also go beyond the neighborhood to include issues affecting the village as a whole.
She listed the lack of sidewalks available for school children as an example of a problem in a particular neighborhood. Needs are likely to vary from one neighborhood to another.
“If they have an interest and idea about a problem, then let’s hear it,” she said. “If they can think of some way to work through this problem, then great.
“If they have no interest in working on this and think that it is not important, then that is just as important to know.”
Marlatt suggested bringing in out-of-town judges to select the group that made the biggest impact. Residents in that area would receive a reward, such as a discounted price for sidewalk installation.
If the program were successful, she said, it could attract some media coverage from outside the area and perhaps get noticed by state officials. It might eventually lead to financial grants for additional projects.
Marlatt envisions meetings scheduled four times a year at the most. She said the process might serve as a good recruitment tool to bring some new faces into public service, and the process is likely to bring some community concerns to light that council members aren’t aware of.
Councilor Jerry Gonzales offered his support, but with a caution.
“I’m behind this, but I want to make sure it’s geared to the village and not to an individual,” he said.
It shouldn’t become a means for dictating how someone else should live.
Ken Delphous agreed that discussion at meetings shouldn’t initiate rules for a neighborhood, but he added that shame can serve as a good motivating factor.
Paul Shaffer suggested that a “pride box” could be used to collect concerns of a more personal nature rather than bringing them up at the meetings.
Marlatt suggested that a way to begin the meetings would be to ask people to finish the sentence: “If I could change or fix one thing in the village, I would.…”
Then the discussion would be narrowed to the neighborhood where each gathering is located.