JACKSON, Mich. — Jackson Mayor Derek Dobies wants more neighborhood associations in the city and is proposing an ordinance that would encourage that. He said the goal is to put more power in the hands of the city's residents.
"I do believe there's a role in neighborhood associations to play in helping to transform our city and helping to improve our neighborhoods. And, the city would do well to incentivize that, to encourage that, and to develop policies to get more information out to the residents and put more resources into their hands to transform their neighborhoods," Dobies said.
The framework of the proposed ordinance has been in the works since 2015 after the city asked residents to draw and name what they thought were the neighborhoods in Jackson.
"This proposed ordinance is fairly common actually across the state and country, but it has been the culmination of a few years of work right now including meetings with residents and existing neighborhood groups to see how they would like that to play out for them," Planning Commissioner Colleen Sullivan said.
The resulting map includes 30 different neighborhoods. Dobies says it's not set in stone but it shows residents what the associations may look like in the future.
Tonight, I’m introducing a Neighborhood Association Ordinance to City Council. This is all about building on the progress we’ve seen downtown and bringing it out into the neighborhoods.https://t.co/ZpWiRPyLWV— Derek Dobies 🧼🖐🏻 (@derekdobies) April 13, 2021
"It takes the next step of those groups that want to formalize their relationship with the city, more aptly define their boundaries, and also create a process for leadership in succession," Dobies said.
"I think it's incredibly smart," he added. "From what I've seen over the past decade of working at City Hall is that we often have people come together and organize, and when one person leaves or can't devote a level of time, that organization falls apart. So, we can provide a little more continuity and support to neighborhood organizations and associations that want to formalize and grow."
Sullivan says this will be an empowering way to keep Jackson residents in the loop of what's going on in their community.
"One of the biggest concerns that we've heard over the years is the lack or the disconnect between city hall and residents. Often we hear folks say, 'Well, I didn't know anything about this,' or 'Hey, what's going in over here, does anyone know?' I mean you can scroll through Facebook and see plenty of posts to that effect so this would create a streamlined process that democratically elected neighborhood leaders are notified and have a chance to reach out to their membership and discuss the pros and cons in a meaningful process," Sullivan said.
The mayor will be out in neighborhoods between now and May 7, when the City Council will review the ordinance, to spread the word.
Dobies says these associations won't be mandatory and wants to combat some disinformation that is out there.
"I want to be clear it doesn't allow neighborhood associations to put any sort of new taxes or new regulations on houses that may fall within those boundaries. It is merely a way for us to help formalize the organization of neighborhood associations and to assure there is some continuity leader to leader," Dobies said.
City officials say this will not replace current neighborhood associations or watches.
"I encourage people to read the language for themselves because I feel like there's a fair amount of confusion about what this really is, that somehow this is going to be the city controlling the neighborhoods, and it's the exact opposite. I just want to be really clear this is a chance for neighborhoods to guide their own path and future," Sullivan said.
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