Mind the Gap Strategy #1

the Neighborhood Voluntary Inspection and Cleanup Program

Craig Blakely
by Craig Blakely | Apr 01, 2013
| 1 Comment

Summary:

The failure of the City to win the Bloomberg Grant to integrate Safety and Inspections, and the failure of the School District to win the Promise Neighborhood Implementation Grant to integrate its schools and neighborhoods doesn’t reduce the need for both. But the way to do each may be to link them in a unified program piloted in one neighborhood. The City’s real problem is less the lack of money than the lack of real time information to strategically target limited resources and integrate stand-alone programs. Without a new approach, the City is left with an adversarial mechanism for abating code violations which, by tacking the cost of abatement onto taxes when the owners refuse to fix the problems, may actually accelerate disinvestment and foreclosure, and inevitably targets low income residents as much as their absentee landlords. While the Promise Neighborhood is also facing funding limits, its real problem is less the lack of paid professional staff than the lack of a critical mass of community energy that can only be achieved by mobilizing the community at a deeper level. The City and community would use this grant to establish the Neighborhood Voluntary Inspection and Cleanup (N-VIC) Program modeled after the State’s award-winning VIC Program which incentivizes clean-up of contaminated properties in a non-adversarial way that has become a national model. The City would use real-time information to strategically target limited resources by adapting Minneapolis’ Neighborhood Early Warning System and integrating programs in several departments (e.g. alley maintenance, the CityWatch messaging, Summary Abatements, Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design, and the Community Prosecutor). The Promise Neighborhood would build on its already high level of organization by conducting a structured Whole Community Mobilization to achieve a critical mass of assets in individuals, informal associations, nonprofits, schools and churches.

About You

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About You

First Name

Craig

Last Name

Blakely

City

County

Country

United States

Website (if you have one)

Names of others who helped contribute to my idea

How did you hear about the Forever Saint Paul Challenge?

About Your Organization (if applicable)

Organization Name (if applicable)

Saint Paul Department of Planning and Economic Development

Organization Website

Organization Phone

Organization Address

City

Organization Country

United States

Your idea

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Title of your idea

Mind the Gap Strategy #1: the Neighborhood Voluntary Inspection and Cleanup Program

Give us the highlights of your idea for making Saint Paul great (2,000 characters maximum or approx. 250 words)

The failure of the City to win the Bloomberg Grant to integrate Safety and Inspections, and the failure of the School District to win the Promise Neighborhood Implementation Grant to integrate its schools and neighborhoods doesn’t reduce the need for both. But the way to do each may be to link them in a unified program piloted in one neighborhood. The City’s real problem is less the lack of money than the lack of real time information to strategically target limited resources and integrate stand-alone programs. Without a new approach, the City is left with an adversarial mechanism for abating code violations which, by tacking the cost of abatement onto taxes when the owners refuse to fix the problems, may actually accelerate disinvestment and foreclosure, and inevitably targets low income residents as much as their absentee landlords. While the Promise Neighborhood is also facing funding limits, its real problem is less the lack of paid professional staff than the lack of a critical mass of community energy that can only be achieved by mobilizing the community at a deeper level. The City and community would use this grant to establish the Neighborhood Voluntary Inspection and Cleanup (N-VIC) Program modeled after the State’s award-winning VIC Program which incentivizes clean-up of contaminated properties in a non-adversarial way that has become a national model. The City would use real-time information to strategically target limited resources by adapting Minneapolis’ Neighborhood Early Warning System and integrating programs in several departments (e.g. alley maintenance, the CityWatch messaging, Summary Abatements, Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design, and the Community Prosecutor). The Promise Neighborhood would build on its already high level of organization by conducting a structured Whole Community Mobilization to achieve a critical mass of assets in individuals, informal associations, nonprofits, schools and churches.

Website address (if applicable)

Innovation

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What makes your idea different or unexpected? (4000 characters maximum or approx. 500 words)

Replacing the currently adversarial approach to code enforcement with a voluntary approach modeled on the State VIC program is the main innovation. The City would use strategic information to target and integrate currently stand alone City services. The community would use the critical mass of volunteer energy and the incentives of an enforcement moratorium and “free” labor to remove blight in the short-term and spark reinvestment over the long term. Stand-alone programs in City departments would be integrated. The Promise Neighborhood’s community navigators would work with the City to prioritize individual violations and area “hot spots” and help the property owners and residents participate voluntarily in neighborhood clean-up and fix-up days.

Impact

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This Entry is about (Issues)

How will your idea make a difference in Saint Paul? (4000 characters maximum or approx. 500 words)

The impact of this program will be measured in the increased cost effectiveness of City programs as measured by a reduction in the number of code enforcements. The short-term impact of the program in the community will be measured by dramatic visual improvements in the neighborhood as overgrown vegetation is cut back, old fences and retaining walls are removed, trash is collected, and abandoned vehicles are towed away. Mid-range impact will be seen by the increased employability of motivated neighborhood residents given job skills when hired to help improve the neighborhood. In the long-term, its impact will be measured by increased private reinvestment and, by engaging residents at a deeper level than paid staff can reach, a reduction of the achievement gap in the Promise Neighborhood.

Sustainability

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Why do you think people will recognize or remember your idea after it comes to life? How might it inspire others to do something similar in their community? (4000 characters maximum or approx. 500 words)

As budgets shrink, cities are finding that using real-time information (as Minneapolis’ N.E.W.S shows) allows them to target limited resources more strategically, and that integrating formerly separate programs and resources allows them do more with less. As city and foundation resources decline, community-based organizations are finding that mobilizing a community’s assets at a deeper level (as the Asset Based Community Development Inst. shows) is more effective and more sustainable than focusing on stand-alone programs implemented exclusively by paid staff. The proposed N-VIC Program is intended to become a national model by demonstrating break-through strategies in providing more targeted city services and in creating a critical mass of community energy that can become self-sustaining.

Additional resources for this competition are available for download here:

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