Molino makes pitch for improving neighborhoods through community engagement
Neighbors need to start talking with each other more, said City Manager Jason Molino during Monday night's City Council meeting.
Molino was giving the council an update on the work of the Neighborhood Improvement Committee, which previously brought forward programs for additional enforcement of yard clean up and property improvements.
There's a three-pronged approach to neighborhood improvement the city should pursue, Molino said:
- Compliance with property standards use and regulations
- Community Development Block Grants to help low-income property owners fix up and maintain their houses
- And community engagement.
Here's Molino's full comment from last night on the community aspect of neighborhood improvement:
We’ve had some preliminary talks about how we can also facilitate the possibility, facilitate neighbors getting out and communicating more with each other, whether through national night out types of events, where you’re getting neighborhoods, blocks, streets out so that they’re socializing and communicating with their neighbors.
A good question to ask is, "Do we know 50 percent of the neighbors around us?” If you don’t, why not?
Those types of things are really going to be the crux of improving what you want to improve in terms of neighborhoods. You want to get neighbors communicating with each other, creating a dependent neighborhood where people look out for each other, they communicate, they talk, because if you’ve got undesirables that want to relocate into the area, they’re not going to want to come to a neighborhood or a street where neighbors are looking out for each other, neighbors are talking, neighbors have good relationships with law enforcement in the city to be able to report problems. That’s going to deter them from coming to that neighborhood, if they’re non-desirables, so to speak.
It’s going to help with a little bit more pride, a little more esprit de corps. People are going to want to talk with each other, to communicate, to bring a little more of that sense of community back.
We’ve seen a little bit of a down spiral, and I don’t think Batavia is uncommon. It’s like a lot of communities. People are not volunteering as much, people are not familiar with their neighborhoods anymore. I think we want to try and bring that back. The way we want to do that is working with some of the departments, getting into select neighborhoods -- each is going to be different -- getting the people on the streets communicating with each other and talking with each other. Those are the types of things that I think are really going to make a difference in the long term.
I told Jason after the meeting that his little speech sounded a lot like something I might say on The Batavian. So many community problems can be solved just through a higher ratio of social connectedness. Communities with higher connectedness have less crime, better graduation rates, higher average income, less disparity between high- and low-income wage earners, better physical health, lower infant-mortality rates and lower teen-pregnancy rates.
I recommended to Jason a book you've seen me mention before: Bowling Alone, by Robert Putnam. Putnam's work (Putnam is a sociologist) pretty much backs up everything Molino said.