Opinion piece by Linda Picone, Editor Southwest Journal
July 9-22, 2001
Is NRP Dead? NRP as we have come to know it is at least crippled, and perhaps all but dead. Property tax reform has altered tax-increment financing so dramatically that the money that had been used to fund NRP will not be available.
There are a few cheers at that and far too much silence, at the same time some neighborhood activists scramble to get signatures to put NRP to a vote in the November elections.
The Neighborhood Revitalization Program is not unflawed, but overall it has been a dramatic success. You can easily put together a list of significant projects that would not have happened without NRP funds - the Windom Community Center, for one - or that would have been much more difficult without NRP funds - the Jungle Theater.
The independent evaluation of the program, released a year ago, concluded that NRP had had "a significant positive impact on resident's ratings of how many conditions are getting better in their neighborhoods."
The report also concluded that NRP had an important role in encouraging citizen participation, and that residents of the city believe that neighborhood residents and organizations are the most effective agents in dealing with neighborhood issues.
We can't afford to lose what we have gained through NRP, not if we want Minneapolis to remain an attractive and vital city. We need people to think of the city as an attractive - and improving - place, and we need it to BE that place. We also need to support and empower neighborhoods to deal with their issues and to take a role in solving citywide issues as well.
Gretchen Nicholls, executive director of the Minneapolis Center for Neighborhoods, encourages us to think beyond the acronym NRP. "The loss of legislative support for the work of NRP is a devestating blow," Nicholls said. "But we have to find solutions at the city level to maintain the work of neighborhoods.
"The work of neighborhoods." We like that phrase. Every neighborhood should stop, in this moment when many are ready to either panic or despair, and ask some questions based on the worst case scenario - the complete elimination not only of NRP but of any citywide-generated funding for neighborhoods:
- Without NRP, what is your purpose as a neighborhood organization?
- What are the priorities of your neighborhood?
- How can a neighborhood organization address these priorities?
- What kind of neighborhood organization will work best address those priorities?
- How can we work with other neighborhood organizations to address our priorities - and theirs?
- How do we make sure we understand our neighborhood?
- How do we include the broadest group of residents in our work?
NRP was a tool, and a crucial one, for accomplishing neighborhood work. If it is eliminated, it will be very difficult - sometimes impossible - for many neighborhoods to do what they had hoped for their residents.
But there will still be "the work of neighborhoods" to be done. We need to tackle it.
© Copyright 2001 Southwest Journal. All rights reserved.
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