Best Practices - Vol. IV

Mayor Carol Marinovich

Partnerships to Build Livable Neighborhoods

Realizing that building livable neighborhoods requires a partnership of neighborhood groups with local government, Mayor Carol Marinovich and the City have supported the growth and capacity building of effective community groups. Improving the stability of neighborhoods demands cooperative action involving government resources and citizen participation to build credibility, and people must see the result of their work and feel confident in their ability to create a safe and livable neighborhood. Ninety-eight neighborhood groups have organized to identify, prioritize and cooperate to fix neighborhood problems in Kansas City.

With the assistance of the Community Policing Program and other City support, neighborhood groups have participated in clean-up, crime prevention and other problem solving efforts. The improvement of neighborhood service delivery demands the use of a non-bureaucratic approach to service delivery. In each of these neighborhood initiatives, the key to success has been the ability of all parties to communicate and cooperate with each other. Neighborhood initiatives designed to support livable neighborhoods in Kansas City include:

Drug House Demolition Program -- An example of the ability to cooperate and cut through the bureaucracy was a program that involved the City, the State of Kansas and the Kansas National Guard, and the use of funds from the U.S. Department of Justice. This grant was used to demolish houses that were being used to sell drugs, or identified "at-risk" as a future location for the conduct of illegal drug-related activity. The City contracted with the Kansas National Guard to demolish 56 houses in the first year. The response from the team members, neighbors and community police show a substantial reduction in calls. The neighbors were pleased, and a working partnership developed among the National Guard, City code personnel, police staff and the neighborhood. The project was completed on time and on budget while meeting the priority needs of the neighborhoods. The hands-on approach used by everyone involved, including the members of the Kansas National Guard as they shared breakfast with the children in the neighborhood schools, reduced the red tape and delivered the service in a neighborhood- friendly way.

Community Policing/Code Enforcement -- The Community Police Unit is involved in problem solving efforts on a daily basis, including organizing neighborhood watch groups and participating in neighborhood clean-ups. The Unit works with other police departments, public and private service agencies, and other governmental entities to combat crime, the fear of crime, youth violence, youth unemployment, and neighborhood and community decay. Officers attend neighborhood watch meetings, business group meetings, meet with citizen activists and church leaders, and respond to criminal complaints and through enhancement of code enforcement training and implemented Project Solve, a program designed for juvenile offenders to help create different avenues of opportunities for troubled youth. In conjunction with St. Joseph Neighborhood Watch Group, officers developed a new "Citizens Patrol" function to respond with efficiency to neighborhood problems. Mayor Marinovich and the City Council awarded $25,000 in Community Grant Funds to help 34 groups purchase neighborhood watch signs, clean-up materials, computer software and beautification materials to restore neighborhoods. Community Police Officers responded to 15,618 calls for service and made 3,055 personal contacts/meetings last year.

Code Blitz Teams -- Designed to build a working relationship between City codes inspectors and active neighborhood groups or organizations, the Blitz Teams have empowered able-bodied residents to fix up and clean up their properties. Neighborhood groups provide volunteers to help codes enforcement inspectors check target areas for property maintenance violations. The results include over 1,400 environmental violations, 250 structural violations and over 60 percent compliance before Court action.

Neighborhood Resource Center -- To build on the successful changes already made through Blitz operations, the rental licensing program, neighborhood impact teams, quick response teams, weed cutting programs and increased demolitions, Mayor Marinovich and the City Council authorized an innovative way to unify leadership for the City's neighborhood services and initiatives. The Neighborhood Resource Center located next to Community Policing in an area shopping center will create a place where neighborhood leaders and representatives can gather information, set priorities, and coordinate action with City and community resources to solve neighborhood problems. During the first year, the Center will explore neighborhood-based programs and partnerships, develop accountability for the priorities set by the neighborhoods, and improve the quality of service delivery to neighborhoods.

"Christmas in October" Neighborhood Improvements -- Christmas in October, Inc., a national project, assisted low-income homeowners, particularly the elderly and disabled, to improve their homes and neighborhoods this year. Skilled union volunteers in partnership with community volunteers and City staff provided electrical, plumbing, furnace and roof repairs for 327 homes and five community centers. The City has a three-year partnership with Christmas in October, Inc. and community volunteers to improve the livability and safety of over 1,000 homes.

Rental Licensing Program -- Kansas City requires that residential rental units be licensed in an effort to improve the maintenance of residential rental property throughout the City. Since July of 1996, 4,483 units have been inspected with 7,000 licenses issued for 14,000 rental units.

Contact: Office of the Mayor, (913) 573-5759

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The United States Conference of Mayors

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