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Bowling Together: The Role of Neighborhood Associations

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Whatever shape neighborhood associations assume, cities, towns, and counties have been reaching out to them to find ways of working together. As David Kaptain, executive director of Elgin Community Network and an Elgin planning commissioner, puts it, "resident perspective through neighborhood associations is a big advantage of bottom to top planning."

Kaptain's thoughts are echoed by Bob Miller, director of Minneapolis' Neighborhood Revitalization Program, who considers Abraham Lincoln's words apt in describing the participation of neighborhood associations in local planning as "government of the people, by the people, and for the people."

Although neighborhood associations sometimes form in reaction to what residents view as a threat (e.g., crime, traffic, or an unwanted land use), the key is to create a more proactive partnership, one which -- over time -- can strengthen the community. "Bringing the neighborhood associations into the planning process helps them take a long view of what their communities need," notes Mike Dove, St. Petersburg, Florida's deputy mayor for neighborhood services.

In the following pages you'll find just some examples of the broad array of neighborhood associations found in cities and towns across the country.

  • Elgin, Illinois. An older, Midwestern city working with an umbrella nonprofit agency to draw neighborhood associations into the planning process.
  • Suwanee, Georgia. A small, but rapidly growing, community where homeowners associations play an important role.
  • St. Petersburg, Florida. A Gulf Coast city working to empower its neighborhood associations.
  • Minneapolis, Minnesota. A progressive city providing neighborhood associations with the responsibility for allocating substantial funds for neighborhood-determined improvements.

We'll focus on the role of neighborhood associations in these places, especially how they relate to the municipal government and the local planning process. ...

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