07/13/05 — City organizing neighborhood meetings for fall

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City organizing neighborhood meetings for fall

By Matt Shaw
Published in News on July 13, 2005 1:45 PM

Goldsboro officials could take to the streets to combat crime, litter, dilapidated housing and other problems.

City Manager Joe Huffman and his staff are organizing a series of neighborhood meetings this fall. No schedule has been set, but the first meeting could be held in early September.

The gatherings would be held throughout the city, but some of the first will be held in the low-income areas near downtown that generated the most complaints.

In some neighborhoods, Huffman is proposing the city blockade streets and then invite residents to meet on the blacktop. The city might also use churches or other assembly buildings.

"Whether we're inside or outside, the goal will be to get out in the community and make ourselves visible," said Assistant City Manager Tasha Logan.

At each of the meetings, the city would be represented by Huffman, Mayor Al King, City Council members and representatives of Goldsboro police, code enforcement and other departments.

The city staff wants to hear residents' concerns about their neighborhoods. They will be talking about city services and regulations, but the goal would be to inspire residents to help themselves, Huffman said.

"You can run around and arrest people, you can run around and pick up litter, but until you change people's behavior, you really haven't done anything," he said.

Some City Council members have pointed out that the areas with the worst problems also have a high percentage of rental property. Absentee landlords and renters with no financial interest in their neighborhoods are seen as a large part of the problem.

"How are you going to reach those people?" Councilman Chuck Allen asked Huffman.

But the city manager said he is convinced that many people are reaching the point where they want to reclaim their streets. "I hear from many people who are sick and tired of all this," he said.

Huffman has been considering these types of meetings since the City Council's retreat in March, but he revisited the idea after a recent public hearing that included several negative comments on the innercity neighborhoods, he said.

Huffman hopes this fall's meetings either start or re-energize community groups, such as neighborhood crime watches. The city staff is trying to identify residents who could help organize the meetings and may later help in follow-up plans.