Francesca Hartnett (center left) makes a point during the organizational meeting of the City of Plattsburgh Neighborhood Association.
At one point during the meeting someone asked: “What is the cause?”
She was trying to get a handle on what the City of Plattsburgh Neighborhood Association was about. With an umbrella organization it can be difficult summing up the diverse activities under its auspices in a few words.
Previous to this meeting a steering committee of concerned citizens had outlined the structure for the Neighborhood Association. Around 20 people gathered Tuesday evening in the City Hall conference room to learn more about the group and help organize it.
Meeting coordinator Stuart Voss discussed the broad structure of the proposed association. There would be an executive committee that would work with representatives from four zones designated by the steering committee. Each rep would provide outreach in the neighborhoods in a zone, identifying key issues.
But the NA as envisioned wouldn’t be locked into a strict hierarchy. Voss explained that it could work on both local and citywide levels at the same time. It was important to get feedback from citizens and have them network with each other.
This somewhat loose structure could mean that neighborhoods with overlapping issues could work together and address those issues in their part of the city. General issues would mean all NA members would approach city officials en masse.
During the meeting various problems were mentioned, from unleashed dogs to litter to rising taxes. It could be confusing for someone unfamiliar with an umbrella group. What was the focus? Or as one woman had asked, what was the cause?
The NA, explained Voss, wasn’t about a particular cause being put forth. The organization would help to identify issues and use citizen advocacy to press for needed changes. “The framework,” he said, “is the cause.”
To elect representatives the attendees gathered into small groups broken down by zone. Then the groups re-met as one to announce their choices. I didn’t sit in with any group. I was there as an observer (albeit a semi-objective reporter). While I walked around the room to take a few photos, I had a good overview of the NA structure: localized and citywide at the same time.
At this point the plan is for the NA only to have a couple of general meetings during the year. The concentration will be on outreach, recruiting new members, and overall promotion.
Officers were elected. Two zone rep positions are still open.
Nancy Monette was elected as president, Doug Butdorf as 1st vice-president, and Valerie Raugi as 2nd vice-president. As 1st VP Butdorf will be responsible for maintaining communications among the neighborhood representatives while 2nd VP Raugi will have the duty of identifying issues.
For more information on the NA, call Nancy Monette at 561-8225 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org .
UPDATE (3/17/09): In the comments section accompanying this post I address the issue of “politico-babble.” Feel free to join the discussion.