Good morning, welcome, and thank you for having me. My name is Jennifer Plunkett and I am a resident of the City of Rochester. I am 33, have been married 11yrs, and have a 3yr old son. I have lived in the same zip code my entire life and take great pride in that.
My Husband and I own a business on one of the Cityís commercial Avenues. About four years ago I found myself complaining of police service. At the time the Monroe Avenue Merchants were fortunate to have a walking beat and several officers I had come to know suggested I take my issues to an open meeting called the Police & Citizen Interaction Committee. Here I learned I could gain understanding and give input regarding Police/Quality of Life issues. Form that experience I began to get involved in the merchant association and a year later became President. I am also President of my Neighborhood, the Swillburg Neighborhood. After becoming involved at this level I wanted to better understand how my City Government worked. I knew of Neighbors Building Neighborhoods (which I may further call NBN) and wanted to participate and learn more about it. I spoke with my area Neighborhood Preservation Company and found out Sector 6 where my Neighborhood is, was in need of a Co-Chair. I agreed to take this on and I am presently finishing my 1st yr as chair.
Our Mayor William Johnson, whom was just elected to his 3rd term, recognized the need to revitalize the City Ė the core to our County of Monroe. He saw the need to bring and keep people living, working, and running businesses within the City. Especially since Rochester was built for 350,000 and over the last 45yrs has now approximately 240,000. One way Mayor Johnson saw to accomplish this was to promote and encourage citizens to participate in City planning for their neighborhoods. In 1993 the City began implementing the NBN Process. It has been 8yrs in the making and continues to struggle, Neighbors Building Neighborhoods will not solve everything but it is the Process that is very important.
Just prior to 1993, and for implementation, the City was divided into 10 sectors. After much discussion it was determined that if the started as a pilot project, always a Pilot program and therefore rolled out the concept throughout the entire City. Several sectors contain up to 7 neighborhood associations and others may consist of just one. Within our Neighborhoods some have block & street clubs. Within my sector a continuous goal is to identify more block & street clubs to offer support, resources, information and advice to a number of leaders, therefore opening the lines of communication, gaining the ability to be more inclusive when asking and learning what citizens concerns, ideas, and desires are.
There is a vision statement for NBN and I will take a moment to read it:
Rochester is a City of interdependent and interrelated Neighborhoods with citizens that are actively involved in planning for and creating their future. Citizens participate in developing Neighborhood visions, goals, and action plans through a process that creates community partnerships, encourages capacity building and emphasizes community strengths and assets.
There are four goals of NBN:
*To develop and maintain stable, healthy and diverse Neighborhoods within the City that is interdependent and interrelated.
*To encourage the development of strengths, assets, and capacities of Neighborhoods residents, organizations and institutions through the planning and implementation process; to develop the capacity of residents and organizations to plan for their future and take action to realize that future.
*Provide a comprehensive, on-going process for obtaining input from Citizens on decisions that affect their future.
*and to use the Campaigns outlined in the Rochester 2010 Renaissance Plan as a guide for determining Sector activities.
There are three groups at the first level of NBN Ė The Sector, The City, and Implementing partners, who are groups or organizations that are working to accomplish an action plan item. Each group has some guiding principles: The sector will be as inclusive as possible throughout the process regarding membership on committees and welcome all view points concerning Neighborhood issues, priorities, and concerns. Sectors will throughout the process, inform residents of Neighborhoods within the Sector about the Process, all major work completed and final products and work to implement Sector Action Plans. The City will provide technical assistance and information to Sector. The City will respond to requests for additional technical assistance, meeting facilitation or other general help within the reasonable limits of the staffing and resources of the City. The City will respect the work of the Sector as legitimate priorities of the Neighborhood and community, and will reflect those priorities, as best it can in itís planning and decision making activities. Maintain early and open communication with Neighborhoods and the community on issues that may affect them, giving priority to those generated through the update process. As well, the City will publicize the NBN Process throughout the creation of various marketing strategies, such as periodic progress reports, citywide events, and promotional items. Implementing partners will ensure communication occurs with Neighborhood residents, the Sector and City Staff. They will assist when needed in the implementation of NBN activities. Respond to requests from the Sector committees for general help or technical assistance in reaching NB goals. They will also promote the NBN process, its successes and activities.
Much research went into developing NBN. And Doug put it well, NBN is a machine that requires people to operate and fine-tune it. Each Sector develops its own organizational structure, by-Laws, and process for handling their budget and funding opportunities. Each Sector has a chair and co-chair, but terms are determined and vary by Sector. As well, each Sector has a City Hall Community Development Dept. Liaison. They operate with an annual budget of $5,000.00 thru Federal Community Block Grant Funding. The budget is broke into four categories Ė administrative, marketing& promotion, special projects, and NeighbhorLink Network Sites. Additional funding sources can come from the Rochester Area Community Foundation, serving a nine county area, Kodak Grants, offering $100,000.00 a year to all the Sectors based on applications in line with the Renaissance 2010 campaign #3-Health & Safety or #9-Heatly Urban Neighborhoods, a 5 year program entering the 3yr. And just this year the Mayor began an imitative called Sector Targeted funding, each Sector has $100,000. to use as a leverage in matching a development of a physical economic improvement with its own sustainability.
Presently we are completing the 3rd action plan update process. Working to determine our goals with strategies and activities to be accomplished over an 18-month period.
Since the inception of the NBN process many resources and technological tools have been created to assist Sector groups. Each Sector has NeighborLink Network Site were we can access the NBN Information Management System database, use 2020 Community mapping and geographical Information System (GIS) software. Each has a link to the Internet as well. Presently the City has listed seven resource publications.
At the end of each implementation phase we receive a Forecast Report created from the input into the Information Management System and is used in the next planning stages. Itís wonderful to see the amount of contributions and volunteers that assisted in accomplishing the goals. Just recently Sector 6 received theirs and we received $38,021 in financial support and $36,610. in in-kind donations. And used over 462 volunteers, figures you donít always realize.
NBN was structured so all arrows go in the same direction concerning Sector Plans, Dept. plans, the City Budget, the Capital Improvement budget and Federal Community Block Grant funding.
Two years ago Mayor Johnson created along with citizens and departments a comprehensive 10yr plan called Rochester 2010 the Renaissance.
The key to the success of NBN lies in changing the vision of thinking for all parties. Change from looking at the deficits and find the assets, stop seeing ourselves as clients/victims but as citizens and drivers of change. City Hall recognized it could not keep the power, but needed to share it will all affected folks. The idea of Professional Planners had to change to a role of facilitator and enable. Everyone needs to act preventively, not reactively. See things on a regional basis, not just local. Instead of pilot projects that tend to be marginal we need to think comprehensively with a framework and strategy. Forget the limited time frames "Flavor of the Month" and go with long-terms continuous, systemic renewable ideas. Instead of requesting new resources, leverage existing resources. Finally, measure success by outcomes not inputs, instead of how many people attend a meeting, how many things came out of it.
In closing Iíd like to tell you what my Cityís Commissioner of Community Development suggested I share. That Albany and its citizens should not become immobilized by what Rochester or other Cityís are doing. Albany is different and it needs to determine what components of citizen participation works best for Albany. Thank You