Merlene Davis: Neighborhoods are invited to a question-and-answer with the mayor

Herald-Leader columnistDecember 7, 2013 

  • IF YOU GO

    What: Fayette County Neighborhood Council holiday reception

    When: 7 p.m., Dec. 9.

    Where: Tates Creek Christian Church, 3150 Tates Creek Rd.

    Information: Call (859)373-0793.

I'm not a big fan of rushing into a wounded community, rubbing on a bit of salve and then dashing back to my warm, safe home.

What if my solution only brings temporary relief? Who can better determine what a community needs than the people who live in it?

That's why I believe in and support neighborhood associations. Those groups usually represent a core of residents who love their neighborhood and genuinely want to make it better.

We all benefit from the work of people like that.

But not all neighborhoods have a group of people willing to sacrifice leisure time to revitalize their communities, or to keep them viable. Sometimes that is because they just don't know what to do to become a political force.

So when I got an invitation to attend the holiday meeting of the Fayette County Neighborhood Council, I thought I'd pass it along.

FCNC is an umbrella group of more than 100 neighborhood associations and it serves as an advocate for community concerns such as beautification, traffic or sewer problems.

The group regenerated in 1991 and became a powerful neighborhood ally when Emma Tibbs became president in about 1995.

She joined the group when only 14 associations were members, she said, and they mainly sat around complaining about the city.

"I said if you are going to do this all the time and not do anything to make it better, I'm not coming back," Tibbs said. "When I left, they elected me president.

"One of my first goals when I became president was to grow the organization and increase diversity," she said. "Some of our African-American neighborhoods have so many problems they thought we couldn't help them. We could and we have."

Active associations in Woodhill, Winburn and Radcliff neighborhoods are examples of success stories.

FCNC's assistance to communities goes as far as supporting issues that benefit neighborhoods before the city council, Tibbs said.

Plus, because getting a large turnout at meetings is difficult sometimes, Tibbs said FCNC can also help select projects that will get the attention of residents.

One successful project has been improving the entrance of a neighborhood, she said, to include plants and signage.

"That is something people take pride in," Tibbs said, adding that there are grants available to help fund those projects. "It gets people fired up."

A monthly newsletter that is personal to the community is also another way to keep residents connected. A good example of that is one produced by the Meadowthorpe neighborhood, she said. Also, block parties are always a good way to bring cohesion to a neighborhood, she added.

FCNC also started Lexington Beautiful, a project to plant thousands of flowers along connector streets prior to the 2010 World Equestrian Games at the Kentucky Horse Park. The Mason Headley association planted about 92 rose bushes that are still maintained, Tibbs said.

Neighborhood and homeowners associations join the council for nominal annual membership dues, with scholarships available to neighborhoods that need assistance.

By joining, communities can receive information and help with forming a neighborhood association, as well as packets that include sample newsletters, information from the local government and how to set up bylaws.

Most communities form associations when they feel threatened or ignored by issues such as a new highway coming through or a new shopping center being built. Other issues could be a lack of sideway repairs or street lighting. And still others could be illegal activity.

Instead of one person trying to affect change, the whole community comes together creating a louder voice. The upside is, when the neighborhood is united, crime goes down and property values go up.

That's what happens when residents are concerned with their neighborhoods.

If you have time, stop by Tates Creek Christian Church at 7 p.m. Monday. Mayor Jim Gray will be there to answer questions.

Though the meeting is a social occasion, FCNC members would be happy to give you more information about what they do.

While still active with FCNC, Tibbs is no longer president, having served for more than a decade.

"I had some good help," she said. "It wasn't me by myself."

Tibbs will be there, too, and she's willing to share a couple of ideas she has to help your neighborhood become more viable.


IF YOU GO

What: Fayette County Neighborhood Council holiday reception

When: 7 p.m. Dec. 9.

Where: Tates Creek Christian Church, 3150 Tates Creek Rd.

Information: Call (859)373-0793.

Merlene Davis: (859) 231-3218. Email: mdavis1@herald-leader.com. Twitter: @reportmerle. Blog: merlenedavis.bloginky.com.

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