Joe Fekieta offered an idea for how he and his Hill neighbors can spend a $10,000 windfall from City Hall. The idea starts with a little R-E-S-P-E-C-T.
Fekieta brought up the idea last week at the monthly Hill South Community Management Team meeting. Management teams all over town have two months left to decide how to spend $10,000 each to improve their neighborhoods.
City government’s neighborhoods anti-blight agency, the Livable City Initiative (LCI), is providing the money as part of a national trend toward “neighborhood-based budgeting.” This is the second year LCI is distributing this money.
Fekieta, an artist who exhibits around town, argued that the money should support an all-out public awareness campaign to tackle the lack of respect in the community these days, “to remodel people’s attitudes,” complete with a campaign logo. He proposed plastering “Show Respect” logos throughout the neighborhood to urge members of the community to do just that.
“I must have called the police 60 times with just stupid calls,” he said at the meeting,which took place last week at Career High School. “Why? No respect.”
Part of the campaign would help neighbors defuse tensions during conflicts by allowing them to leave notes anonymously when a neighbor has done something disrespectful, under the banner “Show Respect = Get Respect.”
“I have an issue with a neighbor now who comes home at midnight and likes to let everybody know that he’s back by playing his music very loudly,” he said. “I had to confront him. He didn’t realize he was disturbing people.”
Fekieta said he’d like to see the logo emblazoned on bumper stickers, signs throughout the neighborhood, possibly a mural. He proposed putting the logo as well on T-shirts that the management team could sell at community events such as a rap battle contest, and collaborating with Krikko Obbott and the Hill Museum of Arts to give young artists an opportunity to show their work and get people to the museum.
LCI distributes the money through its Neighborhood Public Improvement program. LCI Director Serena Neal-Sanjurjo said that management teams are free to select their own community projects. Because of the success of last year’s youth ambassador initiatives, LCI is offering management teams the opportunity to hear from the specialists from Dixwell and Newhallville to hear more about that use of the money.
Neal-Sanjurjo said that even if management teams decide not to pursue their own youth ambassador initiatives, LCI is looking for options to expand them as part of the city’s Neighborhood Commercial Corridor program.
“These plans are in the works and we’re looking for partnerships and resources to grow to other districts,” she said.
Neighbors applauded Fekieta’s presentation at the Hill South meeting. Pastor Beverly Dykes offered another idea: Use the money to help teens between the ages of 13 and 15 find productive ways to spend the summer, since they’re not legally old enough yet to work. “They tend to fall through the gap,” she said.
Meanwhile in Westville/West Hills, neighbors at another community management team meeting this past Wednesday night heard about two proposals on the table for how they might spend their $10,000.
Westville Village Renaissance Alliance Executive Director Chris Heitman said that last year the community management team voted to use the money to purchase equipment to help keep up green spaces and common areas, and for major events like Art Walk. The money helped pay for two self-powered speakers and a snow blower that Heitman said came in handy when it came to clearing handicap parking spaces, bus stops, corners and crosswalks this winter.
A good chunk of that money will get spent soon on a used flat-bed utility golf cart with a water tank on the back that can be used to maintain planters, new street trees and green spaces like Beecher Park.
Katie Bradley shared two project proposals for the new money: provide jobs for teens to help with special projects for the summer, or work in collaboration with the Connecticut Tennis Center to provide a youth tennis program. She said in either scenario, the team needs a third party to act as the fiduciary.
But she said there is still some time for people to contribute ideas and urged neighbors to come up with some ideas. “But you can’t just suggest something,” she said. “You’ve got to be willing to put in the time.”
LCI’s Evan Trachten asked that neighbors be ready to vote on proposed plans by the management team meeting in April so that he can put in their request in a timely manner. Management teams must secure their funds before June 30.