July 29, 2015
From RNA Leader Ken Enockson:
Hello Neighbors!Thanks for your patience as I put together the notes from our second neighborhood meeting at Oak Grove High School last Monday, July 20th. Over 60 neighbors attended and participated! We felt that it was a productive meeting and excited about the energy that so many of you bring to the table in terms of moving our shared goals forward and hopefully stepping up to provide fresh perspective and leadership to your respective Neighborhood Association. After 30+ minutes of an open floor discussion about the concerns individual neighbors had and suggestions for solutions moving forward, those in attendance broke into four small groups to dig deeper into the following topics: 1) Support for an increase in police officers in the city. 2) Rental Registry/Landlord Concerns/Inspections Enforcement 3) Creating a Core Neighborhood Task Force/Renaissance Initiative for Homeowners 4) Increase Lighting, both by the City and individual homeowners on their property City staff from the Planning Department, Inspections and Police were on hand to answer questions and participate in the small groups. They were equally excited about the energy and discussion. I think it’s safe to say, that for the most part City staff support our neighborhood’s concerns and will be good partners in moving forward with solutions. It will be our collective responsibility, via the neighborhood associations, to keep the pressure on the City Commission to ensure our priorities are their priorities. The leadership from both neighborhood associations will be reaching out again for your help in digging deeper into these four issues to develop a more specific plan to ensure these issues don’t end up on a shelf, collecting dust. To stay in touch with your neighbors, here are some useful links: Roosevelt Neighborhood Association – http://www.myroosevelt.org/ & https://www.facebook.com/RNAFargo Horace Mann Area Neighborhood Association – https://www.facebook.com/hmana.fargo Nextdoor – Website and App to keep tabs of issues and events in our neighborhoods. There are already over 500 north Fargo neighbors participating, including the Fargo Police Department – https://nextdoor.com/
July 15, 2015
New Opinions concerning the recent string of criminal activity:
Our neighborhood has encountered a recent string of violence and criminal activity that is shocking and unprecedented. We have seen robberies, armed standoffs, home invasions, and multiple homicides all within a short amount of time. Neighbors are upset, concerned for their safety, angry, and want answers. Many believe that the poor policies and inactions of our City have much to do with the bad behavior we are currently witnessing.
One of the primary causes of crime in our neighborhood is home-owner to rental housing conversion. There has been really no management of rental housing in our City. Inspections and enforcement of city ordinances are lacking; it may take ten or more or years for a property to ever be inspected, and enforcement is problematic. Developers and profiteers are allowed to convert once good housing stock intended for families, the core of good neighborhood fabric, into rental slums that attract the bad characters that we are now seeing take over our older neighborhoods. The lack of focus on land-use, infill, and planning also has helped with decline in our older neighborhoods. Fargo Police have done the best job they can and should be admired, but response to escalating criminal problems in our area has been slow to non-existent in many instances. Finally development far to the south of Fargo and other priorities have stretched many city services thin and detracted from meeting the needs of the core of our City.
A neighborhood meeting was held at Roosevelt School on Wednesday, July 8. The response was overwhelming with over 250 in attendance, and it was found necessary to relocate the meeting to the gymnasium because of the turnout. There were a number of presentations by the Mayor, Commissioner Sobolik and the Police Department. The Mayor and staff must have had their eyes opened by the record number of attendees, and the amount of great questions, passion and caring that the audience showed. It is this kind of communication that will help us solve this problem. The audience definitely identified with discussions around theft, crime and drugs, the lack of street lighting in our neighborhood, and problems with rental housing, landlords, inspections and ordinances.
Our Neighborhood Association has communicated to the City Commission our primary solutions for solving core neighborhood problems:
- A core neighborhood renaissance district patterned much like downtown Fargo’s R-zone. It would be intended to cultivate and create an environment including grants, loans, and tax incentives for remodeling of older housing, conversion of rentals back into owner-occupied housing, and create new infill into empty lots or unsalvageable houses. The current NRI program is not enough and is ineffective and over-complex. It doesn’t meet the needs of neighbors; you only need to look at participation in this program to see that.
- Formation of a rental registration and management program. Such a program would require annual registration, annual inspections, mandatory background checks on all tenants, and landlord training and enforcement. The June 18th Fargo Forum editorial (Get Tough on Metro Slumlords) has it right when it criticizes the City elevating slumlord’s property rights over the rights of neighbors. Fargo needs to reverse this to ensure we have rental landlords who don’t profit while ruining our neighborhoods. If landlords are bringing our City down, then they should not be allowed to continue.
- Police enforcement of crime, loud-party ordinances, and other incidents. Often current response is too late, or ineffective to produce good results. In the June 20th Fargo Forum front-page article (More Violent than Ever), it shows that Fargo’s crime is higher than the national average. If Fargo PD needs more officers, then it is the obligation of the City Commission to fund more police officers to handle the case load in a timely manner.
- Focus the City Planning department on revisiting the land-use plan of our older neighborhoods, and create a plan that creates energy around revitalizing these neighborhoods. Too often the Planning Commission and department are forced to be focused on areas far to the south of Fargo, and the problem is that most of their time is spent on these new developments, not in older parts of Fargo. If more Planning staff is needed to handle this work, then we believe that it should be funded so that we have positive growth, infill, and revitalization on the core neighborhoods. It is sad that the Fargo Forum front page article from June 24 (Two Murders, One Suspect) notes that the area “has changed significantly over the past few years, from single-family homes to multi-unit rental properties.” We need to reverse this trend or it will continue to get worse. Our Planning department needs to play a bigger role in helping define the plan for growth and revitalization.
- Inspections and Code Enforcement needs to be a priority. It is profound that if a complaint is made, that it takes 30-60 days of notification and Inspections dealing with an absentee owner to get something done. Often it seems that complaints are ignored and nothing is done. It also seems that the City has only 2 or 3 people doing inspections for a City of 115,000 people. Many times rental properties are not inspected, or according to a recent Forum article it may take years to have a rental property inspected. And the June 16 Forum front page article (Battling Building Decay) points out that often City of Fargo Inspections “can’t always do anything about it”, placing a higher regard on “people’s property rights” than on the rest of the neighborhood. We think that Inspections needs a change in process, and more people to get the job done.
- Dedication and interest of City Commission to the plight Fargo’s core neighborhoods. It starts at the top. We believe our City Commission members need to prioritize core neighborhoods as an issue and focus the energy of our city departments on these issues.
- A combined task force comprised of local neighborhood representatives, Fargo Police, Inspections, Planning, and City Commission members. This task force would meet monthly (or more often as necessary), in order to plan and implement policies and procedures that effectively deal with the problems of our core neighborhoods.
(You may also express your opinion via email to email@example.com)
Walk Clear Campaign
Remember our Walk Clear Campaign and see the Walk Clear link on the RNA home page for the details on what steps to take if you can’t “walk clear” in your neighborhood. This time of year be on the lookout for shrubs or tree branches that overhang the sidewalk and toys or bikes across the sidewalks. Keep our neighborhood a safe place to walk!
Do you know of a House For Sale in our neighborhood?
Help us with an effort to stop the trend toward rental housing and over-occupancy in our neighborhood by reporting an available property to RNA! To report a house for sale, please send the following information to RooseveltNeighbor@myroosevelt.org
- property address AND
- realtor name/company information
We will send the Realtor a letter emphasizing the importance of sharing laws about renting and occupancy with any potential buyers.
Miscellaneous Event Pictures courtesy of Martha Berryhill
2014 community block party
There are pictures from the July 9, 2013 clean up at Johnson Park sent by Connie Norheim: