We will try to post a little history of our formation and efforts, as time permits.
The idea of seeking cooperation between neighborhood organizations began with a modest coalition of neighbors, landlords and other groups who cooperated in opposing an enormous for-profit student dormitory on the west side of town. That coalition, the South Maple Group, had some initial success. The first proposal for a planned development was rejected by Council. That developer eventually received approval for a smaller plan, but was unable to finance the project. The site remains empty.
What became apparent in the South Maple effort was that any neighborhood can only expect the support of its two council members. Creating broad-based coalitions allows other groups to help by lobbying council members from other wards of the city. A long-time neighborhood activist from the northwest side of the city reached out with an invitation to help form a city-wide coalition. In September 2008, invitations were emailed to neighborhood leaders throughout the city.
On Wednesday October 1, 2008, a meeting was held at the downtown library to investigate whether sufficient interest existed in forming a neighborhood group. More than three dozen folks attended that meeting. No one spoke against the idea of forming a new coalition. We set up committees to oversee issues and governance. In retrospect, the issue of governance was critical to the eventual structure of this group.
There are few issues that could ever find universal support from all areas of town. Early in the formation of this group, it became apparent that taking unified positions by majority vote might lead to losing members. We needed to find a way to accommodate differing positions while assisting those with common goals.
A second meeting was held on Wednesday, January 7, 2009 at the First Baptist Church. At that meeting we discussed governance and structure. In essence, the Alliance consisted of a group of leaders. Who can lead a group of leaders? We concluded that the group would be predicated on communication rather than meetings and positions. Everyone involved had more than enough meeting to attend. Thus, the second meeting was the last time the group met.
The Alliance now engages in robust on-line discussion through its email list. As observed in the early period of its existence, there is rarely a consensus on any particular topic. What members of the Alliance share is a firm belief that the neighborhoods should be stakeholders in city decision making.
When the Neighborhood Alliance formed, the City Council included: Mayor John Hieftje, Councilmembers Ronald Suarez, Stephen Rapundalo, Joan Lowenstein, Leigh Greden, Marcia Higgins, Margie Teall, Christopher S. Easthope, Mike Anglin and Sabra Briere. From 2008 to 2012, Councilmembers Suarez, Rapundalo, Lowenstein, and Greden have left. Additionally, Councilmembers Sandi Smith, Carsten Hohke and Tony Derezinski have been elected and departed. As of November 2012, Council will have a remarkably different composition.