Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Urgent: City Council Considering Police Housing Incentive TONIGHT

IMPORTANT: Please read these three articles from the Express Times (the 2nd two articles are extremely short) on the Police Housing Incentive being considered tonight by City Council. Reporters often report on the desires we express at our town hall meetings, only to go to City Council meetings and not see us there to back them up. The Express Times has issued a challenge to residents in printing THREE articles on the housing incentive for police officers that we have been requesting for years now--one article is entitled, "If You Go"--as in, "If You Go To Your City Council Meeting Tonight When Your Requested Issue Is Being Discussed and Decided On." We need to rise to this challenge.

Note that in the first article, the mayor says that the WW and SS have not been targeted, and that he doesn't think it would be "fair to College Hill and Downtown" if they were. He goes on to say that he would consider targeting the WW and SS "if Council were inclined." Well Council only tends to be "inclined" when citizens show up in numbers to speak to the agenda item, so please, if you can set aside 30-45 minutes tonight at 6pm, please come down to City Hall in support of focusing this incentive on the West Ward and South Side where police presence is needed most. We can speak earlier in the meeting than usual, because this is an agenda item, so we do not have to wait until the end and stay for the whole meeting.

The hope would be that either a) Council would target the WW and SS specifically, or b) that they would let the current offer stand, but offer a substantially higher incentive for officers that will move to the WW and SS instead of College Hill and Downtown. This is the type of expense that CDBG funds should be used for if the police budget line item currently being used is not enough.

This is really critical for our neighborhood, so if we want it done right, we need to show up for this:

Express Times Article by Ed Sieger on Housing Incentive for Police Officers

Express Times Article Outlining Specifics of Police Housing Incentive

Challenge to Us by the Express Times! (Note the Title of the Article)

See you there at 6pm!


noel jones said...

Thanks to everyone who showed up tonight at the City Council meeting--we had 11 West Ward residents there and were definitely the majority from any neighborhood there.

Several people spoke to the Council in support of the housing incentive for police officers who move to Easton, while emphasizing the desire for the incentive to be focused in the WW and SS so that the officers will become personally invested in making the neighborhood better and get to know the good neighbors by face and name--to be a real part of our community.

The Council seemed to have already made up their minds, and it was frustrating that a few members kept asserting that College Hill and Downtown need officers as residents just as much as the WW and SS.

On the bright side, at least an incentive was approved for officers to move to Easton--hopefully they will use it, and not all take the $7000 to buy a house on College Hill. One bit of good news is that apparently one officer has just bought a house in the WW! Also on the bright side, the Mayor said that he is investigating additional incentives through other funding sources and might be able to offer additional housing incentives to officers who buy the WW that way. He said this might include offering officers the homes that are getting rehabbed in the WW this year, at a discount to police and City workers.

Thanks again to everybody who came!

Anonymous said...

why would it be frustrating for our council members to include the SS and CH? As a WW residwent i also care about the other parts of the city. How could we expect others to suffer at our expense. We now have an incentive - that's all the counts.

noel jones said...

Come now, Anonymous, are you really a WW resident? If so, tell us your name and what area of the WW you live in and we'll have an honest discussion.

I don't think that anyone is upset about having an incentive for officers to move to the city in general, but the reason we suggested this solution to the mayor at our three different neighborhood meetings with him, was to provide an incentive to move to the WW specifically, where we could really benefit from having officers as part of our community to care about its revitalization on a personal level, rather than just as a job, conducted mostly in a car.

I think everyone is glad that there is an incentive out there, but want a higher incentive for neighborhoods (or pockets of neighborhoods) that are experiencing a higher crime rate.

Also, the neighbors I know (and that's a lot of them) care about Easton as a whole--wanting our neighborhood to improve in a real way that affects our daily lives does not mean not caring for other neighborhoods. But to suggest that College Hill needs officers living as part of their community as much as we do is disingenuous.

Dennis R. Lieb said...

I agree with Noel. All areas of the city have some level of crime activity but the West Ward has the most. If this weren't the case the majority of patrol activity wouldn't be here...the city admits this. There are a multitude of reasons why the crime problems exist more here but one of the main focuses to begin mitigating those circumstances are to have uniformed city employees living here.

Ron Morris' and Ken Jones' comments made it very clear that it's about more than having the presence of a cop living on the street. It's about the community dynamics that develop between police and citizens, living side by side and changing perceptions of people and neighborhoods when they live together and learn about each other on a personal level. That matters more than the potential for someone with a gun and badge living next door to take care of your problems.

It is talking out of both sides of their mouths for five members of council (all current or recent residents of Southside or College Hill) to admit we already get the majority of the patrol activity while at the same time telling us that problems in all Easton neighborhoods are relatively the same and it would be somehow unfair to "discriminate" by offering better incentives to the West Ward.

As a Realtor I know where the majority of uniformed employees will end up...College Hill. The area of least need. Why? Because 90% of them live in the suburbs or rural areas now. The environment closest in physical similarity to that is College Hill. That neighborhood needs no more incentives to sell property. It is the one that holds it's value the best already. There is also nothing inherently unfair to the officers receiving incentives to offer more to live in the areas of most need.

As much as I commend council for the decision to approve the police housing initiative, I at the same time often find it amazing and comical that they still choose to try to snow us on the fact that it isn't any worse here and get somewhat indignent when we insist that it is.

During council's meeting I was speechless over Kenny Brown's rhetorical question "What do we do after the cops move in and the neighborhood improves?" This comment (I guess) was somehow suppose to justify the idea that favoring the West Ward would result in resident cops no longer being needed here after things improve.

My response would be great! That's what's SUPPOSED to happen! I doubt anyone is going to move out of the neighborhood BECAUSE it's improving or that we should expect the resident police to leave simply for that reason once it does. It's hard to respond to convoluted thought processes like this.

I'm also sorry if Pam Panto had a flower pot broken - amongst other mischief - by some delinquent college students during the limited time she lived on College Hill, but what relevence does that limited anecdotal evidence have to the ongoing and extensive blight and crime problems the West Ward faces today?

I'm glad and thankful that this administration is moving forward with some visionary ideas to improve the city (many of them instigated and improved behind the scenes by citizens who don't crave the spotlight). I'm encouraged that we have seen more public inclusiveness by the city on decision making. But we still have lots of room for improvement. As for all Easton's neighborhoods being equally needy? Sorry. I'm not buying it.


Anna said...

Hi Noel: Sorry I did not know about the meeting or I would have been there. I have to say that in NJ my home state. All of the local police municipalities require you to live and work in the same town. I have suggested to both Mayer Mitman and Panto to instate the "Policeman next door program". The program allows police, firefighters and teachers to purchase homes with no money down, low interest rates and at a 50% or more reduction in price. But...the house has to be a HUD home. The stipulation is you must reside in the home for 5 years or more. The program helps build up the neighborhood in every aspect possible. Easton is behind and needs to catch up. It will reduce the crime and help the city regain some pride. The program is working in NJ!

I have also made statements at the Weed and Seed meeting to Mayer Mitman about diversity within the police force. I guess it is easy to ignore our request...they don't live here.


noel jones said...

Thanks for posting Anna. You are absolutely right, and WW residents have been suggesting the HUD program along with other incentives for a long time now.

I know that a lot of people are frustrated from past experiences with Mayor Mitman and even before, but we have to speak up to each new mayor that comes along as they are different people with different administrations.

I know that some people are frustrated with Mayor Panto as well, but we have to give him credit for offering this incentive to officers, even if we continue to urge him to create additional incentives for the WW and pockets of SS, which need officers living in their community as neighbors most.

There will be a Safety Committee Meeting with Lt. Remaley of the EPD on Thurs., Aug. 27 at 6pm at the Salvation Army at 1110 Northampton if you'd like to come out with some other residents planning on going, to make suggestions and also welcome the EPD to take advantage of the new housing incentive and invite them to move to the WW--hope to see you there!