Sunday, October 4, 2009

Canton Program Resurfacing...

Volunteers work on the community garden on 10th & Pine Streets

Posted by: Noel Jones

The Express Times reported today that the WWNP Urban Ecology's canton program is ready to make a come-back with a canton meeting schedule starting Monday, Oct. 5th:

Express Times Article on New Canton Program Schedule

It will be interesting to see if the program succeeds in recapturing the core attendance of 40-50 committed residents that got it off to such a good start last year, only to fizzle out after the unexplained exit of Igho,
the program coordinator, after a few months. Resident reviews on the canton program, which is supposed to be a citizen-driven program, have been mixed, with the only tangible results of resident initiatives being the two community gardens that were planted this summer at 10th & Pine and 5th & Ferry. Three other resident initiatives that I know of have been put forward, and their fates remain to be seen: the Landlord Licensing Act, the landscaping plan for the Getty Mart, and the neighborhood newsletter, West Word, due to come out Dec. 1st. There is also a new initiative in the brainstorming stages for rehabbing Dutchtown Park.

Critics of the program have pointed to the confusion and loss of momentum caused by the shake-up in management, without a clear explanation to residents as to what specifically precipitated Igho's departure. Other residents have expressed disappointment in what they view as attempts by program management to spoon-feed initiatives to residents, rather than allowing residents to come up with their own initiatives, the supposed process of the program. Still others were unhappy that residents didn't get to come up with and vote on their own canton names, or their own categories of focus.

In my opinion, the greatest hinderance to the canton program is CACLV/WWNP's absolute aversion to getting involved in anything that would rub the City wrong politically, therefore shying away from any programming that would inspire or encourage political will among residents of our neighborhood, which is what we need most. I have a hard time imagining any real change coming to the West Ward through any organization that is afraid to challenge the status quo on issues of neighborhood physical quality, safety, code enforcement on slumlords, housing and deconversion incentives--the issues that affect our neighborhood most. With the mayor sitting on the steering committee, it's easy to understand why.

If the canton program is to survive and thrive, CACLV/WWNP will have to convince residents who came to the table at the beginning of the program and were disappointed, that it is going to be different this time around, that the program will be truly citizen-driven, and that the organization will get behind any citizen initiative that emerges from the process, whether or not it pleases the City.

The folks at CACLV/WWNP are good people who mean well and work hard, so I plan to attend the first meeting for our canton to see what, if anything, has changed, but I will reserve my enthusiasm until I can see what the program's organizers have learned from past experiences.

Be sure to keep an eye on the RESTORE WW web site (the link is on the side bar at the top right of the home page for this blog) for a community calendar with all meeting dates and times that relate to our neighborhood.


Alan Raisman said...

I am the Project Manager for Dutchtown Park. If you live near Dutchtown Park, no matter your canton, and are interested in getting involved in the rehabilitation of the park, please send me an email or contact me. I first got involved in the West Ward two years ago as a member of the TALL Team of Easton's Weed and Seed Initiative. Because of classes, I had to leave the new Neighborhood Restoration Committee, but in August, I joined the Safety Committee of Easton's Weed and Seed.

I am trying to become more visible within the West Ward, and I took on the role of Project Manager hoping to understand the residents of the West Ward and the environment in which they live. If you are interested in helping rehabilitate Dutchtown Park, located between Walnut Street and Pine Street, please let me know.

I look forward to working with you, and I thank you for allowing me to work with you to redevelop a very valuable asset of Easton's West Ward. I will be attending the Dutchtown Park canton meeting, the Franklin canton meeting, and the Courthouse canton meeting. I will also be knocking on doors, introducing myself to the residents surrounding Dutchtown Park.

Alan Raisman
Lafayette College Student

noel jones said...

Hi Alan,

Thanks for your interest in the West Ward. Is the Dutchtown project not a canton project then? My understanding of the structure is that is supposed to originate from and be designed by West Ward residents. Maybe this is a separate WWNP project that is not part of the canton process?

Alan Raisman said...

We are forming a Dutchtown Park Committee which will work with a variety of groups. One group will be the cantons. We want this committee to be as grassroots as possible. We want this park to be a project created by the residents, not by the cantons or by one specific organization.

noel jones said...

So how did you come to be the Project Manager? I want to be really clear here for anyone reading, especially since this is a post about the canton program specifically, and initiatives in the canton program are supposed to originate and be managed by the residents.

When you say "We want this park to be a project created by the residents, not by the cantons" it is confusing because the cantons are the residents. And I'm not sure how the cantons would be participating in a partnering capacity, if the decision to partner didn't originate from residents and come up through the canton process, rather than a top-down approach that would seem to suggest, "this is what we're doing, this is a great thing and you should be excited about this, so please get on board."

It sounds from what you're describing that this is something you originated--would that be right? It's still a good project either way, but by definition it sounds like it is impossible for the cantons to be partnering because the process goes against the canton process model.

Please let us know how specifically this all came about. Thanks, Alan.

Alan Raisman said...

The West Ward Neighborhood Partnership wanted to redevelop Dutchtown Park, and the Landis Community Outreach Center said that they could provide an intern to serve as a Project Manager. I was asked to take on this position because of my prior involvement in the West Ward and my connections throughout Easton.

When I was approached, it was suggested that we work as an individual entity, rather than through a group. Not all of the residents in a neighborhood know about the canton system, and when we form the Dutchtown Park committee, I want to invite neighbors to take part in this project, not to take part in the West Ward Neighborhood Partnership or the canton system. In addition, Dutchtown Park (the park, not the canton) is close to three cantons, not just one. In order to work with the most residents possible, we have to separate from the canton system so we all gather as because we care about Dutchtown Park rather than the Dutchtown Park canton.

We want this project to be as inclusive as possible, and we want it to be done through the residents. I don't want to go tell neighbors to go to a canton meeting in order to get involved; I want to tell people that they can get involved whether they are currently or not.

I would never create a project in the West Ward without the consent of the residents living in the West Ward. I would never create a project anywhere in Easton, coming in as an outsider, without the consent of the residents in the region.

My goal with this project is to include the residents and create a park that is sustainable, so when I graduate in May, the residents will be happy because of the work they accomplished, not because of the work I accomplished. I will be working with the residents to see that they create a park that they want.

noel jones said...

Thanks, Alan. I had heard that it was a canton program, so this explains it. Still not sure as to how the cantons could partner as that decision to partner would have to come from residents, not from management.

As for the park bordering three cantons, that's not really an issue with the canton program, as cantons 7&8 have worked together before on the landscaping plan for the Getty Mart, and for the new newsletter, the West Word, coming out in December.

But if Lafayette is wanting to do outreach of its own with residents neighboring the park, that's a separate thing and great to hear. Hopefully some new neighbors will get inspired to become involved.

I'm glad to see Lafayette getting involved in the WW in various ways. I have always thought Dutchtown Park to be a potentially adorable pocket park for residents to read the paper in, kids to play in, etc. I would love to see it get some of the TLC it needs. Please keep us posted as to how it's all going as it develops.

Alan Raisman said...

I certainly will, and hopefully those that get involved will post too!

I started a blog of my own, but for now, there is not much information on there. The current members of the committee are Terrence Miller and Cathy Stoops. We just started our outreach. It will expand once the Dutchtown Park canton meeting takes place on October 14.

The website of the blog is below.

Julie Zando-Dennis said...

Reading Alan's comments, I can't help but feel that he has a profound lack of understanding of the way in which the Canton system is supposed to work. Cantons are "as grassroots as possible." It makes no sense to say "[w]e want this park to be a project created by the residents, not by the cantons . . ." or "[i]n order to work with the most residents possible, we have to separate from the canton system." These overly-narrow interpretations of the canton system renders all possible work performed by the cantons as excluded from the Dutchtown Park project under Alan's leadership.

Alan Raisman said...

Hi Julie Zando-Dennis,

You are correct to say that I am completely uninformed about the canton system. I will be attending three canton meetings in order to better understand the way the cantons function. But because Dutchtown Park is in close proximity to three different cantons, it is important that we work as a separate unit in order to bring those three regions together. In addition, those who live near the westernmost border of the Dutchtown Park canton may not have a deep connection to Dutchtown Park, whereas those who live near the corner of Walnut Street and Locust Street, located in the Courthouse canton, have a deeper connection to Dutchtown Park.

I look forward to getting to know more about the canton system as the weeks progress. I will be at the Dutchtown Park canton meeting on October 14, the Franklin canton meeting on October 21, and the Courthouse canton meeting on October 22. I would love to meet any interested parties who can both educate me as well as help give Dutchtown Park the attention it deserves.

Anonymous said...

Why are we giving Alan a hard time. As I see it he is a college student wanting to help make a difference. Heck the members of his committee I am told are bloggers here. The park is a project that was talked about at a WWNP meeting. Isn't it enogh to just say thank you to him and the volunteers that want top make a difference.

Alan, thank you.

Julie Zando-Dennis said...

Rather than seeing it has "giving Alan a hard time," perhaps we should consider it constructive critcism to a young man who clearly is interested in pursuing a leadership role. Declaring that "I am the Project Manager" without identifying what "the project" is, or who "the project" is sponsored by, is, at minimum, insensitive to those who have already been working hard to improve Dutchtown Park.

noel jones said...

I think Alan is up to the challenge of earnest resident discussion, and he seemed to understand that residents' questions were to gain clarification as to canton participation, not to disparage the project, or Alan. I think it's safe to say that WW residents are happy that something is being done with Dutchtown Park.

As we move into the new canton meeting schedule though, it is very important to draw a distinction between partnering with the WWNP, and partnering with the canton project, which is part of the urban ecology program under the WWNP, but not synonymous with the WWNP. Cantons can't be partnering, according to their definition, unless that initiative to partner is originating within the individual cantons themselves, not from within urban ecology program management.

Alan, as you mention wanting "to become more visible in the WW" which sounds like a political aspiration, that's all well and good, but of course requires getting to know the residents themselves, not just through local orgs, or the City, but directly, and a good way to approach that is to avoid sounding like you, as a young man who lives outside the neighborhood, are here to lead the way for the many people older than you, who live here every day.

You've been very involved around the City in the last year or so--that's great--Easton needs more residents that are willing to get as involved as you have been. But humility, especially from a young candidate, is always a crucial element in gaining resident trust and support and the kind of visibility that works in your favor.

I look forward to the new and improved Dutchtown Park and am very glad that Lafayette is involved in this project.

Alan Raisman said...

I was asked to serve as a Program Manager by the Landis Center at Lafayette College. I wanted to bring interested parties together to discuss what had been done before, and to see how we would progress in the future. I was provided with two names, and I have met with both of them to discuss Dutchtown Park. I am going to the canton meetings to find out other interested parties, and I wrote on this blog hoping to see if there was a larger interest.

My intention on writing on this blog was to do outreach to those who read the blog. I want to find those who have been active within Dutchtown Park and bring them together. I want to find those who have not been active but would like to be, and I want to bring them together. My role as 'Project Manager' is one of community organizing. I will not be changing Dutchtown Park, for it is not my park to change. I will be working with the neighbors to make sure that we are moving forward in order to see change happen.

I am from Huntingdon Valley, and I moved to College Hill in order to attend Lafayette College. As I wrote in an earlier post to Noel, I would never come in, as an outsider, and change something that was not mine. Since my freshman year, I have been trying to meet those from all parts of Easton, getting to know those from College Hill, Downtown, South Side, and the West Ward. I created a One Word - One City campaign, asking those who live in Easton and the surrounding areas how they would describe Easton is just one word. I wanted to try to better understand the people of Easton and the Lehigh Valley more, and more importantly, I wanted to try and better understand my neighbors, those who I would be living with for four years of my life.

I have gotten to know this city that you call home, and I have come to love it as my own. But I will be graduating in May and may leave Easton. Dutchtown Park is your park. The West Ward is your neighborhood. And Easton is your city. I would never want to take that away from you.

noel jones said...

We look forward to the project Alan. It's a great little park and I know several residents in the area who have wanted to fix it up for a while. For instance, there's one group of residents in that area who have been working on requesting speed bumps be installed on Pine Street where it borders the park on the North, so people won't drive by so fast...

Shoot me an email if you're interested, and I send you some contact info. It would be great to get everyone on the same page, rather than duplicating efforts.

Alan Raisman said...

I will certainly send you an email! Thanks Noel! Outreach is why I posted on your blog! I hope you had fun tonight at Movies at the Mill! I am in Montgomery County for Fall Break, but I'll be working from my parents' house. I'll be back in Easton by 8:30 AM on Tuesday for a meeting in Downtown Easton.

Cathy Stoops McFarlane said...

Canton 1 is where I lived until two years ago and I still own properties there including a house that backs right into Dutchtown Park. Being very familiar with this park - I thought of it when searching for safe accessable green space for the young children attending the daycares and learning centers on Northampton Street. I brought a proposal to two or perhaps it was even three of the West Ward Partnerhip's committees basically proposing that the park be cleaned up and made safe using natural landscape elements that do not interfere with its natural beauty. This proposal fit with the Urban Ecology goals. One committee member, the Landis Center Director, offered to put an intern on the project to manage and coordinate. Persons present appreciated that offer. Also, there was a consensus to get more community input and participation. The Canton meetings are one way of doing that. Do consider, however, that a Canton meeting is for residents only and of that Canton only. Other kinds of stakeholders exist and may or may not act in individual or collective capacities with respect to things that concern them. And everything of course everything has to pass through the City Departments and probably City Council. I bought alot of daffodils, early blooming so as to not make extra work for City crews, and through Alan's managing we received permission to plant them in the park on the afternoon of October 31. Residents also agreed to do this at the recent Canton One meeting. More help is welcomed and needed I'm sure.