Many of my good friends have said that 2016 "just needs to be done". The sad reality is that we are a divided nation. The loss of many legendary people and an unspeakable uncertainty shadows over many of us.
Today, I am feeling sentimental. I was reminded of one of our neighborhood meetings that took place nearly two years ago. Noah and I were recently named co-chairs of Neighbors United when the unthinkable happened in our neighborhood: a teacher was murdered in her home. We reached out to the police, elected officials and our neighbors. We came together to make sense of a senseless tragedy.
Unfortunately, it often takes terrible circumstances to bring a community together.
While we were not thinking about planting trees or revitalizing businesses that evening, we were looking towards the future with hope that we could make our neighborhood a better place to live.
Over the next two years, we set into motion an ambitious plan that addressed many of the safety issues concerning our residents and sought to improve the quality of life in our neighborhood. As I look back at what we hoped to accomplish, I truly believe that we have made significant progress:
1) We successfully launched the LCA Bike Ambassadors. Their presence in the community not only is a reassurance of our commitment to public safety, it is a key force in pushing neighborhood revitalization. Seven days a week, they serve as the eyes and ears on the streets. They take notes and communicate about opportunities we have to improve.
This morning, I read an article about community policing and the City's southwest: http://lancasteronline.com/news/local/community-policing-to-be-tested-in-lancaster-s-southwest-neighborhood/article_8511bc48-bcc4-11e6-a607-ff043ac0b76e.html
While I believe that we have a good thing in our neighborhood, there is certainly room for improvement.
Over the past two years, we held meetings that introduced neighbors to our sector officers and others who are invested in making our part of the city a safer place. While I will be the first to admit that I forgot my sector officer's name, I value their presence in our neighborhood no less. I look forward to reconnecting with our sector officers and hope that our ongoing efforts will include them.
2) We planted street trees. Our efforts received media attention and the rest of the city watched as we transformed our streetscape. We are literally breathing a little easier as new trees are making our part of the city a greener place.
3) We cleaned up our neighborhood. It started with a handful of neighbors each taking an empty plastic bag with them during their daily walk to pick up litter along the way. Our efforts grew to include formally adopting a block with the purpose of cleaning litter at least four times a year. As more neighbors step forward, we hope that every block in our neighborhood will be adopted by Spring 2017. We are making our part of the city a cleaner place.
4) We hosted two very successful National Night Out block parties. By providing a venue for neighbors to reconnect with each other, the police, first responders, and elected officials, the neighborhood seems a little smaller. Caring people and social services were introduced. People were given an opportunity to celebrate their community.
It is no secret that we are experiencing positive change in our neighborhood thanks to the relationship we have with the City of Lancaster, the Lancaster City Alliance, and our neighborhood business partners.
I look ahead at all that the #BuildingonStrength Master Plan promises. I support the vision for a revitalized gateway to the City through our northeast neighborhood and especially along the New Holland Ave corridor. We have the incredible opportunity to build the kind of place we want for us and future generations. I am glad to be working for the good of our community alongside each of you!
- Andrew Whalen, Co-Chair Neighbors United