JACKSON — Jackson Mayor Derek Dobies today introduced a new ordinance that would incentivize the creation of neighborhood associations and formalize their organization within the City of Jackson. Under the ordinance, residents will be empowered to hold elections to elect neighborhood association leaders, convene meetings, and make decisions about city neighborhood investment priorities.
“This is all about building on the progress we’ve seen downtown and bringing it out into the neighborhoods,” said Mayor Dobies. “By passing this ordinance, we will be moving power away from City Hall and transferring it to the neighborhoods. This kind of ordinance is long overdue, because the strongest cities are the ones that have vibrant and engaged neighborhood organizations, where residents play an active role in planning community events, and real authority to make decisions about neighborhood investment priorities.”
Many cities in Michigan have organized neighborhood associations, including: Ann Arbor, Saginaw, Detroit, Flint, Grand Rapids, and Ypsilanti. In these cities, neighborhood associations allow residents to interact with each other, form neighborhood watches to combat crime, organize projects to help beautify their community, and actively market their neighborhood when houses come up for sale to attract new families to the area.
“There are so many exciting things happening in Jackson, and this ordinance will help us keep building momentum,” said Colleen Sullivan, a member of the city’s Planning Commission. “Putting more power in the hands of residents to make decisions about what happens in our neighborhoods will make our streets safer, and make City Hall more responsive to our local needs.”
Sullivan worked to organize large portions of the city into neighborhood units, and she sees this ordinance as the logical next step. She’s also been working with community leaders on policies to allow and regulate community gardens, urban apiaries, and chickens. Both Sullivan and Dobies see the synergy these policies can have coupled with an active neighborhood association that seeks to repurpose some of the city’s vacant lots.
“Our neighborhoods are the lifeblood of this city,” said Conner Wood, Chair of the City of Jackson Planning Commission. “By giving residents more power to organize and work together through neighborhood associations, we can make Jackson a more vibrant, safe, and welcoming community for all of us. I fully support the Mayor’s proposal, and look forward to working with him to get it done.”
Dobies has been active in the past with creating neighborhood watch groups, including helping to raise dollars for watch signs in the Queens Neighborhood, forming a “night patrol” when violent activity struck on 1st and Harwood, and working to fundraise to place little free libraries in neighborhoods across the city.
He said that this ordinance is the culmination of years of those activities, and views the ordinance as a way to help promote those projects, get our neighbors talking to one another, and accelerate the recovery and development of city neighborhoods after the pandemic.
ADDITIONAL BACKGROUND: The ‘Jackson Neighborhoods First’ ordinance:
- Creates a “neighborhood empowerment fund,” which can receive city appropriations. The money may be accumulated and expended for such activities, from time to time, as matching grants to recognized neighborhood associations for eligible public improvements.
- Does not automatically create neighborhood boundaries. Those decisions would be made by the residents applying to charter a neighborhood association.
- Does not allow neighborhood associations to require payment for membership in the association, nor does it allow for neighborhood associations to enact or enforce new policies or regulations outside of those required by City Council.