Why America Needs a National Neighborhood Czar

Story by Kirk Jones Story by Kirk Jones Photo by Digital Vision/Thinkstock

The United States of America is a nation of neighborhoods. From New Jersey, Pennsylvania,

Delaware, North Carolina, Florida, Texas, Ohio, Montana, California, Alaska and even Hawaii

just to name a few, there are approximately 35,000 cities in America and anywhere between

100,000 – 150,000 neighborhoods. America’s neighborhoods are the core to community,

continuity and commonality to all that is best about our great country. The

neighborhood serves as the center to everyday life and serves as the first reminder of what is

best about our youth, growing up and for some, our senior years in life.

A neighborhood dotted with abandoned buildings, where owners have no motivation to invest in

their properties, is a neighborhood in trouble. Families who improve their economic conditions

move out, and few families who have choices move in. Absentee, short-term ownership

increases, and the neighborhood declines. Even the most distressed cities have some stable

neighborhoods, but those areas are often not immune from conditions that could lead to future

decline. A national neighborhood czar is needed to provide improved programs and resources

directly to neighborhoods that will lead to an increased quality of life for all residents of the

community.

Encouraging economic and business activity in neighborhoods increases the morale of the

community and can provide jobs to local residents. A new strategy to assist in this process

would be Neighborhood Economic eXchange Tracts (NEXT) Zones that would provide

incentives for business and companies that locate in neighborhoods. A NEXT program would

target constructive and positive business and economic in neighborhoods. In San Diego County,

the Neighborhood Reinvestment Program provides grant funds to County departments, public

agencies, and to non-profit community organizations for one-time community, social,

environmental educational, cultural or recreational needs. Programs like this can and

should be a key element in many other neighborhoods across the United States that a national

neighborhood czar could champion.

In the city of Tampa, Florida, Mayor Bob Buckhorn has successfully implemented a program

that has raised civic engagement and heightened the awareness and understanding of city

government, while preparing neighborhood residents to become future leaders. When he ran for

mayor, Buckhorn promised to create a Neighborhood University to give formal neighborhood

leadership training to civic activists. Since the program’s inception, over 200 Tampa citizens

have graduated from the program. The city of Tampa’s program is a universal success and is

deserving of replication in other communities not only in the United States but around the

world. Creative thinking like Mayor Buckhorn’s Neighborhood University is what is needed

from a national neighborhood czar. Let’s urge HUD Secretary Carson, congress and President

Trump to strongly consider a national neighborhood czar to revitalize and re-invigorate our great

American neighborhoods.

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| 291 views | February, 21st, 2018

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