At ICON’s April meeting, we voted unanimously to speak to the City Council in support of the Pioneer Park Neighborhood Association’s opposition to having the Salvation Army move into their neighborhood. Our remarks to the Council on June 7 are below.
When I first heard about the proposed move of the Salvation Army to Gold’s Gym, I was surprised and didn’t understand how that happened so quickly.
I’m glad I was here in April to hear the neighbors speak. At the same time I admired their energy, passion, organization and commitment to their neighborhood, I was saddened to understand that we have taken a step backward in healing long-standing race issues in Springfield.
I don’t live in their neighborhood, but I do understand their concerns.
I understand their concerns – about the city making promises it can’t keep.
We have ordinances that aren’t enforced – a complaint-driven process that leaves many residents living next to dilapidated, unhealthy properties. Too many Springfield residents live next to the City Dump due to our lack of comprehensive and standardized garbage service. The city struggles to limit the impact of people who intentionally break the law or who can’t manage their lives – and residents suffer. As the Mayor said at the Gold’s Gym open house, “On private property, you can call the police. On public property, well, people have rights.”
Can you in good faith promise that those issues won’t be made worse by the traffic brought into this neighborhood? Can you in good faith promise that a future council won’t undo the promises made to this neighborhood and allow additional services at this location? Can you promise that this move won’t open the door for even more negative changes?
I understand their concerns – about being excluded from decision-making that impacts their neighborhood, their park, their families, their net worth, and their quality of life.
I challenge you to change the way you approach decision-making to include all stakeholders, especially the property-owners and neighbors whose day-to-day lives and long-term well-being are most impacted.
We heard their concerns about rail relocation.
I understand their concerns – about rail relocation and living on the side of the tracks that will be even easier to forget when 40 trains a day go down the 10th Street corridor.
I encourage you to reach across the 10th St tracks with open arms, with a new perspective on the skills and energy and commitment those residents bring to the table and with a resolve to welcome those neighbors and neighborhoods into one Springfield that is working together on our problems.
And I further challenge you to reach across the 10th St tracks with not just rail relocation jobs, but with focused intent and money for economic development of vacant lots and substandard housing to improve the appeal to new residents with additional disposable income – and the associated business development that will bring needed services and good jobs.
How much of that economic development would $1.6m buy?
Whether it’s the Salvation Army, a halfway house, a liquor store or an irresponsible or inappropriate business, there are things you don’t want in your neighborhood. Springfield ICON voted unanimously for me to speak to you on this issue – because putting things in our neighborhoods that residents don’t want is everyone’s issue.
I challenge you to recognize the real concerns of these neighbors.
To actively work to include citizens in decision-making.
To put resources toward intentional planning and economic development.
And to systematically and cohesively address over a century of racism.
I challenge you to embrace a vision of a city that engages all its citizens to be concerned about and committed to the whole city.