When Xy & I bought our house in Mid-City, we immediately joined the Mid-City Neighborhood Organization out of general principle. I like the idea of civic organizations, and I want to be an active and involved member of my community.
Yet I had some questions and reservations about the MCNO. For one thing, the events I attended seemed to fall into two categories: parties or informational meetings. They were nice for what they were, but I never gained any insight into how the organization made decisions. How did the membership express its concerns? Also I wasn’t really sure what the group did, outside of organizing the events I attended. A newsletter came out erratically, but it didn’t contain much information, and the group’s website seemed to undergone periodic redesigns without ever presenting current information. There also seemed to be a focus on the City Park neighborhood rather than the whole of the Mid-City district. (I live in mid-Mid-City.) But probably my biggest concern was that, from what I could tell, the membership did not seem to reflect the population of the neighborhood at all.
Then the most recent issue of their newsletter arrived. It was bigger than ever and on the front page there was an article by the president about the MCNO Board, which actually addressed one of my concerns:
So the question might be asked who is “The Board” and how does one get to be a part of this club?
Strangely enough, he doesn’t answer these questions in the article, but he does extend an “invitation to get involved,” with the time and place of the MCNO Board meetings.
So, last night, I went to my first MCNO Board meeting. I found that upon closer examination many of my fears and criticisms seem justified. Yes, their process is unclear. Yes, they’re focused on the relatively affluent City Park area. Yes, they’re mostly white homeowners purporting to represent an district populated by mostly black renters.
But they seem to have the ear of Councilman Jay Batt, and they seem to be getting some things done. And I got the impression that they were aware of at least some of their shortcomings. They are in a period of transition, which became especially clear when the former president of the organization asked to be given a position on the Board. This led to a contentious exchange regarding a number of particulars, including a recent article in the Gambit, and eventually I left.
Yes, they’re in transition, but the question remains:
- What are they transitioning into?
- How is the MCNO Board established? Are there elections?
- Does the MCNO have bylaws or a mission statement?
- What role does the general membership have in the steering of this organization?
- Can the MCNO help me improve my neighborhood, or is it just about the City Park area?
- How receptive is the current group to the idea of broadening its membership?
- And is there any place for me to be involved with a group like this?
Our neighborhood needs a truly inclusive, membership-driven organization that will look out for the best interests of all its residents. I would much rather work with an established group than try to establish a new one. I would like to think that MCNO is that organization, or that it could at least move in that direction — but I’m just not sure.