Hot neighborhood stokes fiery debate

President's Message by John Scheer 

The East Village Association is into its 24th year. The neighborhood has new residents, new businesses and new issues but the organization continues. I can’t remember how many members have come and gone, but I know each of them is committed to a greater good.

WIth few changes, the same rules govern this different, more robust organization. The EVA bylaws spell out its mission: "to provide an opportunity for those who live in, work in, or identify with the social or business interests of the area, to work together for the common good of the community with a positive community spirit; to plan for the maintenance and improvement of both the physical and social environment of the community."

These phrases are cited for a very important reason. It is mandatory that EVA creates and maintains an environment where residents and members feel comfortable to come forward with their ideas and beliefs to share in the diversity of our neighborhood. Our residents need to have an environment that is safe and comfortable to allow them to express their views but also to obtain the necessary neighborhood support and feedback to work towards an improved environment.

As the April EVA general membership meeting was being held, another group of concerned residents held an invitation-only meeting to gather the sense of need for a distinctive group. Then at the April EVA board meeting, Dave Stumm (CAPS facilitator, beat 1322) and Aaron Bilton (prior EVA president), shared with the EVA board that they were working to establish an alternative neighborhood forum where their members could focus on issues of interest in a non-threatening environment. Their biggest issue with EVA was the anger and personal attacks that they believe have been common.

For any community organization, members must have both the comfort and the forum to bring their concerns forward. Many issues by their nature lend themselves to passionate views and personal urgency. The value of including a diverse membership also brings a spectrum of perspectives that can be very difficult for others to accept.

By definition, debate is necessary to reach a consensus. This can raise the emotional level of a community meeting. The best approach is to let opinions be expressed and make sure the focus is on the issues and not any one person.

Please join me in paying attention to the message and format of each EVA discussion. Make your own commitment to be engaged, respect EVA attendees and remain open to their perspectives.

Our neighborhood always will have new issues to address. We can best resolve them by conducting ourselves in a manner consistent with the values in the EVA bylaws.
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