Occasional streets.mn contributor John Edwards has a new blog about the demographic gap between his local neighborhood group and the surrounding residents of the Wedge, complete with nifty infographics.
Here’s one of the charts on the site:
I wrote a column about this over at Minnpost today. Engaging with renters is a persistent challenge for neighborhood groups all throughout the metro area, and in my opinion, it ends up making a big difference in the kinds of conversations that can happen about development, land use, and transportation.
This is a tough one. I’m as guilty as anyone. I care about what’s happening in my neighborhood, yet I always find an excuse not to go to the neighborhood meetings. So that’s one fewer urbanist renter at LHENA (or now just Lowry Hill) neighborhood meetings.
I read John’s blog – it confirms Bill’s point over at MinnPost: Neighborhood group efforts at outreach are tough, especially with groups that have limited interest in what neighborhood groups do.
The charts compare a sample of 21(!) – those residents who responded to a 2007 LHENA survey – to the 2012 population in the neighborhood.
If you only get 21 responses to a survey delivered to every doorstep, you really do have a challenge getting input from most of your neighbors. It is interesting that this survey response rate is way below the number of residents who show up at the annual meeting and vote on board membership.
What the charts do not do, is compare LHENA (membership or board makeup) with LHE’s (the neighborhood) population.
the point is that the survey mentioned there is used as a proxy for the neighborhood when it has almost nothing to do with actual people that live in the area. debunking it, as John as elegantly done, is a public service.
The last time I got a survey from my neighborhood group, it didn’t allow write-ins or have possible answers I wanted to give. Different neighborhood, but still.
It’s convenient to dismiss the survey today. But LHENA of 2007 thought it was a fair representation. They used it to set neighborhood priorities for the spending of NRP money. If there are better numbers for LHENA, I’d love to see them. I was shocked to find a LHENA survey with demographic questions. We should have all neighborhood groups do a similar survey at the annual meeting.
For what it’s worth, I think the numbers are a fair representation of what I see at the meetings.
And thanks for reading my blog. It’s kind of an honor to be read by a LHENA legend. BTW, the caption on this photo made me laugh so hard. http://imgur.com/SPeKv6A
The caption is very funny. Why is owning a home a particular badge of honor? Are homes so different from cuisinarts, DVD Box Sets of The Wire, or stocks that pay quarterly dividends that they merit a special line of identification?
“Bill Lindeke, drinker of Guatemalan coffee and multiple-time cat owner, pictured at front blogging from his apartment.”
I do think it’s important to actively engage renters, but I don’t think there are any inherent differences between renters and owners based solely on their home ownership status. I think that in this metro area, where owning is so incredibly common (it is a big difference from the other places we’ve lived), renters versus owners have been used as shorthand for other demographic differences – both real and perceived.
The caption on your link is not nearly so interesting as the dissembling of the planner in the article. I had tried to forget just how much BS the planners involved tried to feed the neighborhood during that process.
As for the 2007 survey results as a “proxy” for the neighborhood association, I get that your blog labels it correctly, but Bill’s post misidentified what your charts were measuring.
Don’t get me started on the absurdity of basing NRP decisions on a survey sample of 21. I’ll add to my list of someday posts for streets.mn one on how NRP destroyed neighborhood groups as instruments of neighborhood engagement and consultation in the planning process.
Is the problem that needs to be addressed (because there is a problem) – an issue of democratic representation, or the quality of engagement in neighborhood groups? I would suggest it is the latter, not the former, and getting people like you more involved at neighborhood meetings is part of the answer.
To paraphrase Bill, the process works better when the quality of the conversations is higher, and that requires multiple viewpoints. It also requires respectful engagement with those differing views, something I find very much lacking in most on-line posts about the volunteers and neighbors who are involved in LHENA.
I’d enjoy having coffee with you sometime, give me a call if you’d like to do that.
I have vascilated between renting and owning throughout my adult life. I have found that I tend to have been more involved during times when I have owned and in contemplating why that is, I think I have rented at times when I have been in transition in my life or my living circumstances were temporary. Not sure if I am typical or not. It would be interesting to survey a study area and find out what renter’s attitudes are about engagement with their neighborhood and their reasons for it.