EngagingCities
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A committee that helps guide New York City’s annual participatory budgeting process has urged the City Council to revive the community-focused initiative after it was indefinitely suspended last month.

The process allows each councilmember to allocate money to proposals voted on by residents of their district, and is a crucial way to drive civic engagement, the Participatory Budgeting Steering Committee wrote in a letter to Speaker Corey Johnson Wednesday. They urged Johnson and the Council to meet with them and develop a plan to relaunch participatory budgeting by Nov. 9.

“Participatory budgeting is more important than ever,” the Steering Committee members wrote. “PB provides exactly what New Yorkers need right now to feel connected and empowered to create change.”

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Reverend Rachel Green and other community members have attempted for years to get the city of Durham to install speed bumps on Alma Street as well as Benjamine, Maple, Spruce and Taylor. Community members even submitted signatures in an attempt to get speed bumps installed. But their requests were denied because of the city’s strict requirements for speed bumps as well as emergency route designations. 

Now the community is trying a new approach. The city of Durham, partnering with a Durham-based non-profit called SpiritHouse, has received grant money to turn Alma Street and the aforementioned four other streets into collaboratively designed, pedestrian-friendly shared streets. The grant money is part of a program called Streets for Pandemic Response and Recovery administered by the National Association of City Transportation Officials. The money will fund street calming measures including new traffic circles, crosswalks and curb extensions that residents are hoping will make their streets easier to navigate.

Aidil Ortiz, a program manager at SpiritHouse also hopes that the shared streets project will culminate in a better relationship between the city’s planning mechanisms and the community.

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Bike Lane Uprising is a cyclist-led civic tech platform focused on making cycling safer by making it easy to report bike lane obstructions. They just released a mobile app that makes it easy to report bike lane obstructions as users see them. Simply take a photo and report obstructions. The company uses the reports to find trends in data to hold violators accountable and prevent future obstructions.

While many miles of bike lanes exist, to keep cyclists safe, they’re often blocked by drivers who use them as free parking. By creating a central database of bike lane obstructions they are able to highlight problem areas and trends surrounding bike lane violations. They work with local organizations, city departments, and companies directly in an effort to prevent future bike lane obstructions.

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New parking signage is set to be installed near the carpark at the new Mount Louisa walking track following community feedback.

Townsville City Council is installing the new parking signage along Weston Street and Bayswater Road to dissuade track users from parking in unsafe ways along the street.

Deputy Mayor Mark Molachino said, “Council has received feedback from residents on Weston Street about the impact parking is having on their homes and we are installing these signs to restrict parking and help address those concerns.” 

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More planting, seating and the addition of bike and scooter parking are some of the changes that will be implemented in Takapuna’s town square design, following public consultation.

Over 100 submissions were received in the public consultation from 20 July to 14 August 2020, along with feedback from organisations and groups who will use and operate in the future space.

Feedback was received on various aspects of the design, including its capacity to hold events, suitability for the Takapuna Sunday Market, safety, greenery, seating, wind and shade.

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“My personal history influenced my path, my values and my leadership approach,” said Lynn Pelco, Ph. D., associate vice provost for community engagement and director of the Service-Learning Office at the Virginia Commonwealth University Center for Community Engagement and Impact.

Pelco received the 2020 Barbara A. Holland Scholar-Administrator Award from the Coalition of Urban and Metropolitan Universities on Oct. 21. The award honors a midcareer scholar-administrator for their leadership and impact.

“This award is so important to me because it highlights the scholarly approach that I and other university administrators around the country have taken to community-engagement work,” she said. “Especially in 2020, when university budgets are under such severe stress, this award reminds us why forward-thinking institutions are recommitting to their community-engagement missions and actively supporting their community-engaged scholar administrators.”

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After a summer marked by protests over police racism and brutality, Seattle officials and community organizers seem to agree that vulnerable communities deserve a greater say in the city’s budget process. But with little more than a month before the City Council adopts its 2021 budget, stakeholders still differ sharply over what that involvement will look like.

There are competing visions. Some focus on a $100 million fund proposed by Mayor Jenny Durkan to support initiatives aimed at benefiting Black, brown, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) communities. A task force made up of representatives from local equity organizations, selected by the mayor, would guide the process by issuing recommendations on how the money might be spent. Durkan’s office last week announced an initial list of more than two dozen members.

Others see another way — put forward by King County Equity Now, a Black-led coalition of community groups and businesses, alongside the group Decriminalize Seattle — and are skeptical of the mayor’s proposal. Little about Durkan’s plan, they say, would put sufficient power in the hands of BIPOC communities, particularly Black people, to undo generations of racist policies in the city.

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Indian cities are a key pillar for the country’s economic growth, having created millions of jobs for its citizens. Their scope and growth potential is only set to rise further. By 2030, cities are estimated to house close to 40 percent of India's population and contribute to 70 percent of the country’s GDP.

YourStory presented the webinar ‘Driving Digital Transformation for Urban India’ in association with AWS and Social Alpha to give insights on how startups and public sector stakeholders are collaborating to create solutions for urban development.
Social Alpha’s Manoj Kumar elaborated on the potential for technological advancements for urban development through smarter governance, improving sustainability and liveability standards, and quality of life. 

“Citizens have access to a lot of services through apps and through the sheer availability of telecommunications' infrastructure and internet access,” he said.

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The website of a government-led project to promote local knowledge preservation and open access to cultural materials will officially launch Saturday to mark this year's Taiwan Culture Day, the Ministry of Culture (MOC) announced Friday.

The Taiwan Cultural Memory Bank project curates historic recollections and documentation through words, images, artifacts, audiovisual assets and other creative mediums to reconstruct the history of Taiwan throughout different eras, the MOC said in a statement.

These collective memories will then be introduced to the world through its website. The project was initiated in 2017 to record the diverse cultures present in Taiwan so that future generations will have access to the information and materials saved in the memory bank.

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The Bystander project by Arts Margaret River aims to transform the real-life experiences of people living in Augusta, Margaret River and Cowaramup into a unique, live performance. The stories will offer a first-hand, personal account into the diverse experiences of 10 locals.

The personal stories will be told by Whiskey & Boots (Mark Storen and Georgia King) verbatim, as part of a live performance set against a backdrop of photographs and accompanied by original, live music.

"The aim of this project is to bring understanding to those living around us," Whiskey and Boots said. "We believe that everyone's story is interesting and valuable and that by sharing stories we are able to be in the world together with greater empathy."

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Earlier this year, Wakefield’s annual Public Health Report was published, celebrating the resilience, stories and ideas from communities across the district during the coronavirus pandemic.

The content in Local Story - an interactive archive created during Covid-19 by arts organisation One to One Development Trust as the Annual Report 2020 for Director of Public Health, Anna Hartley – has now been turned into a video as a trailer for the project.

Local poet Matt Abbott worked with the project’s creative director Judi Alston to devise a poem inspired by the incredible stories and community spirit documented in Local Story and members of the Old Quarry Adventure Playground were invited to each record a line from the poem on their mobile phones.

Anna Hartley, Wakefield’s Director of Public Health, said: “This year’s report allows us to celebrate all the wonderful work that has gone on, sometimes unnoticed, and serves as an archive for communities to remember their stories and experiences during lockdown."

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Perry Village government leaders have decided against changing the name of Lee Lydic Park following an online contest that received hundreds of comments. The feedback received from residents who expressed their opinions showed an overwhelming desire to keep the park named after Lee Lydic, who served the village for 34 years as a police officer and chief, mayor and Village Council member.

The event stemmed from a suggestion made by a community member to Village Council. 

“When members of the community make suggestions, we try to proactively reach out to the community for your input,” village Mayor James Gessic wrote, adding that village government leaders appreciated feedback on the subject. 

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A Town Center has officially been announced as the winner of the Love Thy Neighborhood People’s Choice Awards.

Kim Rogers-Hatfield, vice-president of Engagement for United Way Madison County joined us today to tell us more about their organization and what this award means to them.

A Town Center, Inc. is a community art center and an artist cooperative offering free studio space for participating artists in return for their participation in A Town Center’s events and programming as well as other community engagement projects. A Town Center offers a variety of events and classes to the public.  

LISC Indianapolis started the Love Thy Neighborhood Awards in 2017 to celebrate people and organizations that are transforming their neighborhoods, the community game changers that are making a difference. We wanted to tell the inspiring stories that are sometimes happening behind the scenes and don’t have a platform. Each category winner is awarded $2,500 in unrestricted funds to help further their mission.

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Planners work to improve the well-being of all people living in our communities by taking a comprehensive perspective. This approach leads to safer, resilient, more equitable, and more prosperous communities. We celebrate the role that planning plays in creating great communities each October with National Community Planning Month.

This year's theme — Planning Is Essential to Recovery — highlights how planning and planners can lead communities to equitable, resilient, and long-lasting recovery from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Join the conversation with #planningmonth.

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This summer, New Haven architect Ming Thompson worked with interns in a program called “The Design Brigade,” which highlighted the nuanced pandemic-related experiences of the New Haven community.

The Design Brigade internship program lasted 10 weeks beginning in June 2020 and involved three interdisciplinary teams of 21 undergraduate and graduate students whose goal was to build solutions to COVID-19-based problems. The interns worked to design community-based solutions with and for New Haven residents. 

“There is a difference between designing with and designing for,” said Hana Davis ARCH ’20, one of this past summer’s interns and former Weekend editor for the News. “[We learned] how to approach a conversation with someone who has different experiences than you especially when you represent a place like Yale in a city like New Haven.”

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As many Americans get ready to observe Columbus Day Monday, a group of racial justice activists in the Philadelphia suburbs says it’s a reminder that the fight for equity is not over.

Norristown activist Mark Jones helped organize a daylong rally calling for “equity and justice for all people, and especially Black, Indigenous and People of color” with the Montgomery County organization Community for Change.

The rally, explained Vincent, was a way to connect several new activist groups in Montgomery County, which sprung up during the protests calling for racial equity and changes in policing.

Upper Merion resident Stephanie Vincent, another organizer with the group, said the marching has caught the eye of some institutions. She wants to see changes in school curricula and more diverse leadership in local organizations, but that requires activists to start working more closely. She said she wanted the day’s rally to be a “connector event.”

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At a time when urban planners are increasingly being called out for white elitism, Oakland is feeling its way, clumsily at times, down a different, more equitable path. 

Essential Places is an offshoot of Oakland’s “Slow Streets” program, which closed a handful of streets to through traffic so that people could bike or jog while safely social distancing. Surveys administered by the city showed that the program was popular, but there was a problem. Two thirds of survey respondents were white and 40 percent had annual household incomes of $150,000 or more. In Oakland, white residents comprise 24 percent of the population and the median household income is $76,000.

“We got the feedback from the survey and said, ‘Wow, this isn’t representative,” says Warren Logan, policy director for mobility and interagency relations and the chief architect of Essential Places. Pressed by advocates, he doubled down on efforts to get feedback from residents in marginalized neighborhoods, especially in East Oakland, where more than three quarters of residents are Black or Latino and more than half of households are low-income. Residents in these neighborhoods, many of whom are essential workers, have been disproportionately affected by Covid-19.

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The Downtown Austin Alliance works with key downtown stakeholders—property owners, residents, business owners, community organizations and government officials—to advance their collective vision for the future of downtown Austin.

The Alliance was recognized by the International Downtown Association with Downtown Achievement Awards of Excellence for its work and initiatives related to the Urban Land Institute (ULI) panel on I-35 and Writing on the Walls.

The ULI panel was the first step in a community-driven effort to develop a roadmap for transforming the land and streetscape surrounding I-35 through central Austin. 

Writing on the Walls, a series of public art installations and events held across downtown, was a community-wide celebration of art and activism focused on women’s rights and the 100th anniversary of the 19th amendment.

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Tafelsig resident Michael Bell has started a mural art project to get the community to take ownership of open spaces in the area.

The Tafelsig Placemaking Initiative was launched on Saturday July 13 on the corner of Kilimanjaro Street and AZ Berman Drive, next to the Nelson Mandela Youth and Family Centre.

In September last year, the community applied a base coat of paint on the walls in preparation for the art work but could not continue the painting as they needed approval from the City of Cape Town.

In May this year, Mr. Bell, founder of Mitchell’s Plain Online, received approval from the City of Cape Town and support from various stakeholders. It will take about three to six weeks for the art work to be completed.

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Members of an upstart pro-development group are floating a provocative plan to rezone Soho and Noho, two of the city’s most affluent neighborhoods, in what represents their first broad policy proposal aimed at alleviating the affordable housing crisis.

Open New York, which was started in 2016, is part of the city’s relatively small YIMBY ("yes in my backyard") movement. Over the last few months, several of its members have been attending the city's planning workshops leading up to what could be the first rezoning of Soho and Noho in decades. The discussions, which have often been contentious, have largely focused on retail and the rights of loft artists, who famously reclaimed the manufacturing district beginning in the 1960s and have been critical of its increasing commercialization.

But to date, the creation of new housing in the neighborhoods has not been seriously talked about as part of a rezoning plan, an omission that Open New York members say speaks to who controls the city's zoning process.

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As more people explore their neighbourhood on foot, a local company is offering education and exercise through historical walking tours in Kitchener and Waterloo.

Stroll Walking Tours launched in August and gives people the chance to learn about art, architecture and history close to home.

"I've always been a big promoter of hyper-local," owner-operator Juanita Metzger said. "I would always explore local by shopping independently, by engaging in slow travel, which, walking is the perfect slow travel kind of method."

Metzger has a background in community development and community engagement and used to lead Jane's Walks. She said the idea for Stroll Walking Tours came from a conversation with officials at Explore Waterloo Region.

"It emerged as a bit of a gap in our community that there isn't anybody leading guided walking tours," Metzger said.

"Walking tours are a pretty creative way for people to explore different neighbourhoods and explore parts of our community's history and explore ways of looking at our communities that they haven't really considered before."

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The City of Burnaby’s engagement efforts on the housing crisis has earned honours from the International Association for Public Participation (IAP2) Canada for “Your Voice - Your Home: Meeting the Housing Needs of Burnaby Residents.” 

This project, a partnership of the City of Burnaby and the Morris J, Wosk Centre for Dialogue at Simon Fraser University, was a six-month undertaking, involving the Mayor’s Task Force on Community Housing. The over-arching question was simple: “What are the housing experiences and needs of Burnaby residents and what are their recommendations in terms of housing policies and programs?”

To help with the answer, more than 2,600 residents took part, either in-person or online - the largest engagement in Burnaby’s history - and 42 resident recommendations were brought forward, which directly informed the Task Force’s final report.

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Inspired by the success of experimental listening sessions, organizers of the new community relations board announced more sessions in the coming weeks. The first round of listening sessions concluded last night at the City Pavilion. The sessions’ main objective was to get input from Washington residents about how the city can proactively welcome new people to the community and be more inclusive for people already living here.

There were four listening sessions — three virtual and one in-person and virtual — scheduled over the past two weeks. Aimee Appell, chairperson of Neighbors United — Undoing Racism and the pastor at Peace Lutheran Church, 5 Scenic Drive, led the sessions, which were attended by 80 people across the four installments.

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The first time the community hears from you can’t be you asking for something from them,” says Estefania Zavala, Long Beach, California’s Digital Innovation Program Manager. Community engagement can be challenging at the best of times; when communities are reeling from a pandemic, protesting racism, and facing economic uncertainty, engagement and communication are even more crucial — yet even more challenging. In a recent webinarWhat Works Cities (WWC) hosted representatives from Boulder, Colorado, Long Beach, California, and Los Angeles, California who offered guidance on how to engage priority communities, such as English-language learners and immigrants. 

As Zavala points out, establishing regular touchpoints and reciprocal relationships with these communities is crucial. Engagement cannot be a one-way street, nor should it be exploitative, especially since many of those priority communities have higher rates of COVID-19 and are experiencing the brunt of the pandemic’s economic impact. Quality, trustworthy engagement can help connect these communities with health and financial resources, and it is imperative that local governments utilize community engagement best practices to do so. The following recommendations are based on the webinar and follow-up conversations with Zavala and other panelists from the WWC webinar. 

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After residents gave input on “bump outs” proposed to calm traffic in one location in Kalamazoo, the city is now switching to “speed humps” instead.

The change comes after the city installed bump outs in one location and held a demonstration of how they work, leading to complaints and criticism from citizens.

After city officials opted to change course, crews began installing the new speed humps, the city of Kalamazoo said on Sept. 24. The city intends to install the humps along four streets this fall.

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