Mayor Luke Ravenstahl paid a short visit to the south hilltop area on April 17 when he addressed a good turnout at the Greater Beltzhoover Inter-Agency Network meeting held at the McKinley Park Recreation Center on Delmont Street.
The young mayor has visited the area on quite a few occasions during his 20 months in office, including Beltzhoover, and he made reference to one of those visits held last summer when a south hilltop neighborhood forum was held.
Mr. Ravensthal said he learned through attending that forum that the proud city residents of this area like living here because: the convenience to downtown; the views and breath-taking vistas which overlook the city; the close-knit relationships they have with neighbors; and, the services provided by social agencies.
However, Mr. Ravenstahl recognized there are problems which lead to reasons why the residents don't like things about their neighborhood such as: the increased need for revitalized housing; the lack of unification between the various neighborhoods; the concern over public safety; and, the lack of opportunities (socially, recreationally and occupationally) for young people.
According to Mr. Ravenstahl during his brief presentation, some of the positives that city government is doing for this part of the city this year is a stepped up effort to tear down abandoned houses, an expanded police presence through more officers and improved computer technology tools for the police.
He also mentioned that he hopes to give more teenagers opportunities for summer employment in the future. Mr. Ravensthal said that more than 800 young people applied for city summer jobs last year, but only about 150 could be hired (mostly through the swimming pool program). He hopes to increase that number this year, if not through direct employment with the city, then through a "partnership" with the business community.
"We must make good sound decisions for future success," Mr. Ravenstahl said. "We need your help to continue to work on your behalf."
Some of the other guest speakers at the GBIAN meeting included North Side attorney Joe Williams; Connie Wellons of the Beltzhoover Citizens Community Development Corp.; Steve Hutter , executive director of Elder-Ado, Inc.; State Senator Wayne Fontana; District 3 Councilman Bruce A. Kraus; Jon Hairston, the program director for One Small Step; and, Liz Style, the coordinator of Operation Weed & Seed.
Ms. Style noted that an application for the Hilltop area was submitted to the federal Weed & Seed program last September and she is hopeful that funding will be awarded for the area before the end of the year.
Mr. Williams spoke to the audience about the NEED organization (the Negro Educational Emergency Drive) whose mission it is to provide access to college for low-income and underserved people through scholarship programs, grants, counseling, mentoring and internships.
He noted that NEED provided 528 grants to tri-state area youths in 2006-07 who attended 86 different colleges as well as five local business/technical post-secondary schools.
Ms. Wellons spoke to the audience about improved housing opportunities in Beltzhoover. She noted that she would like to help anyone interested in finding out how to receive financial help and/or counseling for obtaining home ownership in Beltzhoover. She said her organization is scheduled to host workshops for showing citizens how to learn more about the requirements for home-ownership.