South Side and South Siders are often looked at with envy by people in other neighborhoods throughout the city.
The rest of the city is now looking at South Side to see how it handles the process of exploring a Neighborhood Improvement District. In two well attended but contentious public meetings in October, the NID Steering Committee presented their preliminary plan, received feedback and adjusted the plan, presented the altered plan and received more feedback.
Unfortunately, among the complaints were those upset with the Pennsylvania law which allows forming NIDs in the state and how votes are counted. While the NID Steering Committee can recommend changes to the boundaries of the South Side Improvement District or the millage rate of commercial and residential properties, they can do nothing about the law and don't deserve the verbal abuse with raised voices they were subjected to at the meetings.
Another unfortunate action stemming from the improvement district campaign is the call of one businessman to boycott other businesses in South Side which are supporting the NID effort. It seems a bit extreme to be boycotting neighboring businesses on a "proposed" plan when the things most everyone in the neighborhood can agree on are safe, clean streets and a solution to the parking problem. They just don't agree on how those goals should be achieved.
One thing South Siders have been good at over the last 20 years is process. Through the Planning Forum they have educated four city administrations, three councilman and countless developers on what was best for their neighborhood. The Planning Forum published the South Side Neighborhood Plan and updated it to keep up with the goals of the community through feedback from its member organizations.
And now the Planning Forum is overseeing the South Side Improvement District exploratory process. Those who disagree with the plan have had several opportunities to voice their opinions and will have several more opportunities.
Those who disagree with the law should contact their state elected officials to express their displeasure. Until the law is changed, the NID Steering Committee will continue to work within the parameters set forth by the state.
Those who feel the vote is slanted toward forming an improvement district should also consider although those failing to return their ballots are counted as a yes vote, it only takes 40 percent not 51 percent of property owners voting against it to defeat the NID.
Before dismissing the NID, South Siders should wait and see what the final plan is and how it will affect them and their neighborhood.