On Thursday night, the Mount Washington Community Development Corporation (MWCDC) held its final forum meeting of 2012, where the main matter was forum meetings, or, more specifically, the issues board members and residents would like to see addressed at forums in the coming year.
Conducting the meeting in an informal fashion, MWCDC president Jon Lusin asked those sitting in audience to toss out some topics they’d like to see tackled in 2013.
Kearsarge Street resident Pat Palmer was the first to raise her hand. Coined “the shred-it lady” by those familiar with her and her cause, she presented her case for a community shredding event, where locals could bring their old and outdated documents to a designated Mount Washington location to be shredded right then and there by a paper management company.
Ms. Palmer said the idea for such an event came to her after her mother, who had resided in Mount Washington for 62 years, passed away earlier this year.
“She held on to everything,” Ms. Palmer lamented, “and I am overwhelmed by the amount of paperwork she left behind.”
She went on to explain she had contacted Office Depot about shredding services, and was disappointed to learn that it packaged and shipped its drop-offs to an off-site facility for shredding. That put sensitive documents into too many hands behind too many closed doors, she intimated.
It was to the internet Ms. Palmer next turned and where she found a mobile shredding company neighborhoods such as Penn Hills have employed for community shredding events.
As per the particulars Ms. Palmer outlined, the company is available on Saturdays at a rate of $200 per hour, for a minimum of two hours, with fees to be paid either upfront or by later invoice.
While Ms. Palmer suggested charging interested neighbors a flat fee, MWCDC board member and Chatham Village resident Darla D’Anna had another idea. Commending the idea of a community shredding event, and citing the success of events in other environs like Bethel Park and Scott Township, Ms. D’Anna recommended approaching local legislature for funding.
Holding a fundraiser event was another method of cost absorption discussed.
However funded, it was unanimously agreed upon such an event would be both well-received by and beneficial to the community at large, and especially to senior citizens. It was also agreed upon, should such an event take place, guidelines for what papers to hang on to, and for how long, should be published in local newspapers in advance of the event.
The next item of discussion was advertisement and awareness, raised by board member Gloria Ostermeyer.
“We need to let the general public know what’s going on, about the programs we have and projects we’re working on,” she said.
To this end, Mount Washington resident Karen Merry suggested visual signage to display neighborhood goings on, for example a monthly bulletin board displayed in a prominent location, public posts throughout discrete subsections of the area, or a rolling electronic sign in the window of MWCDC headquarters.
Such tactics, along with monthly paper bulletins, could also build community interest and expose valuable resource information, said Justin Cipriani, who was recently elected to the MWCDC board.
From exposing the good to exposing the bad, resident Tom Brady was next to broach a meeting topic for next year.
“Grandview Avenue is falling apart,” Mr. Brady asserted. “I’d like a meeting about just that.”
Deteriorating benches, fencing and sidewalks were mentioned as structural concerns, which interim co-executive director Jason Kambitsis said sit on city -owned and -maintained property. Though these things can be repaired at the city’s expense, Mr. Kambitsis noted, “You really need to pressure [the city] to come out and do it.”
Another area of advocacy where pressure must be exerted is the city’s handling of abandoned, vacant and/or neglected residential properties, indicated Mr. Kambitsis. On this subject, he remarked the safest bet is to be proactive when property issues are suspect.
“Use 311,” he said. “Call. Then call back to see where in the process the property is. Then call again… until you are satisfied and fully informed.”
To learn what type of property issues are suspect, Mr. Lusin proposed having a forum meeting about the essentials of the city’s property code, where a representative from the Bureau of Building Inspection could come out to discuss what constitutes a violation and explain proper property maintenance.
Property upkeep was further discussed in terms of “clean up days” and education. Ms. Ostermeyer said she would like to see more posting and advertising about community clean up days, and to see more young people get involved in the events.
Getting young people involved was something about which Ms. Merry also shared words. Educating college-aged renters about what it means to be a part of community is something being taught at the college level, she explained, and the MWCDC could augment those classroom lessons on its end by holding a forum meeting on the subject.
To appeal to an even younger slice of the population, while promoting neighborhood beautification, Ms. Merry recommended the prospect of developing community gardens be added to the 2013 agenda.
In particular, Ms. Merry proposed a community garden should be considered for the green expanse behind Whittier Elementary School. Using this location, she said, would have numerous advantages.
Gardening could be implemented as a school course or extracurricular activity, Ms. Merry proffered, and harvested fruits and vegetables could be used in the cafeteria, increasing the amount of fresh ingredients in school dishes and decreasing the food costs for the meals the school provides to all its students free-of-charge.
Crime and safety lessons, a business-owner conference and tutoring citizens on new bus routes were also put forward as focuses for future forums.
Accompanying the last on this list were infrastructure concerns beyond the scope of MWCDC’s authority, but within the scope of authority of our city and state legislators, whom Mr. Kambitsis said could, and should, be called upon to stop by a forum meeting in 2013.
But who are those legislators? Many Mount Washington dwellers do not know the answer to this question, something which area resident Barbara Irvin held could be remedied by a “Meet Your Representatives” community event.
Mr. Cipriani chimed in about meet-and-greets too, saying he thought it’d be a good idea to have “block party days” next year, where neighbors could meet neighbors in community-wide celebrations of fellowship, food and fun.
Tickets for the MWCDC’s Annual Dinner, slated for Nov. 28 at 6 p.m. at the LeMont, are still on sale. Visit http://mwcdc.org for purchasing information, and to view a complete listing of upcoming MWCDC meetings and events.