While you can rant to Facebook and step out onto the streets to yell at politicians, if you want to make a real difference, then the best thing you can do is join your local neighborhood organization.
Neighborhood organizations — ranging from special interest groups for the arts or business to the more general community associations — form the critical spine that allows residents to create real change and stand up to outsiders whether they be developers, Phoenix government or even other neighborhoods.
While social media has made organizing faster and easier, the transformation of the living chronicle of missing dogs, bike theft and community events that is the staple of downtown Phoenix Facebook groups into a real community requires in-person work.
Where bike theft is a problem, the Evans Churchill Community Association has launched a bicycle registration campaign. Where perhaps too many dogs are a problem, the Roosevelt Action Association helped bring attention to an illegal shelter operating on Fillmore.
But perhaps more importantly, these small campaigns earn the recognition from others of the existence of an organized neighborhood group.
Anyone can come by and scream his or her lungs out in a city council meeting or write a strongly worded letter to a developer asking for some special incentive for his or her business. But unfortunately, anyone being able to do it is why it isn’t very effective because many policymakers will just assume if they wait, the angry people will go away.
Joining a neighborhood organization sends the message that you are in it for the long haul. Further, neighborhood organizations help their members build up the necessary expertise to match their amplified political voice.
The quality of life we enjoy in downtown Phoenix comes at an immense regulatory price. The Downtown Code and the Walkable Urban Code provide for stricter requirements for developments in the area, leading to many different requests for variances from those codes. Businesses have to deal with employment law that has been recently changed by the passage of Proposition 206, and sometimes the demands of new regulations passed by state or federal agencies.
If you have a bone to pick about anything in the area, you are able to learn who is responsible for what and what is actually possible, given the amount of different demands they must meet. True change takes time, but neighborhood organizations expedite the process so that you can have real examples to show for your effort.
Supporting your neighborhood organizations is simple. Most don’t require dues and only ask that you show up and lend your view and skills to the group. For those that do ask for a contribution, many are 501(c)3 nonprofits and the funds go toward empowering all members of the community by providing much-needed services formal government cannot.
When you’re ready, just drop on by one of the following:
Downtown Voices Coalition – Second Saturdays
Evans Churchill Community Association – Second Wednesdays
Grand Avenue Members Association – Third Thursdays
Phoenix Downtown Neighborhood Alliance – Second Tuesdays
Roosevelt Action Association – First Tuesdays
Special Interest Groups:
Downtown Phoenix Inc.
Grand Avenue Arts & Preservation
Phoenix Community Alliance
Roosevelt Row Community Development Corporation
Roosevelt Row Merchants Association – Third Mondays
This Could Be Phoenix
The Urban Phoenix Project
The Center for Neighborhood Leadership
Puente Human Rights Movement
Editor’s note: This post has been updated to include more groups.
Contact the columnist at firstname.lastname@example.org.