Author: Rachel Barnhart

The City of Rochester is considering a dramatic proposal to regulate neighborhood associations.

Little Italy Neighborhood Association President Silvano Orsi said a City Council aide gave some neighborhood leaders a copy.

The document sets out requirements for neighborhood groups to be “officially recognized” by the city. Those requirements include being a 501c3 corporation, electing officers every two years, term-limiting leaders, including faith leaders, and having at least 1 percent of the households in the area make up membership.

Groups have to meet all guidelines to be officially recognized by the city and allowed to participate in the monthly Neighborhood Association Presidents meeting.

Charlotte Community Association President Jonathan Hardin fears the city wants to pick and choose who is at the table. “It seems they only want to deal with 501c3 associations and find a way to limit our voices.”

Orsi believes the proposal is not legal, as it imposes a requirement to include religious leaders. He also notes the city cannot dictate a separate nonprofit entity’s bylaws.

Orsi believes the city wants to control public participation on issues related to development.

“It seems to be a pay to play scam to allow developers to bypass longtime existing associations and go to newly created associations by friends of the city to push through projects,” Orsi said.

Hardin said the city plans to further discuss the proposal with the neighborhood groups at the next meeting of presidents later this month.

  1. Lawrence Herko says:

    I have attended meetings of 2 different neighborhood associations. The Dunn-Nestor group of which I am a part, and the Vineland group which is to the east of ours. They are both small groups managed by a few dedicated residents. It’s nice to attended these meetings and have representation from the police, city counsel, and others to keep abreast of whats going on; and have some input to changes the city may be considering. But there is a lot of apathy in both neighborhoods, very low attendance; and I think it will be impossible for these groups to adhere to the proposed rules and will be doomed!

  2. Cris Zaffuto says:

    There has to be an underlining reason why they want to micro manage the neighborhood groups. And are they going to pay for the 501c3 app. Plus it would then not allow the group’s to support anyone running for office. The whole idea has a smell to it if you ask me.

  3. Why is this necessary? Is there some reason why the city would suddenly make a bunch of rules for associations that seem to run fine on their own and keep to themselves? I can’t imagine problems with a “phony” neighborhood association… unless this is just to exclude citizens from the city’s plan to gentrify and run poor people out of town.

  4. Josh Massicot says:

    Dear Rachel,

    I’m disappointed in this article because I’ve always respected your intelligence and objectivity. This article is inaccurate and perhaps even a bit inflammatory. NAs are not required to be a 501c, but they are required to either be one or have a fiduciary relationship. This is essential when accepting grants from non-profits. There is no cost to an NA to have this relationship. Regular elections are hardly restrictive: they are the foundation of democracy. Elections encourage transparency and ensure that more voices are heard. Again, it is not required to include faith leaders, but inclusivity itself is a requirement. Surely, we want our NAs to be reflective of the communities in which we live. Is this article suggesting that NAs should be allowed to intentionally avoid or marginalize a community stakeholder in the conversation because they disagree with their belief structures? I assume that 1% is a typo: the requirement that 51% of voting members reside in the actual boundaries of that neighborhood is, again, surely a good thing. Perhaps that number should be higher.

    • The way the rules are written, there is subjectivity in how they are interpreted. The 1% figure came from the proposed regs – see #7.

      I get why you would want a formal structure and nonprofit status to hand out money. But this goes farther in saying groups cannot particiate in monthly meetings without adhering to the regs.

  5. Lynnette Robinson says:

    As a former Co Chair for the South West Common Council,and currently serving as VP for the Changing of the Scenes,NA.
    I can see where this proposal brings clarity and consistency to the citywide Neighborhood Association model.
    However, I am concerned that this proposal is recognizing the Neighborhood Association as a business model and not as a time-consuming, stressful, vision filled, conflict resolving ( in many instances not conflict resolving) VOLUNTEER entity.
    I am not seeing volunteers meeting with the hopes and missions to engage city support services to better reach and build their community under the strong hold of city oversite.

    The changes in the most current bylaws of the South West Common Council reflect the decisions to back out the politics of City Government, but to keep the participation of City Service Providers in the SWCC model as active participants without voting rights.
    Hence, in the 4 quadrants of the city there is the active Quad Team model which is inclusive of all the Quad’s NA’s with participantIon as listed in the proposal.
    The Quad teams were established to bring all the quads NA’s in a single consortium understand Override of the Quad Administrator. However, in the SW Quad, the arrival of the Quad Team birthed conflict due to the existing SWCC- South West Common Council. And the Quad Team being run under the direction of a community volunteer and not the City Adminitsrator. This issue exists only in the South West. Where years ago the residents had great vision and established the SWCC.
    Therefore, my question is why? Why is there the need to focus energy to this degree?
    I have my professional/personal opinions but I would like to know why this resolve.what entity gains to benefit and at what cost to the non beneficiary.

  6. Sunshine Jacobs says:

    This is a copy of my email response on first learning of this last Thursday.
    On Wed, Feb 13, 2019 at 12:41 PM Our Home > wrote:
    Here’s the thing: A neighborhood association is, by design & definition, fundamentally a union. A union doesn’t, (in fact can not) function at the pleasure of management.
    We are not the first step on a bureaucratic ladder.
    Management doesn’t legitimize a union, nor does it write what, according to the attached are in principal, a union’s by-laws.
    I definitely hope to see some discussion of this document, post haste. While many of us may meet the criterion, my first concern is that this will quickly have the effect of stifling grassroots movements, especially by smaller groups, many of whom may already be “marginalized”.

  7. Our neighborhood association seems to be mostly interested in what businesses and city government want. Local government and businesses have our association in their pocket now. Guess this makes it official. Representative government seems to be on its way out. So much for democracy.

    • Carm Ortiz says:

      In Ernest I hope they do regulate the neighborhood associations. They never notify members that sex offenders or new business ie strip clubs have moved next door to them, although they get a listing. They blame everything on the City although they never advocate for members. They charge for the neighborhood membership but never give an accounting of how the money is spent.

  8. Pam Davis says:

    Rachel and Silvano: Thank you for getting this info out, as this situation has been a long, ongoing fight that we citizens have been battling with the City’s officials.

    This is ridiculous, especially as our neighborhood association hasn’t seen a dime of support from the city, to the best of my knowledge, and I’ve been an active member for over a decade!

    If anything, we have been stopped from making improvements to the area, which would raise our residents’ quality of life, and help boost our property values.

    Instead, the City takes valuable security grant money from us, which we brought to the table, and wants to charge our group for everything when we want to hold uplifting public events, yet the City underwrites/pays for those same things (like security, rental fees for the bandstand, portapotties, insurance) for other neighborhood groups, either because they are more affluent, or they are favored for some reason by certain city officials.

  9. Tom Pastecki says:

    Neighborhoods are the building blocks for a successful city. Each has its own character, reputation, and challenges. Neighborhood associations and block clubs bring the residents together to advocate for their interest and improve the quality of life in their neighborhoods. The top down approach that this city administration is taking will destroy the partnerships and relationships the we have worked so hard to develop to improve our city. These new guidelines will suppress citizen participation and are not in keeping with the city’s mission to empower residents.

  10. patricia canty / COAL says:

    What the heck is this. Seems like someone wants to restrict people from joining together AND VOICING AN OPINION FOR PEOPLE IN THEIR NEIGHBORHOOD.

  11. When the city proposes things like this I wonder about the motive. It makes it very easy to pay attention to the “official ” groups and say to the rest “la la la, I don’t hear YOU, you’re not official”. Dis-enfranchising… I guess that would be a good way to put it.

  12. marsha enright says:

    No NOT so much for neighborhood groups
    but it should be time for this Mayor to GO

  13. TocqueVillager says:

    It has always been clear to me that city government has a role to play in helping city neighborhoods to organize for the purpose of identifying their own issues and interests and advancing them in the wider world. And it would serve everyone’s interest for the city to help neighborhoods learn how to organize themselves as 501(c)(3)’s. But the message conveyed by the initiative described here seems to be that each neighborhood needs to figure this out on its own, and only then will it be given a voice in city hall. It sounds an awful lot like an attempt to shut out groups that city hall does not like, by the very people who ‘we the people’ put there in the first place.

    I would ask those responsible to turn this thing around. Come to our meetings, sit at our communities’ tables, listen, ask questions, offer resources as need be. Participate as equals – it’s messy but it’s how democracy works.

  14. #5. Have term limits for elected leader. That sounds great to me. Let’s make that the same for our elected city officials. NO more career politicians. The mayor should step down after completing her second term. So should many of the long term city council members.

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