[ Update ]
The ESLARP/NTAC annual retreat was held on June 26, 2003 at the NTAC office. Thirty-five representatives of area non-profits, faith-based and community groups attended as well as residents, property owners, representatives from local and county agencies. The primary focus was to receive much valued community input, inform the community of the past year's activities and accomplishments, and present proposals for continuing and new initiatives for the next year.
After presenting the Goals and Objectives found in the new NTAC Strategic Plan, participants were broken up into three groups for discussion and to add anything that they believed was pertinent to or missing from the Plan as well as to elaborate on given points.A summary of the community feedback from the break out sessions is presented below:
Bank Community Reinvestment Funds
NTAC should facilitate workshops where local banks can come in and talk to local groups/organizations about the Community Reinvestment Act and how to utilize or request funds.
Building Strong Neighborhood Organizations
Participants agreed that the key to many of the issues with city accountability lie with building and sustaining strong neighborhoods. Participants requested that NTAC help to build strong neighborhoods by facilitating the needs of neighborhood groups in all existing neighborhoods. In those neighborhoods with several disjointed block groups or segments, help to facilitate the development of a larger organization that will allow these groups to come together around a table to work together to create collective solutions to common issues. Building stronger resident/neighborhood/community based assets should do this.
City Government Accountability
It was suggested that NTAC play a role in city government accountability. Attendants voiced their concerns that city services and programs were not being implemented fairly (i.e. TIF funds for repair, CDBG home repair funding). There was a community sense that there needs to a large political action taken to result in a systematic overhaul of local city government. It was also suggested the NTAC play a role in assisting the city with planning for proper code enforcement and ensuring that existing laws are enforced and followed.
Participants were eager to see NTAC and the University use its technology resources to develop and maintain city websites making information (such as current development, programs, city council agendas, ordinances, etc.) more accessible to the greater community.
Community Organizing class
In the past, NTAC with ESLCAN used to host community organizing workshops. Participants want to see these offered again.
Economic Development Downtown
Community partners and participants were excited about the possibility of NTAC and the University getting involved with the physical and economic development of the downtown district. They even like the idea that NTAC could move its own offices downtown. They suggested that they would like to see downtown have some of the following: theatre restaurants (especially with sidewalk/café dining), unique specialty stores, and housing.
St. Mary's hospital is the only local hospital that offers emergency care. NTAC should work more closely with the hospitals, health agencies and clinics about health and health related issues with the goal of creating a healthier community. We should also facilitate the awareness of programming and resources available to the community in regards to the health of all. These issues should also address issues of rabid dogs and dog packs, environmental health, a community health newsletter or column on health, immunizations etc.
High School/School Involvement
NTAC should work more closely with the high school to provide leadership development, conflict resolution, and character building programs. We also must develop a strategy where ESL students can work closely with UIUC students when they come down to encourage college attendance, getting involved with the community and build a sense of pride and responsibility for the city. We also need to re-start the old ESL programming with the high school to bring up students to UIUC.
In the past NTAC worked with the local police department to sponsor the Citizens Police Academy. NTAC needs to redevelop its relationship with the police department to improve community and public safety. NTAC should also work in conjunction with the local police department and Weed and Seed to create viable active and sustainable Neighborhood Watch Programs.
NTAC and For Profit Businesses and Entrepreneurship
NTAC has historically provided services almost exclusively for non-profit organizations/agencies. It was suggested that we should make the same services available to for profit businesses and organizations. Suggestions included assistance with Business plans, business start-up workshops, marketing and PR. We were asked to make entrepreneurship a priority as it is seen as a key to effective economic development in our area and would encourage local ownership.
NTAC Public Relations/ East St. Louis Image
NTAC was asked to focus on publicizing itself and needing to do a better job of letting the city and the greater community know what we offer. Better brochures, flyers, ads, and publicity need to be done for the NTAC. Participants stated that NTAC should also help the city of East St. Louis do the same in order to try and begin to improve the image of the City of East St. Louis within the state and broader metropolitan community.
NTAC as a Resource Center/Development Agency
Participants voiced their concerns about residents not being informed of economic and community development activities taking place in the region. It was voiced that there needs to be some place that can keep track of the development within the Enterprise Communities and make the information available to residents so that they can give their input to the correct officials about those projects. Currently there appears to be development taking place without community input. NTAC should also continue to facilitate public meetings between the developers, the city and the residents so that proper and effective dialogue can occur. I was also suggested that NTAC partner with the ESL Public Library as a joint resource center.
At the conclusion of the day participants and the ESLARP/ NTAC staff agreed that these workshops should take place twice a year. Participants were also given the assurance that the preceding information would be looked into and possibly incorporated into the strategic plan if the University had the knowledge and resources to do so.
Document author(s) : Chad Thilborger, NTAC Director
Last modified: 30 September 2003, Deanna Koenigs