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Neighbors say mayor's help is long overdue

Columbus Mayor Coleman kicked off a new season of his Neighborhood Pride program at Brentnell Recreation Center Tuesday. Neighborhood residents are encouraged to work with the city to ensure code enforcement, pick up litter, and spruce up their houses.

Coleman kicked off the celebration at Brentnell Recreation Center. Coleman recruited a group of elementary school children to serve as honorary junior mayors.

Neighborhood Pride is an initiative Coleman came up with eight years ago. Since then city crews have joined individuals, small businesses and churches to clean-up, fix-up, beautify and strengthen area neighborhoods.

5,500 homes have been brought up to code, 1,400 streetlights repaired, 1,000 tons of trash picked up, and 5,000 fire hydrants painted among other projects. This year six more neighborhoods will get special attention. And residents are urged to get involved. Norma Ferguson lives in south Columbus.

"We need work done in our neighborhoods," Ferguson says. "I didn't even know how bad the alleys and different areas were but we're going to work on it to bring up the property value of our homes, to make our neighborhoods, safe, clean and healthy."

Ferguson is a member of the Innis Gardens Civic Association. She says her neighborhood, Innis Gardens Village, is in need of some community investment.

"We don't have sidewalks; we don't have a recreation center in our neighborhood. We don't have a lot of things that we should have for being taxpayers. I'm not blaming anyone but this is what we're out here fighting for to make sure it gets better," Ferguson says.

Hollis Keels is another member of the association. Keels says, "Promises just won't get it for us anymore."

Keels says he wonders why the mayor wants taxpayer involvement.

"That's the question we've been asking ourselves for the last couple of years. We've had some of problems with things should have been taken care of. We're willing to help but we also want a lot of effort of the city and law enforcement and so forth."

Mayor Coleman says Neighborhood Pride succeeds because families are getting involved on their own streets to help solve problems and improve the quality of life. He says businesses, schools and churches in each Pride community should also lend a hand. Painting houses, picking up litter and starting block watches will increase community involvement.

Joanne St. Claire, a liaison between the city and civic associations, says it takes the two entities working together.

"It takes civic associations stepping up to say, We want to partner with the city to improve our neighborhoods.' But those are all things that have to be done incrementally," she says.

St. Claire says security cameras might be a part of those incremental steps. Members of the Innis Gardens Civic Association did not seem to mind the prospect of cameras monitoring their neighborhood. This is Russell Little who's the association's sergeant-at-arms

"Sometimes we have to give up some of our privacy in order to be secure."

Other Neighborhood Pride areas named this year are Karmel Morse/Woodward Park, North and South Linden, Hilltop and Franklinton.