Friday, August 1, 2008

Nashville mayor enlists neighbors to clean up community

By HARRIET VAUGHAN • Staff Writer • August 1, 2008 In a rush to beat the rain, Gary French is out cutting his neighbor's grass. His neighbor is a single woman who often needs an extra pair of hands to help out. That's not a problem for French, who's lived on Calvin Avenue in Inglewood for 10 years. In fact, he's known up and down his street for helping his neighbors with odds and ends around their homes and in the yard. "That's the way I was raised. I've always cared and taken interest in my neighbors and my neighborhood," he said. French is the kind of neighbor Mayor Karl Dean wants to duplicate across the county with his latest initiative, Community Matters. He launched the program this week in Inglewood. Community Matters is designed to offer two months of coordinated assistance from the city's Codes and Health departments and the Davidson County sheriff's office. Neighborhoods prone to codes and health violations will be partnered up with the agencies to alleviate excessive citations. Residents and members of the county agencies will be looking for violations such as excessively tall grass, broken windows, illegal businesses and illegally parked vehicles. Metro Beautification will help residents keep litter and large bulk trash items off the streets. The program will begin in target communities in Inglewood and East Nashville and move to neighborhoods around the county. It's a relief That's a relief for residents such as 79-year-old Ann Smart. She and her husband built their East Nashville home 30 years ago. She says she's watched the neighborhood take a turn for the worse. "When we built our house, it was a good neighborhood. It has just gone down so much and it bothers me. Some people just don't take care of their places anymore," Smart said. Dean hopes to change that. As part of Community Matters, the mayor's office will conduct a two-hour training session for neighbors and neighborhood associations, teaching them how to identify codes violations and what to do if they spot one. If a resident does not correct the violation noted by a neighbor, they will be reported to the appropriate agency. The agency will give them a time frame to fix the problem. If the resident refuses, he or she will be summoned to appear before a judge and could be given jail time. "If someone's shutter is falling off, report that. If someone's car is parked illegally with illegal tags, report that," said Scott Wallace, a neighborhood liaison for the mayor's Office of Neighborhoods. "We can't be everywhere and if we can stay on top of that, the neighborhoods will prosper." Program will help Paul Koumanelis, owner of Pizzereal restaurant in East Nashville, is excited about the program. He opened his restaurant four years ago. Clean streets and safer surroundings could mean more business in what was previously a home on North 11th Street. "I think it's cool. Things are already on the upswing and this will really help," he said. Koumanelis says often, people walk up and down the street near his business and litter. At least two homes within one block of his restaurant are in violation of city codes. Brady Banks, director of the mayor's Office of Neighborhoods, says Community Matters is a proactive approach to reclaim neighborhoods gripped by crime and neglect. Banks says the surge in county resources in target areas under the program will not deplete the staff responding to needs in other neighborhoods. A complete report of violations corrected will be published at the end of each 60-day program. The results will also be available online. Contact Harriet Vaughan at 615.259.8048 or

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