Residents, officials discuss neighborhoods office

March 05, 2004|By Rona Kobell | Rona Kobell,SUN STAFF

Neighborhood leaders munched on meatballs last night and talked about mortgages, praised the mayor and pinned colored flags on a map marking the places they call home.

The Mayor's Office of Neighborhoods' second annual open house was an opportunity for them to hear city officials' take on the 3-year-old office's progress and discuss its future.

"I have a very strong sense - it's different than the one I had four years ago - that people are taking charge of their neighborhoods," Mayor Martin O'Malley told about 250 people attending the City Hall event.

Among the changes city leaders discussed were a more direct connection between neighbors and City Hall, and a streamlined Citistat system for logging and addressing residents' complaints. Plans include an expansion of the crime watch program, which includes 1,771 people, to about 10,000 participants. The goal, said office director Israel Patoka, is to have an active neighborhood watch on every city block that faces a street.

Upper Park Heights resident Aryeh Getz said he was impressed with what he has seen in his neighborhood since the office opened. Recently, he called 311 for the first time - about an abandoned car that had been on his street since the last snowfall. Yesterday, he said, the city towed it.

"Now when you call, you get a confirmation number, and then the city can't ignore the request," he said.

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