Mayor Agrees to Open-Up the Process to the Community
April 26, 2012 | CUNA
Allentown Faith leaders meet with Mayor about Communtiy Benefits associated with the NIZ
Wednesday evening over 200 Allentown residents and center city church goers met at Zion United Church of Christ just two blocks away from the future home of the Phantoms Hockey Arena, the flagship development project of the Neighborhood Improvement Zone (NIZ). Congregations United for Neighborhood Action (CUNA) convened the meeting with its member congregations and a handful of other center city congregations and organizations to begin a community dialogue with the Mayor and key NIZ opinion leaders about securing public benefits through the creation of a community benefits agreement, a tool other communities throughout the nation have used to ensure that financial benefits from public development projects go to the very communities that house them. CUNA leaders argued that without such agreements financial benefits and opportunities have a tendency to go where they have always gone bypassing the communities in greatest need and creating racial and economic inequities.
From the beginning music provided by Resurrected Life Community Church, the tone of this meeting was one of deep passion and commitment to Allentown's future paired with a strong critique of what that future needs to include.
Before discussing the matter with Mayor Pawlowski, meeting leaders presented local testimonies from residents, a research report that looked at the trends of poverty and unemployment in center city Allentown, and the premiere viewing of the HYPE Documentary entitled "Phantoms in Allentown: Teens Break the Ice".
The Neighborhood Improvement Zone's 130 acres are located in the same areas of some of the highest unemployment and poverty in Allentown, CUNA leaders argued that it would only make sense that financial benefits from the NIZ should go to the creation of jobs, improved housing, small business development, and other quality of life improvements for the residents currently living in those same neighborhoods.
To do this CUNA leaders started from what has been shared as the city "putting finishing touches" on a community benefits type statement. The question was offered "What kind of community benefits type document do you have if the community has not had a chance to help shape it?" This led to CUNA leaders directly asking the Mayor if he will open up the existing document to CUNA and the other community groups and entities who want to help shape its contents; asking specifically that they don't just want to see a "final version" but actually want in to craft the document.
CUNA leaders are planning on contacting the Mayor's office this week to request for a copy of the community benefits type document that has been referenced so they can begin distributing it out to fellow organizations and congregations and follow through on the Mayor's commitments.