Washington Evening Journal
http://washington-ia.villagesoup.com/p/1086852

Neighbors Growing Together | Nov 21, 2014

‘Now is the time for action’

City council to further discuss formation of committee Wednesday
By David Hotle | Nov 29, 2013
Karen Gorham

With a motion that the Washington City Council reconsider some of the wording used to form a Neighborhood Pride Enhancement Committee coming up during the council’s Dec. 4 meeting, former Housing Task Force Chair Karen Gorham hopes the city will be able to move ahead with the formation of the committee.
She said today that she hopes the committee will be set up in a way — as she has stated in the past — similar to the manner in which the Washington Tree Committee is set up. She said that city approval is necessary for the committee to be successful.
“If it doesn’t have the support of the city, I am afraid it is going to fall flat,” she said.
Gorham said the vision of the former Housing Task Force was for the city to create an ongoing committee to help ensure property owners, landlords and tenants knew what regulations the city had. She described the group as almost a public relations wing of the city. She also said that of the recommendations the Housing Task Force gave the council, she felt that establishing an ongoing committee would be one of the easier items to accomplish. She said she is surprised that the city did not do that right away and hopes the group can be formed soon to keep the momentum from the task force going.
“Now is the time for action,” Gorham said.
She is concerned that if the city doesn’t support the committee and give it direction to work toward, the committee wouldn’t be able to accomplish much.
“It is to the city’s benefit to have a group of community leaders who want to help,” she said. “Mostly when the city council hears from people, it is only when they have complaints. These are people who want to put things together to improve the community.”
Gorham has said that she can’t be involved with the committee, due to many other obligations – including the opening of the new Kirkwood Regional Center — that will take much of her time in the future. When the issue arose of wanting to help clean up the area of Washington known as “the Doughnut” — the area surrounding downtown out to the city limits — Gorham had been selected as spokesperson. She said that there are groups that work to enhance the downtown area and the task force hoped that such a group could be formed for the rest of the city.  
She also wants to see the council continue its work on a rental inspection ordinance. Inspections to ensure that landlords were providing things outlined in the International Code of Basic Needs were among the task force’s recommendations.
Gorham became involved when a meeting was called at a local business to discuss issues of nuisance properties. While she believed a few people would show up to the discussion, she found a building full of concerned people when she arrived. The Housing Task Force was formed based on that discussion.
In July, the 14-member Housing Task Force gave its report to the city. The presentation started with a multimedia show of 70 Washington houses the committee had identified as being problems. The presentation began with a map of homes that the comprehensive plan had identified as problem properties. Many had garbage in the front.

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