By Pedro Mejia
City of Columbus Department of Neighborhoods
On any given week throughout the year you may not know where you will find Bruce Black, but when you do, you know what he will be up to.
Bruce Black is Program Manager for Neighborhood Pride, a unique initiative housed within the City of Columbus Department of Neighborhoods. Together with Nora Gerber, Community Relations Coordinator, Bruce leads Neighborhood Pride, which seeks to increase the quality of life in Columbus one neighborhood at a time.
When a neighborhood becomes a Pride area, a collaboration of City departments, resources, and services come together in partnership with community leaders in order to address that community’s greatest needs and challenges. The culmination, known as Pride Week, is hosted at a community center and becomes a temporary Neighborhood Pride Center. Throughout the week the Neighborhood Pride Center will be home ample representation of services and resources available to the community, a place to eat, connect, and get to know your neighbors.
Talking with Bruce Black who has been a part of the Neighborhood Pride program since its inception, he was an incredible resource to learn more about this program, and how it impacts our city. Leaving the conversation, it seemed hard to imagine finding someone more enthused and ready to make positive changes than Bruce.
The Neighborhood Pride program started in 2000. At the time, the Mayor and his various department leaders and
policy staff came together and wanted to come up with a
program that could work with any neighborhood in Columbus and have an impact on the quality of life. The mold that they started has stayed consistent. It’s collaboration between every City department coming together and going into a focused area and doing all the jobs that you could do in months in a matter of weeks.
The program is under us for about a six week window per area. We start with a neighborhood bus tour. Then, city departments and come along and begin to evaluate their services. The City of Columbus is the custodian of the street. During this time we will sweep the streets, trim the trees, paint the fire hydrants, clean out the catch basins, repair the street lights. With the Pride program we also do a systematic inspection of the outside of every home that is inside the bounds of a pride area. Pride week is the finale of all the operations.
In order for an area to become a Pride area we have to receive an application from a block watch, a civic association, or an area commission. Individuals cannot apply. We learned from the first 18 neighborhoods in the pilot program that collaboration between the neighborhood leadership and the City of Columbus only makes sense because that core group can tell us everything that we needed to know about what are the needs to be taken care of. We also host a meeting with every City department. Every department has something to offer. For instance, Recreation and Parks may know something about a certain neighborhood that we weren’t aware of. Then it goes to the administrative side. Once the finalists are selected, we put them on our calendar how they fit best.
We have four on average. Four fits our schedule the best because of all of the festivals and events that we attend. So our schedule goes from a Pride area then to various events to represent the Department of Neighborhoods.
Some of the greatest challenges with this program have been to get the full buy in from a neighborhood group that they have a role that they have to play for it to be successful. I always tell people, Pride is not a fix all. Not a magic wand. We’re a platform to build off. We are building the capacity of a community. The resources we bring you during Neighborhood Pride, they’re always there. We’re not.
It’s the number of hugs. Between pride week and the hugs from people meeting each other and all the thanks you see at the end of the week and the faces when they smile. It’s all about the hugs.
Columbus is home to many vibrant communities and neighborhoods, and every neighborhood has unique set of accomplishments, challenges, and history. In a way, Bruce and Nora, scouring Columbus streets with Mobile City Hall, represent not only the mission and vision of the City of Columbus, but also the resources and services that are housed within it. Neighborhood Pride is a story with of a city with common values coming together in an uncommon way, and that should make us proud.
To learn more about Neighborhood Pride and how to apply, visit www.columbus.gov/neighborhoodpride/