25 August, 2013

Why City Council Members Should Lead Their Wards' Neighborhood Watch Groups

City Council members have more to gain from the success of Neighborhood Watch than the rest of us. If they lead that neighborhood watch effort, that is. 

In my city of 11,000 people in 9 political wards, most people can't even name their city  council person but if that ward has a neighborhood watch the people of that ward get text messages and emails from their neighborhood watch coordinator every week. Over time, ward members may even think their neighborhood watch leader is their city council person. 

Here in my apathetic little town of St. Albans where city council seats have been won with as few as 4 votes, a popular and well-known neighborhood watch coordinator could easily unseat their city council member in the next election unless the city council member and the neighborhood watch coordinator are one in the same. 

Neighborhood watch people in my apathetic little town - I've called it an "apathariat" - are divided on the question of whether or not it's appropriate for city council members to lead their wards' neighborhood watch efforts but I say there's no surer way to win re-election or to position oneself for a mayoral run. If I were a city council member I would make sure I was the best known person in the ward.

Nobody has more to gain from a successful neighborhood watch than your city council member - if he or she is leading it. Leading the neighborhood watch is like having a license to stay in constant contact with people in the ward. A good neighborhood watch leader knocks on doors to recruit new members, sends emails and texts to members and makes old-fashioned phone calls to people in the ward. If our Citywide Neighborhood Watch Czaress, Shelly Douglass Ellis, keeps doing what she's doing she'll not only be better known than her ward's council member but she'll have more citywide name recognition than most city council members citywide when our next election year arrives. She'll be perfectly positioned to run for elected office.

Desper Lemon will be ward 7 councilman as long as he wants to be because he shrewdly seized and kept the spotlight, running the ward 7 neighborhood watch as if it's an official  part of his job description.

My own council member, Cheryl Thomas, can relax. First, she's already pretty well known  in our ward because Cheryl knocked on doors and worked to build a neighborhood watch before me. 

Second, I have written many times that Baby Boomers like me should not be running for city offices. I've consistently said that people with no real stake in the future should not be making decisions for those with a stake in the future. My apathetic little town of St. Albans needs to elect more twenty somethings, not more Boomers like me. I've been unswerving about that. When 28-year-old Jason Philabaun was elected to council in the 2nd ward I was full-throated about our apathariat's need more council members from his generation. I believe this to my core. Cheryl Thomas knows I won't run for council but whoever becomes neighborhood watch coordinator after me may not make such a promise.

But other city council members have something to lose if they don't lead the neighborhood watch effort in their wards. Council members who have not anointed themselves both council member and neighborhood watch coordinator could easily lose the next election to neighborhood watch coordinators who get out and knock on doors, make phone calls, send emails and texts and become the best known members of their wards. 

Robert Keiffer, Ron Colby, Loretta Griffith and Kevin Pennington, I'm talking to you. I think neighborhood watch coordinator, John Kidd , could beat Loretta Griffith  in the 6th ward right now. 

Nobody has more to gain from a successful neighborhood watch than a city council person - but only if that council person is leading it.
Higginbotham At Large reads all comments from readers but I only PUBLISH the comments of well-identified submitters. There will be no Ring of Gyges for you.


  1. When I was a child Mr. Romeo was our city councilman for years and years. He didn't run a neighborhood watch (there was no such thing) - we watched out for each other as a neighbor.

    However Mr. Romeo went door to door - weekly to visit through out his ward. He was interested in his ward and you had his telephone number to contact him anytime it was needed. We had a pretty good ward.

    I have to say my niece has lived in that ward for 15 years plus and never once has she seen her council person.

    I have to disagree that council persons should 'lead' the neighborhood watch, at least in St. Albans. I do believe they should be highly involved, but I have been told most make it a 'political' thing when they are involved, which it should not be, so my opinion is they shouldn't 'lead' the watch, if that statement is true.

    The mission for a neighborhood watch should be: To positively promote safety through the building of a network of neighbors for the reporting and notification of suspicious activities, and to promote safety education and awareness to ensure the positive lifestyle that living in St. Albans afford.

    We live in a part of St. Albans that doesn't receive any city services. We fall under Kanawha County Sheriff but we do have a neighborhood watch. We work as a neighborhood and keep our neighborhood aware and take care of our neighbors. This is self lead...

    What we need in St. Albans is a community of people that actually care about their neighborhoods and willing to work to take care of said neighborhoods. A little bit of effort goes along way.

    Yes that should start with city council persons among others. Some of our council persons I feel are there because "they always have been". If they truly aren't interested in doing the work to make St. Albans a better place, they need to remove themselves from the voting ticket.

    Sorry I got on a roll.

    I have to say I see some valid points in many of your blogs, but I also see the 'other side' of what you post on some. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and views and allowing others to do the same.

  2. Mindy: When I said City Council members should lead their wards' neighborhood watch groups I was appealing to their desire to get re-elected, I was warning them that whoever leads neighborhood watch will become the best-known and perhaps best-liked person in the ward. Council members who won't go out and knock on doors and collect email addresses and smart phone numbers and do the hard work of getting a neighborhood watch up and running are making themselves vulnerable to defeat at the hands of whoever starts the neighborhood watch. That is, if it's done right. Just holding meetings isn't establishing a neighborhood watch. You have to go out and collect contact information and then inform and unify the people. Whoever does that will be the best known and perhaps best liked person in the ward. Even in St. albans - which is apathetic - voters will remember if the only time their city councilman knocks on their door is at election time. I'm not even running for office and I'm out knocking on doors and collecting contact info everyday. So I was issuing a warning: let somebody else lead your neighborhood watch at your peril.


Only identified commentators will be published. No pseudonymous or anonymous comments will be published. "Handles" and "screen names" are pseudonyms. If you wish to comment, you need to identify yourself or your comment will not be published.