The difference between a good neighborhood and a great one

1 01 2015
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It’s the people who care about your neighborhood who make it great!

Posts on this site are usually written in the 3rd person in the voice of the East Ballard Community Association. Today’s post is a little different and written from the author’s perspective. Today I’m sharing with you how I spent my morning of the first year of 2015. I’m not sure exactly why I’m sharing this, but what I did this morning felt really good and perhaps sharing my experience can inspire you to do a little something for your neighborhood in your own way.

This morning, I bundled up in my puffy jacket, hat and gloves, donned my orange work vest with the EBCA logo, grabbed my can of Krylon camouflage spray paint and headed out to 14th Ave NW on a mission. My mission was to paint over graffiti tags that had been plaguing a handful of planters in the medians along 14th.

sanctioned street art in Williamsburg, Brooklyn

sanctioned graffiti in Williamsburg, Brooklyn

My personal feelings toward tagging and graffiti are mixed and conflicted. I recently visited Williamsburg, Brooklyn and photographed some amazing street art that was very colorful, creative and evocative. There are some incredibly talented street artists out there who use the public and private landscape as their canvas. I don’t condone this activity if done without permission, but I can appreciate a lot of the work. As for tagging, I understand many a street artist in their early days hones their skills through tagging. It’s a creative outlet of sorts. There’s even a tag of a yellow flower on my yard waste can that is really cute that I can’t get myself to remove, hence, the conflicted feeling toward graffiti and tagging.

My yard waste can

I just can’t get myself to remove this cute tag

What I don’t appreciate about tagging (other than it’s blatant illegal vandalism of property) is that it gives  the appearance that we don’t care about our community (both from the tagger’s point of view and the resident’s). This is especially worrying in a community like East Ballard where we’re trying to come together and build a sense of community. If you’re an East Ballard tagger and want a creative outlet, I can hook you up with a legit project, just email me! If you’re a resident, please report tagging on public property ASAP using the City’s Fix it Find it App, report online or give the City a call at (206) 684-7587. I highly recommend the app if you have a smart phone, it’s easy to use and the City’s very responsive. If there’s graffiti on your private property, then please take responsibility and clean it up yourself.

These planters are East Ballard property, not the City’s. It’s our responsibility to care for them!

Hence, the purpose of my mission this morning. I was taking responsibility on behalf of my neighborhood to cover the tags on the planters on 14th. Although many of you probably think the planters are owned by the City and are under the City’s jurisdiction, this is not true. The City gave these planters to the East Ballard community under the agreement that we would care for and maintain them. They’re technically private property owned by the community. Your donated Ballard Market receipts go toward funding some of these maintenance activities, plus your participation in our bi-yearly Adopt A Street Cleanups help, but it’s not enough if we want to keep our community clean and safe year round.

Another activity our community participates in almost on a daily basis is dumping unwanted items in planting strips and medians. Some of you think that you’re providing a service to the community by offering free stuff to your neighbors, but what you’re really doing is illegal dumping, which makes our neighborhood look like a dumping ground, encourages others to do the same, and burdens the City to clean up your mess. I encourage you to please get rid of your items in a more responsible manner, but if you do see discarded items, please report them immediately using the Fix it Find it App, report online or call (206) 684-7587.

Please stop leaving your trash in the medians!

Please stop leaving your unwanted items in the medians! This is not a welcome service to our community!

On my mission today, I did my part for the neighborhood by covering tags on 3 planters, picking up trash in the medians, reporting 3 instances of illegal dumping in the median and 1 instance of tagging on a public electrical box. I did all that in just about 1/2 an hour with time to chat with a neighbor walking her dog.

I guess what I’m trying to convey with this story is that it’s not hard to take responsibility for making your neighborhood great. It doesn’t even have to take a lot of time. Figure out something that works for you in your own way to show you care for your neighborhood. Share your ideas with your neighbors and with EBCA, participate in neighborhood events, start a project, or just go out and pick up a little trash every now and then. The more you pay attention to your surroundings and talk to your neighbors, the more ideas you’ll have for how you can contribute. When looking for a new home, it’s traditionally the location we think about first, but it’s the people who live in your neighborhood and show how they care in their own unique way that really make the difference between living in a good neighborhood and a great one!

Dawn Hemminger.

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