Neighborhood Advisory Council (NAC) meetings have enabled Frederick residents to identify and recommend positive changes for neighborhoods and communicate with the city’s police throughout their existence.
Feedback from NAC coordinators — unpaid citizens who volunteer to lead NACs and are appointed by the mayor’s office — documents increasing impatience with how the NACs are currently operating. The city’s police have not been communicating information about crimes and public disturbances to the NAC coordinators, or the broader public, in a timely and transparent manner. The city was silent when armed assaults, a carjacking, and gunshots occurred in North Pointe. Neighbors’ concerns continue to be unaddressed, including the events at the Mirage Nightclub and when gunshots were fired at the park located at the corner of Wilson and Taney Avenue.
Phone calls and emails from NAC coordinators go unanswered. Issues like blighted properties, sidewalk repairs, speeding, crosswalks, street signs, noisy commercial properties, public nuisance issues and more go unaddressed. Feedback on planning, zoning and licensing issues seems to be ignored. Improvements that occur often take months or years to accomplish. These send a message to NAC coordinators and the neighbors they represent that “Your issues don’t matter.”
The city liaison attending meetings appears to have no authority or influence. Based on NAC coordinator concerns expressed before the pandemic, a “NAC 2.0” activity was initiated but has gone nowhere. Occasionally, an elected leader or member of the mayor’s staff attends a NAC meeting, but this is not consistent. NAC coordinators and NACs appear marginalized.
Perhaps the issue is that the Board of Aldermen are at-large representatives. Returning to electing legislators based on districts might address this, creating stronger bonds between the NACs and district representatives.
Perhaps the issue is that the mayor’s office views the NACs as gadflies whose opinions must be endured rather than embraced.
Perhaps the issue is that NAC coordinators, as unelected leaders, have no political authority to block or promote any change to how the city operates and therefore can be ignored.
It is because of this disenfranchisement that many residents are reluctant to get involved with the NACs. If you’re going to be ignored, what’s the point?
NACs are a valuable resource, and the city must integrate their perspectives in the day-to-day decision-making process of elected leaders and city employees. The transformational leadership necessary to accomplish this must come from the mayor.
Peter Brehm, Tom Evans, Julia Schaeffer and Nkem Wellington