For the first several weeks of my new term as Chandler mayor, I have placed a lot of focus on our city’s greatest asset: neighborhoods. Growing up in Chandler, I watched many of our city’s neighborhoods develop and mature over the years. When I left the city council for the state senate eight years ago, this was a different community. We were still in a fairly rapid growth phase.
Today, because of the economy and the fact we are near residential build-out, we must now shift the attention to a plan of sustainability. With that in mind, I have announced a number of strategic initiatives that will help residents maintain those great communities situated throughout Chandler.
My Listening Tour was developed to get a better grasp on the issues important to residents. Through a series of public outreach meetings hosted by the Chandler Neighborhood Advisory Committee, I will be out in the community talking to people about issues and concerns relevant to their areas. Our first meeting was Jan. 11 at Hartford Sylvia Encinas Elementary School and we had a great turnout. The next meeting is set for March 8 at Kyrene de la Brisas Elementary School in West Chandler.
These meetings provide an open forum for residents to speak out on challenges facing their neighborhoods. After the meetings, members of NAC and the City’s Neighborhood Programs staff develop plans to address the most pressing needs.
I am also excited about Chandler’s first Traditional Neighborhood Academy that begins Feb. 2. Like our popular Homeowner Association Academies, this will allow people living in neighborhoods with no HOA’s to learn how to better keep their areas vibrant. The Academy will provide educational courses, resources and tools for residents of traditional neighborhoods, identify and develop neighborhood community leaders, and instill more pride in ownership and in community.
On Jan. 27, the city council approved the voluntary demo program. I asked staff to bring this program forward to stave off blight by working with property owners to destroy substandard structures. With the help of federal dollars, the owners pay 25 percent of the demolition cost or agree to have a lien placed on the property. Taking down the blighted buildings allows the owner to rebuild, or at the very least, remove eyesores from the area. I’ve been speaking with city staff who have identified a number of vacant residential structures that are clearly no longer habitable, so I believe this will be a very positive influence on the city’s ability to better sustain neighborhoods.
Chandler will also soon receive $1.3 million in federal Neighborhood Stabilization Program funds from the Department of Housing and Urban Development to take foreclosed properties in the community off the market and into the hands of eligible buyers. Chandler has already had great success with these funds by working with the nonprofit land trust Newtown on the purchase, renovation and resale of such properties. And finally, while based in Tempe, Newtown will soon make its counseling services available in Chandler through an agreement with the city’s Neighborhood Programs office — a great new amenity for residents seeking housing and financial advice at a convenient downtown location.
Neighborhoods are a true asset to our community, and through these community partnerships, they shall remain that way for generations to come. For more information on my initiatives, visit: www.chandleraz.gov/neighborhoods. And you can follow me on Twitter @jaytibshraeny.
Jay Tibshraeny is a two-time mayor of Chandler and former state senator.