Practical Politics for Neighborhood Associations
Neighborhood associations are about involvement and politics, but they are also about inclusion of the many voices that make up a neighborhood—and not just those voices that are most active or those of the leadership board.
While neighbors and neighborhood associations are independent of the City and have rights as individuals and as groups to exercise their rights to speech and association, the practical reality is that political campaigns, as well as some ballot measures, can drive wedges between neighbors and make people hesitant to participate in the neighborhood association. In general, be cautious about politics; work to serve the long-term interests of your association.
Some practical tips
- If you are a neighborhood officer or member who is involved in a campaign, be up front about your involvement in the spirit of no conflict of interest or appearance of conflict. This helps maintain trust among association members.
- Consider hosting candidate and issue forums that provide all candidates/sides the opportunity to share information and give residents a chance to hear all sides of issues. Hosting or co-hosting such events is a positive way to be involved in politics in a non-divisive way. (Neighborhood associations may include a general statement in their newsletters encouraging members to attend an upcoming meeting for a chance to hear from candidates or about ballot measures without including specific information about the candidates or ballot measures.)
- Political candidates are members of the public and cannot be excluded from attending your meeting. Of course it is possible that a candidate may be a member of your individual association or even a board member. Depending on your bylaws, candidates may have a right to participate as well as attend. The neighborhood association does not have an obligation, however, to let them use their participation in the meeting as a platform for their candidacy and the City’s Zoom account should not be used for this purpose.
- If your neighborhood association is registered as a 501(c) (3) nonprofit by the IRS, partisan or nonpartisan political activity may jeopardize that status.
During the campaign season
If your newsletter is printed by the City, paid or unpaid campaign advertising, or articles promoting or opposing a candidate or a ballot measure is not acceptable. If your neighborhood association would like to include this type of information in a newsletter, the association must pay for the printing and distribution from its own funds. Using public facilities – including printing, or the City’s Zoom account for such endorsements is against state law.
If you are hosting a meeting on a City-owned video platform and a community member displays political campaign material as their background, please politely remind them that state law (RCW 42.17A.555) prohibits the use of public facilities to assist a campaign. You should also ask the individual to turn off their video or change their background. If you are the moderator of a Zoom meeting, you can assist the community member in turning off their Zoom video while they select a background that complies with these requirements.
The Difference between a Neighborhood Association and a Homeowner’s Association
Because of their similarity in names, some might confuse a neighborhood association and a homeowner’s association. However, the two entities are quite different.
A homeowner’s association is formed by a developer and pertains to a specific subdivision or project. The association provides the framework for the future maintenance of the development’s common grounds and amenities, for instance a pool; clubhouse or common area landscaping. All homeowners are compelled to follow the codes, covenants and restrictions (CC&Rs) governing the development and pay association dues.
A neighborhood association is a section of a city with a common identity. Neighborhood associations offer a place to meet friends, exchange information, create projects and priorities, propose solutions, and have fun.
A neighborhood association is formed based on the needs and desires of its residents. The association will give residents a forum to discuss common concerns and to brainstorm possible solutions. Some potential outcomes may be: improved street lighting, bike paths, sidewalks, traffic calming devices, parks and open spaces, zoning and land-use planning, park amenities, beautification projects and neighborhood clean-ups. Many neighborhood associations have summer picnics, holiday parties and other special events in order to have fun as well as to keep the lines of communication open with their neighbors.
Recognized neighborhood associations give citizens a voice and an advocate. Neighborhood associations greatly improve the two-way communication between the city and its residents. Your neighborhood will have a clear, organized way to speak to city government so that your voice will be heard by elected officials and city departments. You will be put in touch with people who live near you and share the fondness and frustrations of your area.
Organizing also opens the door to increased communications with city government. Neighborhood association leaders receive weekly e-mailings of what City Council is working on and what other city neighborhood associations’ priorities and plans are. This increased communication can be a resource for upcoming meetings or other community opportunities.
Once the residents of your area form an association and are recognized by City Council, your neighborhood may participate at a variety of levels. The city takes pride in partnering with its’ neighborhoods. Through a collaborative effort, our city becomes more economically efficient and citizens have an increased interest and trust in government
Tips for Neighborhood Associations: How to Represent Your Position to the City Council
Process that neighborhood associations can use to report a position to City Council or a City Board/Commission.
Tips to Prevent Conflict with Neighbors
Source: Community Mediation Services of Clark County
Your behavior affects your neighbors, just as what they do effects you. The key way to prevent conflict with neighbors is to be a good neighbor yourself. Simple consideration and conversation with neighbors helps achieve a peaceful coexistence.
Here are several suggestions for preventing conflicts:
Meet your neighbor. Introduce yourself while walking the dog or when you see moving boxes arrive. Learn your neighbors’ names and regularly say “hello” or “Good Morning” before there is any need or problem. Just knowing them can prevent conflict.
Keep your neighbors informed. Contact them before undertaking something that might affect them – such as hosting a big party, building a fence, cutting down a tree or getting a puppy. Informing your neighbors ahead of time allows them to make plans or tell you how your project affects them. Getting their input lets you act in a way that avoids problems.
Be aware of differences. Differences in age, ethnic backgrounds, years in the neighborhood, etc. can lead to conflicting expectations or misunderstandings unless we make an effort to talk with and understand each other. Focus on what you have in common with your neighbor.
Consider your neighbor’s point of view, literally. How does your compost pile, play equipment or son’s car parts look from your neighbors’ backyard or windows? Keep areas in others’ view reasonably presentable.
Be appreciative. If a neighbor does something you like, tell them! They’ll be pleased to hear you noticed the yard work or the new paint job – and it will be easier to talk later if they do something you don’t like.
Be positive. If your neighbor does something that irritates you, don’t assume it was on purpose. Most people don’t intentionally try to create problems. Presume the neighbor doesn’t know about the annoyance. If we jump to the conclusion that the other person is the enemy, we decrease the possibility of an easy resolution.
Be candid. If your neighbors do something that bothers you, let them know. By communicating early and calmly, you take a step toward solving the problem. Be tolerant but don’t let a real irritation go because it seems unimportant or hard to discuss. Your neighbor won’t know the situation bothers you. It may grow worse, or become harder to talk about, as time goes on.
Be respectful. Talk directly with the neighbor involved about a problem situation. Don’t gossip; that damages relationships and creates trouble.
Be calm. If a neighbor approaches you accusingly about a difficulty, listen carefully and thank them for telling you how they feel. You don’t have to agree or justify your behavior. If you can listen and not react defensively, then their anger subsides, the lines of communication remain open and there is a good chance of working things out.
Listen well. When you discuss a problem, try to understand how your neighbor feels about the issue and why. Understanding is not the same as agreeing, will increase the likelihood of a solution that works for you both.
Take your time. If you need to, take a break to think about what you and your neighbor have discussed. Arrange to finish the conversation later, and then do so. Beginning something and not following through can start a problem or make one worse.
Get help when needed. Communication can resolve conflict, and talking things over is the best way to handle problems and avoid enforcement or the courts. But at times you may need the help of a neutral third part trained in conflict resolution. If it seems that your efforts to communicate with a neighbor are not resolving the issue, do not hesitate to call Community Mediation Services.
Conflict can be an opportunity for increased understanding and improved communication and relationships when handled properly. For help in talking with a neighbor or for confidential assistance with a conflict, contact Community Mediation Services at 360-334-5862 or email@example.com.
Toolkit for Leadership Succession
The Neighborhood Associations Toolkit provides helps to organize neighborhood association leadership, defining roles & responsibilities, facilitating meetings and promoting leadership succession in an all volunteer organization.
Picnic Equipment/Port-o-Let Reservation Form
The Office of Neighborhoods requests that all equipment reservations be made on the Neighborhood Picnic Reservation Form, and be sent to the Office of Neighborhoods online or by mail, fax, email or in person. When possible, please submit your request at least 30 days in advance of your event. The Office of Neighborhoods will process and confirm your requests in writing.
BBQ, Picnic Tables and Trash Cans are picked up and returned to the Operations Center Warehouse, 4711 Fourth Plain Blvd. (go to the Shipping and Receiving entrance off General Anderson and enter the first gate on the right). The Warehouse is open between 7 and 9 a.m. for pick up and return.
Please observe the following guidelines:
- Pick up the equipment the business day before your event.
- Return the equipment the next business day after your event.
- Vehicles must have the proper wiring (4 or 6 prong and a 2-inch ball) to transport the BBQ.
- You must have people with you when you pick up/return the equipment that are physically able to lift and carry at least 50 pounds to load and/or unload equipment. The Warehouse does not have personnel available to load and unload vehicles for you.
- Your vehicle must be large enough to carry the equipment (folding, plastic picnic tables are 6 ft. long and can fit in the back of a pickup truck along with the trash cans).
- The neighborhood association is responsible for disposing of the trash generated at your event.
If you need help in securing a vehicle to transport the equipment, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The gas BBQ is $55, and fuel is provided. A confirmation email will be sent to you with instructions on how to pay for the rental.