Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Who is NPAR?

Tuesday's candidate forum for the Richardson City Council was co-sponsored by the Neighborhood Protection Alliance of Richardson (NPAR). What is that, you ask. Is "neighborhood protection" just a politically correct way of saying Not-In-My-Back-Yard? (Not really. OK, maybe a little. Maybe more than a little.) Who is NPAR, you ask. Do you mean Maitri and her friends? (Maybe, but NPAR sounds grand, doesn't it? And maybe it's bigger than that, but it's hard to say.)

If you need a scorecard to keep straight all the new political organizations sprouting up in Richardson, you are not alone. The Richardson Coalition. The Richardson Citizens Alliance. The Neighborhood Protection Alliance of Richardson. What most of these have in common is more than a little ambiguity over who all are members and how representative they are of Richardson as a whole.

After the jump, parsing the email from the Neighborhood Protection Alliance of Richardson.

From a recent email from the Neighborhood Protection Alliance of Richardson (NPAR):

"We want to remind you that while there are other civic minded organizations working toward the betterment of our city, NPAR's unique angle is that it is neighborhood focused."
"Unique angle?" That may surprise the homeowners associations (HOA) and neighborhood associations (NA) of Owens Park, Canyon Creek, Duck Creek, Richardson Heights, Yale Park, Cottonwood Heights, Highland Terrace, etc. What's the focus of all the HOA's and NA's if not neighborhoods?
"This unique grassroots approach of dedicated citizens is committed to the betterment of our Richardson community and is the only local organization who advocates for a better balance between needed economic development and equally important environmental sustainability and neighborhood quality of life."

NPAR may be "grassroots" but so are HOAs and NAs. Is NPAR more representative of residents of Richardson than the many HOAs and NAs? Is it inclusive? NPAR says, "We welcome like-minded individuals." If there are any membership statistics, meeting agendas or minutes, or election results on NPAR's website, I couldn't find them. NPAR lists only four members of its "board of directors," two of whom have the same last name. I'm all for citizen involvement in local government and I commend the civic-mindedness of Maitri Smithhisler and everyone else involved in NPAR. Everyone's voice should be heard. But let's be sure we know exactly who is representing whom.

"Better balance?" From what I've seen, NPAR's position on the two issues the groups has tackled so far tilts totally towards "neighborhood quality of life." It's even in their name, right? NPAR was formed in opposition to the plans for reconstructing the Lookout Drive Trash Transfer Station and later NPAR opposed the plans for economic development of the property at US75 and the Bush Tollway. So far in its history, NPAR's definition of neighborhood protection is equivalent to NIMBY.

NIMBYism is an effective way to rally support on a single issue, but it's less effective in enlisting the day-in, day-out involvement needed for healthy, growing neighborhoods and city. If you care about your neighborhood, if you care about your city, get involved with your HOA or NA. Don't let them be eclipsed by "grassroots" organizations that form to oppose change. That's something NPAR would surely agree with (although they probably wouldn't put it quite like that ;-)

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