A chat about civic leagues with Downtown Norfolk Civic League president Kevin Murphy. Plus, info on when and where your neighborhood’s civic league meets.
I never even considered attending a neighborhood civic league meeting until I moved to Norfolk and started meeting with city officials and learning how local government actually functions.
I heard it time and time again from the men and women who clock into City Hall everyday: to get anything done in a neighborhood, the civic league needs to grant its blessing. The street performance ordinance couldn’t go through until the civic leagues in Downtown and Ghent were comfortable with it. In the planning of Bike Month, getting the civic leagues on board was considered vital. You can best believe that the Ghent Neighborhood League had its say when it came to Survive Norfolk.
Don’t think civic leagues matter? Go to The Pilot‘s website and do a search for Kevin Murphy, who is the president of the Downtown Norfolk Civic League. You get eight pages of results (only a few of which are concerning a teacher named Kevin Murphy in Chesapeake who punched a student).
Here’s the plain and simple when it comes to making a difference in your neighborhood: The most efficient way to do that just might be to join your civic league. The City–you know, the thing that makes the laws and spends the hundreds of millions of tax dollars every year–listens to the civic leagues. I promise you they do. Here’s something else I can promise you: You walk into a civic league meeting with passion, ideas, and a willingness to expend a bit of the proverbial elbow grease, and you will be embraced very quickly.
Democracy is still alive in America. I have seen it breathing in the halls of our civic leagues.
I highly suggest you attend a civic league meeting, if not to help, then at least to make sure that voice representing *your* neighborhood isn’t saying all sorts of crazy things.
For a list of civic leagues, contact info, and meeting information in your neighborhood, click on one of the following links:
As the saying goes, you’re not allowed to complain about something until you’ve tried to make it better (I’m talking to you trolls commenting on The Pilot and too-cool hipsters who run their mouth about “The City,” as if it’s some distant monarchy they have no power over). It’s only an hour or so out of your evening. Why not?
The Downtown Norfolk Civic League–to which I belong–is having a social tonight. All are welcome to attend. Kevin Murphy and I had a little chat over email about what civic leagues do, how the DNCL has made a difference, and what first drew him toward civic engagement.
AltDaily: Tell me about the Downtown Norfolk Civic League. What do you see as being its role in the neighborhood?
Kevin Murphy: The Downtown Norfolk Civic League is the collective voice of the residents of downtown Norfolk.
What are some of the tangible ways that the DNCL has made Downtown Norfolk a more livable place to call home?
The DNCL’s accomplishments include :
§ Successfully lobbying the city to install surveillance cameras in the parking garages which has led to a dramatic reduction in the number of automobile break-ins.
§ Providing feedback to HRT and the city on light rail design issues related to safety, accessibility, and aesthetics.
§ Addressing the need to extend the NET Bus to Ghent.
§ Bringing attention to issues such as Flat Iron Park, Waterside, parking, garbage collection hours, etc
Do you feel like city officials listen to the Civic League and respect is as a political entity?
The city and other organizations are very responsive to civic leagues, as they serve to filter issues before becoming a part of the public discourse.
How did you first get interested in civic engagement? Were your parents actively involved with their civic league or other community/political activities?
I was not civically engaged until returning to Norfolk in 2005. After becoming frustrated with parking issues, a few residents banded together to form the civic league so that our concerns would be taken more seriously. Since that time, we’ve identified many, many issues to address to improve the quality of life for downtown residents.
Would you classify your involvement with the DNCL as a hobby, entertainment, or an exercise of civic duty?
As president of the civic league, my involvement is definitely that of active civic engagement. The civic league provides residents with the opportunity to be actively engaged or just more informed about what’s happening in their community.
Would you recommend that our readers get involved with their neighborhood civic league? What is a good first step to getting involved?
We encourage all residents and businesses with a vested interested interest in downtown Norfolk to join the civic league. Our members define the civic league’s priorities, so everyone has the opportunity to have an impact on what they consider to be important. People can learn more about the civic league by attending a meeting or visiting www.welovenorfolk.org.
Tell us about the DNCL social today. What can people expect? Are all invited, or just Downtown residents and business owners? Do you have to own your property to be a part of the DNCL?
The quarterly social is open to all residents and businesses with a vested interest in downtown Norfolk. It happens tonight at 6:00 pm at Bite located at 440 Monticello Avenue. The Quarterly Socials are intended to give civic league members the opportunity to interact with the leaders of city departments and other organizations that impact the quality of life in Downtown Norfolk. John Rhamstine and the SevenVenues staff will be our guests at this quarter’s social. Mr. Rhamstine will provide an overview of SevenVenues and his staff will be available to discuss the venues and events for which they are responsible. In addition to the program, food and a cash bar will be available.
We welcome both property owners and tenants and our membership breakdown is approximately 70% residents and 30% businesses.