Meet the Midtown representative to the Neighborhood Advisory Council

Allen Norman, who will serve another term on the Neighborhood Advisory Council, says he and his advisory council colleagues want to represent neighborhood interests at city hall. They are getting out of city hall and meeting with neighborhoods across the city.

A year into his two-year term as a member of the city’s Neighborhood Advisory Council, Allen Norman says the group is establishing better relationships with neighborhoods.  In part, the council has decided to conduct some of its meetings in the community rather than at city hall.

The council is also working on getting neighborhoods involved earlier in the city budget-setting process, and members are listening to conversations in the community to identify emerging issues.

The 15-member Neighborhood Advisory Council discusses city policies and programs and makes recommendations to the Neighborhood Services department. Its members are elected either at-large or from various sections of the city, with Midtown being represented by the central west district.  The council is unique among city commissions because it is elected by neighborhood groups rather than appointed by council members.

Map of the Central West region of the Neighborhood Advisory Council.

Norman thinks it is vitally important to have such a council because the city benefits from neighborhood input into decisions across all of its departments. “It’s not an ‘us against them’ atmosphere,” he says. “Neighborhoods are where people live. Neighborhoods ARE the city.”

That’s exactly why, Norman says, the city should get as much input from neighborhoods as possible. He sees the role of the council as one of initiating community meetings so people in neighborhoods across the city can have a conversation.

Norman remembers the Neighborhood Roundtable Meetings that used to be held by the Kansas City Neighborhood Alliance. While many leaders from across the city attended those highly popular meetings, the roundtable was dissolved when the alliance lost it funding. Since then, no organization or group has been able to bring together the various neighborhoods to discuss issues and share information.

Norman says he’s spent much of the past year as an elected advisory council representative attending city department meetings. He also goes to neighborhood association meetings, where he says he mostly listens. He says the advisory council will develop stronger relationships with neighborhoods in the coming year. “I am on this council to represent neighborhoods, but I need to know how they feel about things. We at the council are doing everything we can to go out into the neighborhoods, meet people and establish better communication.”

Norman’s counterpart in the central-west region, Gunner Hand, has served a two-year term and is eligible to run again. Applications are available from the city or at the Neighborhoods and Housing Services Department on the fourth floor of City Hall, 414 E. 12th  Street. Once nominations are closed on August 28, the city will send ballots to neighborhood groups, who will vote on the candidates.