Almanac

News - August 28, 2013

Menlo Park council approves next phase of Belle Haven engagement

by Sandy Brundage

Consultants came, surveyed, researched and questioned some more, and now they have formulated an action plan designed to increase Belle Haven's community engagement and address the neighborhood's priorities as far as education, crime and traffic are concerned.

The Menlo Park City Council voted 5-0 on Aug. 20 to approve $130,500 in funding to implement the plan, but also requested that in six months staff provide details on how to measure whether the plan is achieving the desired outcomes and a timeline for implementation.

The council voted 4-1 last September to spend an estimated $90,000 to hire consultants MIG, Inc. to develop a community-engagement process and vision for Belle Haven.

Some community members thought the money would be put to better use directly within Belle Haven instead of paying consultants, now that the community's needs have been identified.

Eva Cuffy challenged the notion that anyone needed to teach Belle Haven residents how to be leaders. "My community already has leadership skills," she said. "... We just don't have a lot of resources. And to take the resources and give them to outside consultants is a little bit insulting, to me."

Why not put the resources into the community, she asked.

Carolyn Clarke, former council candidate and now running for the fire district board, commented that people in Belle Haven are ready to work, but lack resources. While she agreed with hiring consultants for the visioning process, she suggested it was time for the community to make the changes. "I urge you to think carefully before spending money on consultants that we may not actually need to spend," she said.

The action plan includes exploring whether schools serving the Belle Haven community should join the Menlo Park City School District; expanding after-school programs, to improve education and crime prevention; and organize neighborhood leaders to serve as resources for help with property maintenance as well as public safety.

Neighborhood watch groups, crossing guards and ride-share opportunities are all programs that Belle Haven residents would like to investigate, according to the consultants' research.

Go to tinyurl.com/Menlo-Belle on the city's website to keep pace with the Belle Haven visioning process and action plan.

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