By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN
BG Independent News
The group honored Monday evening for promoting diversity in Bowling Green was compared to picadors – who stab the 2,000-pound bull in the neck to weaken him before the bullfighter goes in the ring.
“We pick, we prod, we poke,” said Rose Hess, head of the East Side Residential Neighborhood Group.
The organization was given the Honor Roll Award from the Bowling Green Human Relations Commission. Commission chairperson Rev. Mary Jane Saunders explained how the East Side group got its start and how it has grown.
On a summer night back in 2007, a group of eight neighbors gathered to discuss issues involving rental properties and owner-occupied housing on the east side of Bowling Green.
A decade later, the group has grown to more than 100 members gathering under the name of the East Side Residential Neighborhood Group, Saunders said.
The group’s mission statement states the commitment to:
- Enhancing residential neighborhoods.
- Encouraging property maintenance in the pursuit of safe housing for all.
- Promoting beautification of properties and a strong and diverse community.
The comparison to picadors seemed fitting when Mayor Dick Edwards praised the group’s efforts, especially those of Hess.
“You’re not afraid to do some of the heavy lifting. You’re not afraid to get your hands dirty, or get in the faces of people like me,” Edwards said to Hess.
Hess admitted to poking and prodding.
“We do get in people’s faces,” she said. “We know that not everybody loves us.”
Hess said the East Siders never intended to be a neighborhood association. But the group has found its niche in welcoming students to the neighborhood by visiting about 500 houses every August. The members deliver food baskets to new homeowners.
They defend their neighborhood by meeting with landlords, the police chief and the BGSU student affairs leaders.
The group’s presence in a university town has been important, since market forces are not always favorable or helpful to student renters, to families, to non-student renters, and others.
In the past decade, the East Side group has developed goals which include:
- To foster good relationships between permanent residents and non-permanent residents.
- To encourage property maintenance by all home owners.
- To encourage closer supervision by landlords of their property.
- To work closely with the city on over-occupancy and nuisance issues.
- To continue [a] strong liaison with the Office of the Dean of Students at BGSU.
The East Side’s pro-active and welcoming gestures towards BGSU students provide information on rights and responsibilities, Saunders said. Educational outreach in 2017 took the form of participation in the Court Street Connects Festival, presentations to community groups, hand-distributed flyers in neighborhoods, and involvement in the development of the Community Action Plan.
Members monitor the exterior of properties for compliance with city code, and they’ve been able to make procedural changes, get repairs done, and encourage cooperative behavior among residents.
A key aspect of the East Side group’s work on rental properties is intervention on poorly maintained properties where safety has become an issue, Saunders said. In keeping with the goals of the Human Relations Commission, the East Side Residential Neighborhood Group advocates for safe housing for all people in the community.
“We are pleased to recognize this dedicated group by presenting them with this Honor Roll award,” Saunders said.
Representing the East Side organization at Monday’s meeting were members Hess, Mark Hollenbaugh, Elizabeth Burroughs, and John Zanfardino who is a member of City Council.