The story in Tuesday's Gazette about the residents of Mont Pleasant painting fire hydrants (115 in all), planting flowers, cutting grass and otherwise beautifying their neighborhood was encouraging. As was city officials' response to complaints by the newly energized community; they've promised to increase the number of security cameras and to empty public trash cans more often.
Strong neighborhoods, in which residents know and care about one another, are the key to attracting people who keep up their properties and pay their taxes. The city should be doing everything it can to promote this sense of neighborhood, which is why changes in recent years making it more difficult to hold neighborhood block parties are disturbing.
One of the changes was to increase the lead time for a permit application, from 30 days before the event to 60 days. This was to give city department and bureau heads -- seven must sign off on the application in all -- more time to do so. The change was made after the city first tried unsuccessfully to get these officials to say yea or nay within five days.
The other change, made this year, was to limit the maximum hours for a neighborhood block party to four. That seems unduly short. It prevents the kind of block party where the kids ride their bikes and otherwise play in the street during the day and the parents gather for dinner in evening and talk into the night. In the past, people could start the party whenever they wanted, as long as it was over by 9 p.m. or they were quiet after that.
The mayor's office says this change was because there had been complaints by neighbors who didn't like the noise or the inconvenience of barriers on the block -- and that there have been no complaints about the new policy. Maybe, but that doesn't mean most residents are happy with it, or that it's a good idea. If the duration of the block party has to be restricted, six or eight hours would be more reasonable; and the city should also find a way to shorten the lead time for a permit application.
The City Council, which wasn't involved in these policy changes but should have been, should be prepared to step in here if necessary.