Friday, April 28, 2006

Emergency Preparedness

GANA Speaker Series
Mark Brostoff
Chair, Monroe County Citizens Corps Council

8:00 – 9:00 p.m. April 28, 2006 (after our monthly meeting, see meeting report)

Mark described the history and purpose of the Citizens Corps Council and its CERT training for emergency preparedness in neighborhoods.

The Process
"CERT" means Community Emergency Response Team. Mark wants to put these teams in place in every Bloomington neighborhood, with Green Acres as the first neighborhood to model this idea in action.

Citizens Corps (with its motto, "Uniting communities, preparing the nation") was instituted in the wake of 9/11 by the newly formed Homeland Security Department as a way to bring emergency preparedness to cities and neighborhoods. Monroe County has received $50,000 for this purpose over the past three years. Its most popular program is CERT, started in 1985 in LA after the Mexico City earthquake when 100 rescuers died because they weren't trained.

The CERT mission is to "do the greatest good for the greatest number." CERT training prepares regular citizens to work during the first 72 hours of a disaster, before professional first responders (EMT, police and firemen) arrive.

Certified CERT teams work in pairs; they wear special gloves, helmet, vest and backpack full of first-aid and other needed equipment (like a big wrench and a crowbar) and go door-to-door to ascertain the condition of each home and its occupants. (Their equipment comes at no cost, via Homeland Security Department.) They identify who needs help, administer basic first aid, turn off gas, put out small fires, and are trained to help psychologically with people in shock and otherwise suffering. CERT teams do not self-deploy, but respond when called upon by the local CERT captain.

Google CERT to find out more information about this program that can help us help each other during any emergency.

As Mark presented the CERT program, one by one he removed all the equipment from a CERT backpack (besides crow bar, wrench, first aid, also a mask, goggles, space blanket, and so on). The training takes 21 hours, can be done in a variety of time frames, and concludes with a simulated disaster.

Mark has trained three local teams so far, two for IU, and one for a local company. Green Acres would be the first neighborhood to have a CERT team in place. To get our imaginations going, we discussed what, for example, might happen if a train full of toxic gas derailed in Green Acres.

Fifteen people are needed for a training, in our case about ten people from Green Acres and Mark would fill in the rest with others on a CERT training waiting list. He stressed that Citizens Corps prefer intergenerational teams, to include older people and even teenagers. By the time he was done, and we asked for a show of hands, to our surprise seven people wanted to sign up: Georgia Schaich, Kim Fernandez, John Gaus, Betty Byrne, Julia Jackson, Nathan Harmon, and Ann Kreilkamp. Even this many, Mark says, is probably enough for him to fill out a team, but I hope that there are a few teenagers in the neighborhood who would like to do this with us! Anyone out there?

We decided that the best way for us is to do the 21-hour training in one weekend plus another half-weekend, sometime in October. He will let us know what dates are possible.

If you wish to be a member of this team—learn a valuable skill, bond with your neighbors, be on call to help the rest of your neighbors, sport a spiffy CERT backpack and vest and helmet that remains in your possession unless and until you move out of Monroe County, let me know. Thanks.

And thanks, Mark, for arousing us to appreciate the necessity and availability of this timely training. I, for one, was stunned to realize that I wanted to join the Green Acres CERT team.

Ann Kreilkamp
GANA scribe

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Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Prospect Hill

GANA Speaker Series
Bill Sturbaum
Prospect Hill Neighborhood Association

8:00 – 9:00 p.m. April 26, 2006 (after our monthly meeting, see meeting report)

Bill, who moved to Prospect Hill in 1964, inspired us with his story of how Prospect Hill evolved into a vital, flourishing, highly-sought-after neighborhood.

The Process
Bill began by passing around a photo of a pretentious two-story house on a tiny lot amidst modest bungalows. His neighborhood, Bill says, faces this very real possibility right now, and the outcome of the current situation in Prospect Hill may set a precedent for all of Bloomington.

The background
A house was sold to someone who wanted to demolish the house according to a plan that would have a new house in character with the existing neighborhood. Then it was sold to another owner who wants a new plan with a 70-foot-long, two-story house on a block where all the existing houses are one-story. In order to do this he will need a variance. Prospect Hill has invited the new owner to meet with them, and on the basis of what happens at that meeting will decide to support or fight this project. In any case, they will all converge at the next Board of Zoning Appeals Meeting on May 18th where a decision will be made.

Besides the precedent-setting character of this situation, Bill wanted to emphasize that his neighborhood is quite familiar with and used to the idea of working with city officials—the Mayor’s office, City Council, HAND, to the Board of Zoning Appeals, the Traffic Commission, the Planning Office—whichever office appropriate for whatever they need done. Given their experiences over the past 20 years, they “have a lot of confidence” he said, that they can make things happen when they work with the city. And by the way, he added, we need to realize that we are very fortunate to live Bloomington where the city government is so very responsive.

In this and every issue that comes up, Prospect Hill proceeds as follows: the executive committee meets, comes up with two or three suggested solutions to the problem at hand, and then gives it to the whole group to debate, with whoever serves as a facilitator taking no position on the issue. One of those suggestions may be taken, or some other solution entirely may emerge. They follow Roberts Rules of Order, and “in a gentle way, keep to the topic.” If an issue continues to be contentious, they table it for later.

Prospect Hill got going in 1987, in response to a mayoralty campaign in which one candidate wanted to put an east-west corridor through 3rd St. They discovered that if they could get their neighborhood designated “historic,” then there would have to be a study before the government released the money. This indirect approach to the problem at hand proved successful. In three years they had gotten national, state, and finally, local designation as a “historic district.”

There used to be 500 semi-trucks a day going up Prospect Hill, (loaded with TVs from Mexico!). In order to get that stopped, they had the ingenuity to measure the decibels which, it turned out, were equivalent to an airplane taking off! So they just took that fact to the city and got the truck traffic stopped

Many times now, Bill has bought and rehabbed old houses—seventeen in all—“never,” he says, “with the intent of making money, but of changing the neighborhood.” He bought the first house with a credit line from his own home, and just kept going. He rents the houses until he finds a renter that he wants to sell to, and at times has offered the house to them at below the appraised value and/or carried the contract on the mortgage himself. Through the years, he says, he has “come out even” financially in these neighborhood-enhancing ventures.

After the original three-year push to form an “historic district,” Prospect Hill residents realized that they had learned to work together. Meanwhile, other people got wind that something special was going on in Prospect Hill and wanted into the neighborhood. (Plus, at that time, big old houses there could be had for very little money.) Their neighborhood association is now 20 years old, and keeps a waiting list of people who want to buy into the neighborhood. They are organized into “block captains,” who, among other things, keep track of when a home owner is going to leave town, and report in at every meeting. They call and ask the seller to hook up to a willing buyer before the realtors can list it, thus saving both seller and buyer realtor fees.

Bill suggests that in order to begin to do the same thing in Green Acres, we need to think of money “as a tool, not and end.”

“For any vacancy,” he says, “find out who the owner is, and then offer a three to six month option (for $500 to $1500). During that time, take care of the property, paint and clean it up, and then sell it to a new home owner.” And, he adds, “if an owner doesn’t appear in that time, then buy it!”—since you can deduct the interest on the mortgage, plus insurance, depreciation, and any repairs. He suggests these three ways of getting capital: 1) Bloomington Restoration—BRI will lend money interest-free for six months (beyond that, you must pay interest and have the loan paid back in three years); 2) Investment Groups: these invest in contracts and will lend money— find or form one of your own; 3) a home equity loan on your home; and finally, 4) refinancing your home.

Many of the Prospect Hill homes have front porches, which fosters neighborliness, and many of the blocks are very narrow, through which cars must move slowly. This neighborhood is also close to downtown, another drawing card.

Over the years, Prospect Hill Neighborhood Association has moved reached out to the streets with tiny houses that were not part of the original Victorian milieu, and their email list (it used to be a snail mail newsletter) goes out to hundreds of people. Like Green Acres, Prospect Hill also includes about 400 homes.

Both Bill Sturbaum’s long-time vision of Prospect Hill as a caring, close-knit neighborhood and his courtly, gracious manner has, no doubt, helped ease their way forward through any number of difficult issues. We thank him for giving us so much food for thought as we ponder how to help Green Acres Neighborhood Association grow into its own unique maturity as a model of urban sustainability.

Ann Kreilkamp

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GANA Meeting Minutes

GANA (Green Acres Neighborhood Association) Meeting
4/26/06, 7 – 8 p.m.
First United Church on 3rd St.

Kathy Ruesink, Jelene Campbell, Noriko Hara, Phil Eskew, Stefano Conard, Diane Dormant, Nathan Harmon, Maggie Jessephs, John Gaus, Georgia Schaich, Kadhim Shabaan, John Gaus, Jessica Gaus, Ann Kreilkamp


  • Pick-It-Up
  • PlantShare
  • Summer Solstice Festival
  • Trees
  • Neighborhood Plan Request
  • CONA dues
  • Sustainability

We received updates on plans for the three summer events—Pick-It-Up, PlantShare, and Summer Solstice Festival. We heard an update on the Neighborhood Plan Request, and decided to pay CONA dues. We discussed our sustainability goals.

The Process
Georgia Schaich facilitated the meeting which took the usual hour, with break for refreshments afterwards prior to our scheduled speaker, Bill Sturbaum of Prospect Hill Neighborhood Association.

PICK-IT-UP: This Saturday, April 29th, from 10 a.m. to noon. Meet at Phil and Noriko Hara’s, 2415 E. 4th, to receive trash bags and block assignments. Afterwards we will gather at Diane Dormant’s house, 316 N. Hillsdale, for a light brunch. (Rain date is Sunday, April 30.) PLEASE COME HELP PICK UP TRASH FROM OUR NEIGHBORHOOD. THE MORE OF US WHO PARTICIPATE, THE FASTER WE CAN GATHER AT DIANE’S!

PLANTSHARE: Saturday, May 13th, at Jelene Campbell’s, 2521 Eastgate Lane. Also pots, tools, other types of garden stuff. She has a garage in case of rain, and is willing to pick up plants if needed. We will put posters at neighborhood intersections to announce the event.

TREES: No report at this time as this committee has not met.

NEIGHBORHOOD PLAN REQUEST UPDATE: Besides Green Acres, two other neighborhoods are vying to be the one picked by the city—Bryan Park and Elm Heights. The three plans have been passed on to the mayor’s office with a decision due shortly.

CONA DUES: We agreed to pay $30 annual dues to CONA (Council of Neighborhood Associations).

SUSTAINABILITY: This discussion involved three separate aspects:

First, we began with a review of Stefano Conard’s draft of an overall, long-range, visionary flow chart for GANA sustainability that shows possible interrelationships between our neighborhood and other entities. These include the following: the City of Bloomington, Indiana University (SPEA/HYPER); IUPI (for technical support); Community Projects (e.g., community gardens, storm water use, trees, traffic control); Home Projects (e.g., P.V. electricity, green roofs, passive solar heating, food production); Outreach (e.g. newspapers, TV, other community groups); and U.S. Government and Indiana State grants. We then brainstormed about other possible additions to this chart, and added Bloomington businesses and schools as other future partners.

Then, Phil Eskew told about the short presentation on “Sustainability 101,” by the Sustainability Commission at the library during Earth Week that they attended along with about 30 others. The speaker discussed negative impacts (e.g., pesticides and burning fossil fuels) and positive impacts (e.g., local food, recycling), with the goal of getting a community-wide discussion going this year to prepare for a visioning process in 2007. Afterwards, a panel discussion featuring members of the sustainability commission discussed “the three E’s,”—economic, environmental and social equity—as all being equally important. If you wish to see this power-point presentation, log on to

And finally, we disccussed the Sustainability Commission’s Proposal for Solicitation of Sustainable Ideas, due in June 2, to be reviewed by the commission and one of them selected by June 8.

By the way, here’s our Mission Statement: The Green Acres Neighborhood Association fosters commitment to our place, promotes vitality, builds resilience to stress, acts as a steward, and forges connections beyond the boundaries of the Green Acres Neighborhood.

Next Meeting
MAY 31, 2006
(Last Wednesday of each month)
7-8 p.m., First United Church on 3rd St.

Ann Kreilkamp

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