Civic Engagement and Partnerships Drives Action

Cover2HOUSTON-South Park is ground zero for the real work of citizens actively involved in making a difference for their community.

SuperNeighborhood No. 72 President Charles X. White said the focus of his group is holding the city of Houston, Houston Independent School District and other government entities accountable for poor decisions, failed projects, projects not yet completed and fighting actions that currently threaten the present and future survival of the neighborhoods.

“There are very critical times and we must be vigilant and active in saving our neighborhoods,” Charles X White said. “Our work and efforts are vital because we are the first line and last line of defense when it comes to being a voice and protecting our schools, businesses, real estate and future development.”

The South Park group is a partnership of civic engagement that involves 14 civic groups. Of those, 11 are from South Park, four from Sunnyside and three from South Union.

South Park is a broad post-World War II development in the south-central area of Houston, Texas, a few miles south of MacGregor Park and directly south of the 610 Loop.

According to the census, the community has a population of 22,282. About 81% of the South Park population is predominately African American, compared to 25% for the city as a whole.

Houston’s Martin Luther King Boulevard runs through the area. Reflecting its postwar origins, many streets in South Park are named after World War II battle sites and persons.

According to the president, some of the main priorities for the area include following up on issues with Houston Independent School District relative to the closing of schools and the education of young people who live in the community.

“We are fighting the discriminatory practices of HISD with the closing and repurposing of Jones High School,” he said. “We are serious about saving our neighborhoods and preserving our community and our futures here.”

That vigilance has a number of key projects going on and has brought attention to HISD and its attempts to shut down schools in predominantly Black neighborhoods.

It also has city leaders scrambling to provide answers to leaders who will not just accept no or excuses when it comes to neighborhood priorities.

Some of the current actions being monitored include a project relating to the Metro Rail system along Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.

White said neighborhood leaders still have not see an impact mitigation study from the city that was promised when the rail system was proposed.

The neighborhood is also trying to ensure the city follows up on public works issues that provide services to the community and ensuring that the city sidewalks are in compliance with the American with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Streets repairs are also a major issues in areas where the city has not been as careful and diligent in maintenance. Some areas currently being monitored are projects between the 610 and Bellfort, the Blue Ridge area that covers Reed Road, and areas between Scott and Highway 288.

White said while the super neighborhood concept has merit, he disagrees with the changes made with the program because it is not what former Houston Mayor Lee Brown had in mind when he set up the system to give communities an active voice in government.

“Now, it has become and is nothing more than a political tool for the mayor,” Charles X White said. “It’s original intent has been compromised to the point that in its present state. It is like a car without wheels. It looks good, but it is not going anywhere.”

According to White, in the beginning, community and neighborhood groups were suppose to have a real, serious voice and it was suppose to encourage people participation and stress a neighbor focused and oriented government.

“It only serves a few structured groups,” he said. “The rest of us have our partnerships and they help get things done and make us more powerful and effective.”

Charles X White said he will continue to work tirelessly not only to preserve the history and heritage of the South Park area, but also seek positive development and growth that puts his community in step with more affluent areas of the city.

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