CHARLESTOWN — Mayor Bob Hall says concerns about the scope of a steering committee aimed at improving the Pleasant Ridge neighborhood have given him pause in accepting an invitation to the board.
Pleasant Ridge Neighborhood Association President Josh Craven requested during the March city council meeting that the steering committed be created, and the council voted to approve the request. Craven asked that the committee be comprised of Hall, a second representative from his office, two council members and three members of the neighborhood association.
During a city council meeting this week, Hall said that he needs more time to consider if he will accept the invitation. He gave the same response last month when the steering committee was established.
Hall said Wednesday that the neighborhood association and the steering committee represent too few residents of the neighborhood.
“They are more of a special-interest group than they are a homeowners association,” Hall said of the neighborhood association. “They only represent less than 15 percent of the property owners in Pleasant Ridge. A real homeowner’s association will represent 100 percent of the properties in a subdivision.”
Hall said he has made efforts to revitalize the neighborhood since 2000, and it’s important to him that the area improves.
“I am not the mayor of the minority of Pleasant Ridge, I am the mayor of the whole city,” he said. “I am not going to be involved in a committee that has a very narrow focus and is only representing a very small interest.”
Throughout 2014, Hall advocated using a state grant — offered through the Blight Elimination Program — to demolish more than 300 structures in Pleasant Ridge and build a new development. Hall said that 70 percent of property owners in the subdivision were willing to work with the redevelopment plan.
The Hall-supported plan was voted down by the city council in December, after the Pleasant Ridge Neighborhood Association was created and showed a concerted dissatisfaction with razing the subdivision and displacing its residents.
“Pleasant Ridge is a major concern for the entire community,” he said. “We spend a large, disproportionate amount of city resources up there. It is a high-crime, high-drug area. This is a very complicated problem.”
All appointments were made to the board during Tuesday’s meeting, except for the two seats designated for Hall and his appointment.
RESIDENT SPEAKS OUT
Pleasant Ridge resident Jason Patrone addressed Hall and the council during the meeting Tuesday. Patrone said he wanted to explain why the city was in need of the steering committee, and, while doing so, he expressed his frustration with how Hall had attempted to redevelop the Pleasant Ridge area.
“If the city wasted time and effort and resources trying to take our homes, that is not our fault. We could have been and should have been your very first partners, your first meeting, your first phone call, but you didn’t bother with that. That is why we need a steering committee,” Patrone said.
He referenced Hall’s remarks during the March meeting in regards to the steering committee formation being politically motivated during an election year.
“I have heard a lot of preposterous things since I have been coming to this room, but that one really takes the cake,” Patrone said. “Fourteen months ago, when this grant application started, you could have searched all of Charlestown, all of Clark County, all of Indiana, and you would have been not able to find anyone less interested in politics than I.
“I could have lived my whole life and died a happy man without seeing the inside of this chamber. I didn’t know the difference between a Bob Hall and a Mike Hall, and I wasn’t trying to find out.”
Patrone said residents of Pleasant Ridge were given more of an “ultimatum” by Hall than a seat at the negotiating table to determine how to best use the proposed grant funding.
“Charlestown is more divided than it has ever been in its 200 years of history,” he said. “The citizens of Charlestown may properly ask whether such divisive leadership is leadership at all, and that is why we have to have a steering committee.”
He said the council, the mayor’s office and the Pleasant Ridge residents are all stakeholders in the neighborhood’s future.
“You would have found, sir, had you made the slightest effort, that you could have had partners in Pleasant Ridge, instead of adversaries,” Patrone told Hall. “You drove me and my neighbors in the position. We would like all of this divisiveness to end.”
Patrone then announced that the Pleasant Ridge Neighborhood Association appointed Craven, another neighborhood resident and himself as the three resident members of the steering committee.
“I strongly encourage you to take advantage of this opportunity to join with us — as should have been done from the beginning — and appoint two appointees from the administration,” Patrone said to Hall. “I’m not asking you or imploring you or begging you or beseeching you to join, I am challenging you to join, to do the right thing.”
After Patrone finished his comments, those seated in the gallery responded by giving him a round of applause.
Hall responded to Patron’s comments by saying that he in fact had met with residents of Pleasant Ridge before submitting the grant application and had made efforts to receive input from the community.
“The whole process was very well advertised. Obviously, there were people that disagreed with it, and there were a lot of people that agreed with it. There are still a lot of people that agree with it inside Pleasant Ridge,” Hall said.