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Stirring up support

April 8, 2016 | Southside Times | link to article

Bryan, Evan, and Kristina Hannon

Bryan, Evan, and Kristina Hannon

As cold calls go, the ring of the doorbell heralds the sale of Girl Scout cookies, or candy bars from a school fundraiser. Less likely is a visit from someone like Bryan Hannon, a neighbor asking for support.

“It always amazes me when somebody is willing to step out,” Nita McCormick said about Hannon’s door-to-door appeal to start an association. “I can’t say enough for Bryan.”  McCormick is a neighborhood development specialist with the Indianapolis Neighborhood Resource Center (INRC).

Hannon lives in Rosedale Hills, a residential area bounded by Thompson Road on the south and I-465 on the north, with the exception of a few blocks above the interstate.  On the western edge, Walcott runs north from Thompson Road east of South Madison Street.  To the east, the neighborhood ends at Earlham Drive beyond Keystone Avenue.

Under his leadership, neighbors will meet April 14, 6:30 p.m. at Rosedale Hills United Methodist Church. Local police and government officials are expected to address concerns, but the featured topic will be a potential mass transit referendum before voters in November.

Hannon and his wife, Kristina, moved to Rosedale Hills three years ago. Though busy chasing their one-year-old son, Evan, and “keeping him out of things,” Hannon finds time to follow the Cubs, the Pacers, and the Bears. Yet in the midst of career and family growth, he tries to be “more civically engaged.”

Home in Rosedale Hills

Property in Rosedale Hills neighborhood.

Mulling over the potential impact of a neighborhood group, Hannon considered transportation arteries, commercial areas, and parks in the vicinity of his home. “Rosedale Hills rises and falls with the broader Southside community.”

Hannon’s preparation for a leadership role started in high school. A Purdue University graduate from Renssalaer, he majored in history and political science. “I caught the politics bug when I was a teenager.” He eventually served as a legislative aide for two Democratic state senators. Recently, he has been a government relations representative focusing on state and federal issues for the American Cancer Society.

Canvassing the neighborhood with flyers in 2015, Hannon recruited the future secretary-treasurer of the association, Roy Gabriel, former chief information officer of the Indiana Dept. of Revenue.  A native of Port Arthur, Texas, Gabriel moved to the Indianapolis Southside about 50 years ago. Although a retiree who enjoys tennis and golf, he operates a part-time consulting firm, Aggress Revenue Management Solutions Corp. He and Mary Sturm share a home in Rosedale Hills. “I got a flyer that Bryan put out and I immediately called him.”

Gabriel tries to encourage interest in neighborhood development by emphasizing the community’s impact on one person. “It’s a part of you, just like it’s a part of me.”

 

Breakdown of Keystone Ave.

Breakdown of Keystone Ave.

The flyers also intrigued Joe Whitlow, the association vice-chairman, who has lived in Rosedale Hills for 14 years. No stranger to organizational maneuvers, Whitlow was a member of the old West Indianapolis Neighborhood Congress. A 1969 graduate of George Washington High School, he joined the US Air Force, after which he left active duty for several years in the late 1970s. During the hiatus, he helped to encourage Westsiders to join crime watch programs. Whitlow returned to active duty and retired in 1993 with the rank of master sergeant. For 12 years, he was stationed in Germany. After retirement from the military, Whitlow worked for the Federal Aviation Administration and the Indianapolis Public Schools.

As Hannon received phone calls of support, he had “no idea” how many people would show up for the first meeting, according to the INRC’s McCormick. The turnout in the summer of 2015 was “phenomenal,” she said, estimating it to be about 40 people, a rarity for fledgling groups.

“A lot of times, it’s easy to organize when there’s an issue that they’re all against.” However, a polarizing subject was largely absent from the meeting, filled with “soft engagement,” she said. Neighbors interacted and shared personal biography. The group set up more sessions to occur at the Methodist church.

During a later meeting, officers were confirmed, and bylaws were ratified with three additional seats for district representatives. Janet St. Peters and Bill Davis fill two of the seats, and the third will be chosen soon. The board registered with the city as the Rosedale Hills Neighborhood Organization. Such filing is important, McCormick said, because the group automatically receives notice about pending applications for zoning variances.

Various issues have surfaced during meetings. Drainage problems after a heavy rain are a concern of many, including Whitlow. “I’m surrounded by a moat.”

Medians, curbs, and sidewalks on South Keystone Avenue are broken in some places, and Gabriel calls for street repairs and beautification.

Hannon and Gabriel also criticized the appearance of the strip mall on the southwest corner of Keystone and Carson avenues, near the north entrance to Rosedale Hills. The main building’s façade is crumbling, and most windows are papered over. Only three businesses operate on the lot – a pharmacy, a discount store, and a pub. A call to the property management firm where rent checks are sent was not returned after a request for information about possible renovations.

At the meeting on April 14, residents will hear about the mass transit initiative supported by IndyCAN, the Indianapolis Congregation Action Network.  A speaker from IndyCAN will explain why voters should support a $1.3 billion regional transit system in a referendum on the November ballot. The City-County Council must approve placing the referendum for a vote. Advocates say the system will open up 12,000 logistics and construction careers, and connect communities of color and the working poor to regional employment hubs.

Hannon would like to get neighbor approval for the association to support the transit initiative. He said younger investors in home ownership will grade a neighborhood according to how progressive it is, including the available transportation.

Looking ahead, the short-term goal for the association is to plan a fun event, such as a cookout or a block party to promote relationship-building at social mixers.

And long-term?  Full investment in the Southside Quality of Life plan, which held a visioning summit on Feb. 27.  “The visioning summit was great – a lot of momentum in that room.” But he said Rosedale Hills needs more neighbors engaged in the process.

Southsiders must create their own identity, Hannon said. “When I tell people I live on the Southside, they say, ‘Oh, you live in Greenwood?’

“I don’t live in Greenwood.”

Author: Nicole Davis