How to use Nextdoor.com to effect Neighborhood Change

Using Nextdoor to Effect Neighborhood Change

nextdoor.comI posted an article about my love of Nextdoor.com and why it’s useful a few years ago. Since then, my thinking about nextdoor.com has changed and grown. I see Nextdoor as much more powerful as a tool for neighborhood change than I did in the past. Here are some of the ways I’ve been using this tool to encourage my neighbors to make changes that may be for the better. I encourage you to read through these and give this a try – if you have any questions or comments, please leave them below or write me. Thanks.

  1. You start the conversation. If you want to try to move the needle on an issue it’s great to initiate the conversation on Nextdoor. This allows you to choose which neighborhoods (just yours or others around you) are part of the conversation. For instance, if you’re missing a kitten – you probably just want to alert your neighborhood. If you’re trying to show people a better way to park, the further the reach the better. And, if you’re trying to raise funds to save a theater or movie store – working with friends in other parts of the City is a great way to get maximum coverage. Also, by starting the conversation – you can clearly explain in detail what you’re talking about and action steps for people to take. You can also moderate the tone of the conversation and possibly edit the original post once new information is added to the thread.
  2. Something is broken on the internet. Eventually, or possibly right away, someone will pooh-pooh your idea or disagree with it, or go off-topic. There’s a wide variety of responses people have when they’re presented with information asking them to change their behavior. I started a conversation recently on why loud motorcycles are not such a great thing. You can imagine the push-back – everything from “having a loud bike saved someone’s life” to “freedom!”.  You just toughen up and get used to it. It’s not necessary to respond to every comment in a thread – and, if someone is mean or posting irrelevant information you can “mute” them. I don’t recommend this as a common practice, but it may make your life a little less stressful. I think in the 5 or so years I’ve been active on Nextdoor.com I’ve muted 2-3 people. I often will write the person directly and try to get a discussion going.
  3. Nextdoor is different than other social media platforms in a number of ways.  I suppose each one has its own flavor or way of operation.  One issue with Nextdoor is that there are no sub-threads – so, we’ve got this long thread, for example – with lots of great ideas; links and good thinking. If we had sub-threads – some questions would suddenly branch out into their own conversation. Instead, when an issue is raised – it suddenly steers the conversation for a bit (or, people ignore it; or worse – people mute the person who has made the comment – and never see that person’s comments again!) (I’m sure more than one person has muted me 🙂

    One solution to this or sense I have – is that if you’re going to post anything on Nextdoor – esp. within a conversation – take a moment to make your point. Longer, careful explanations of your thinking beat short retorts (which also may end up out of order and make no sense at all!)  Snarky comments – or questions that don’t exactly follow the stream may get ignored and the person posting probably will end up looking foolish. 

  4. Spelling, grammar – double-check… Providing links to back up your comments/points – are probably all good things to consider.

    Like with all social media – you’re basically shouting to a large group of people – so take a moment and review what you’ve written to make sure it makes sense – and try for clarity. Sarcasm, and wittiness can easily confuse people.

  5. Remind people about the issue every once in a while. I you have new information to share or you just think it’s time for the 1,000 people who’ve joined your neighborhood to learn about why it’s not a great idea to beep your car to lock it – add comments to the bottom of the thread. This will add your thread to the digest version that many people get daily and thus keep the conversation top of mind. You’ll be surprised that new people will join the conversation whenever you raise it again often adding valuable information to the neighborhood hive mind.

So, what’s a way that you’d like to see your neighborhood grow and change?  Want to start community potlucks?  Get more people to rip out their lawn and plant gardens?  Encourage people to use less pesticides?  Whatever it is, take the plunge – give it a try. I think you’ll be surprised that if you can start with a positive tone and stay on topic, you’ll actually have your neighbors listening to you and possibly following your suggestions which will improve life where you live.  I’ve tried this with everything from some of the above to issues like gun control and trying to stop fighter jets from using residential neighborhoods for their flight path. All of the conversations are still there waiting for me or someone else to continually add to them. To me this is the best tool ever invented for local organizing that has ever existed. It’s not perfect (where’s the ride-share aspect 🙂  Dating match-up?  But as it is, this is quite a powerful tool and I recommend giving it a try where you live.

Happy activating!

Albert Kaufman, 5.25.18

PS – even if Nextdoor.com is not popular in your area, hop on and get started. It likely will grow if past behavior is any indication. Also, perhaps you have something similar where you live – use the above guide with whatever platform is available where you live.

Guest Post: At the Root: Trees Rule

At the Root: Trees Rule

By Guest Blogger: Eileen Stark, Portland, Oregon

     Although the region’s unique wetlands and grasslands carry the greatest diversity of species, it is the forests that dominate and most distinctly characterize the Pacific Northwest. Structurally complex, dense, and immense ecosystems, forests sustain trees that substantially outgrow and outlive other plants and tolerate temperature variation and soil differences better. When the first European settlers arrived, conifers covered nearly the entire landscape of western British Columbia and Washington, and northwestern Oregon–from coast to Cascade crest–including the Puget Trough and parts of the Georgia Basin and Willamette Valley.Real Gardens Grow Natives
     These conifers (and other dominant species) are known as keystone species because of their strong and often unique effects on their ecosystem. Though they are greatly outnumbered by smaller plants in the forest, their contributions are mammoth. Cool, wet winters and mild, dry summers, along with rich soils, have made for optimum evergreen growing conditions.
     Conifers are able to photosynthesize during much of the year and are essential for watershed stabilization. Some species are the most massive on earth, often growing over 200 feet tall and living for more than 500 years. Worldwide, conifers represent the largest terrestrial “carbon sink,” where carbon is packed away in plant tissue above and below ground. The wettest forests–those on the west side of coastal mountain ranges–were once especially complex, with lush layering and much variation in tree age. Logging has eliminated much of the original, most productive old-growth forests, and massive clearcutting has resulted in severe fragmentation. Today, much forested land is “second growth” that has followed logging and wildfire.
     Garry oak (or Oregon White oak) ecosystems, where these oaks grow naturally, have become rare, with only a very small percentage remaining. The loss of these unique ecosystems puts all the species that rely on them in jeopardy, and indeed, some species have already been lost, while many of the remaining are at risk. If you live on land that was once part of a Garry oak ecosystem and are starting with a blank slate, consider planting Garry oaks and associated species like madrone (Arbutus menziesii), oceanspray (Holodiscus discolor), tall Oregon grape (Mahonia aquifolium), and baldhip rose (Rosa gymnocarpa). If your site is too small for large trees, grow the smaller associated species in a meadowlike garden or rock garden. Spring ephemerals include white fawn lily (Erythronium oregonum), Henderson’s shooting star (Dodecatheon hendersonii), and camas (Camassia quamash). Mid-bloomers include tiger lily (Lilium columbianum), nodding onion (Allium cernuum), stonecrop (Sedum spp.), harebell (Campanula rotundifolia), and western columbine (Aquilegia formosa); for late blooms try yarrow (Achillea millefolium var. occidentalis), showy fleabane (Erigeron speciosus), and goldenrod (Solidago canadensis).
     Most yards can support more trees, whether evergreen or deciduous, than they do. If you have the space, grow large trees–the oaks, the pines, the firs–that are quintessential to our region and will help replace some of the habitat that has been lost to development and logging. Just one Western red cedar (Thuja plicata) will provide dense shelter and nesting sites for various birds and small mammals, bark that can be used as nesting material, food for seed-eating birds and browsing mammals, and, as the trees mature, cavities for roosting and cavity-nesting birds.
     In urban areas, street trees that grow in parking strips could be native species (as well as the other plants you grow there). Some good choices for narrow parking strips (not less than 4 feet wide) include cascara (Rhamnus purshiana), Douglas maple (Acer glabrum), and black hawthorn (Crataegus douglasii), and for wider strips (greater than 6 feet wide) and without overhead utility wires, Garry oak (Quercus garryana), and Oregon ash (Fraxinus latifolia). Always check with your city’s urban forestry office before planting.
Excerpt from Real Gardens Grow Natives: Design, Plant, & Enjoy a Healthy Northwest Garden by Eileen M. Stark (Mountaineers Books, 2014)

 

Oxygen

Plant Trees – Leave Trees Standing – For better health for all living beings

Humans and other species thrive on oxygen. Trees and other plants create oxygen. So, you’d think if we wanted to live long, healthy lives and save other species – we’d plant as many trees as possible. Big trees also give off more oxygen than young trees – so, leaving big trees standing also makes sense for oxygen production.  the-tunnel-of-trees

If you’ve ever been in a plant store or the middle of a forest you know how good it feels to be breathing higher concentrations of oxygen.

So, for greater planetary health and better longevity – plant trees whenever possible and work to stop trees from being cut down everywhere.  The End


Well, not exactly. So, the thoughts above came from me mulling over a friend who has a tree in her front yard and two trees in her planting strip out front. She’s got yellow tags circling all three – and mentioned that the 2 trees in the planting strip are not well and that the big tree out front threatens her house.

Here’s where my mind goes.

  1. The trees in the planting strip – The City mentioned that she wouldn’t get permitted to have 2 trees there, and so if she replants she’ll only get to plant 1 tree. I didn’t look closely at the trees – but will encourage her to feed the trees and take care of them and see if she can keep them going. They are about 10 feet tall and possibly could grow much taller.  Every street tree adds to shade, oxygen, traffic calming, bird habitat, property value increase (I think it’s $10K per tree).
  2. The big tree in the middle of the lawn – the shade to the house in the Summer (the past couple summers in Portland have been incredibly hot) – probably reduces heating bills and glare + the other attributes mentioned above. Yes, there are costs to owning trees – pruning, caring for the tree.
  3. One thing that most people don’t think about is the whole canopy – the trees covering Portland and what the cumulative effect of many trees has on our lives. IMHO, the more trees the better = more oxygen. It’s also a beauty thing. I’m looking out a 2nd story window right now across the roofline of SE Portland and there are many trees. Remove one and you remove beauty for someone who is used to seeing your tree. + Autumn Leaves.

I hope you’ll reconsider when you think about removing a tree for some good reason. Tree companies who come out to talk trees make money from tree removal. The Urban Forestry folks at the City of Portland are also not in the business of keeping trees standing and we’re losing Portland’s canopy at an alarming rate. Mature trees are Biocarbon Heavyweights.

If you’re interested in this topic – we have a group on Facebook organized to keep tall trees standing. As well as an email list for this topic. Thanks for your consideration.

Oh, and plant trees (see above) – fruit trees, nut trees, shade trees – Friends of Trees is a great place to start.

Here’s to your health and our planet’s health.

moratorium on tree cutting in portland

3.19.18: Eileen writes: “Yes and don’t forget about carbon sequestration. And that regional native trees provide more food and other habitat for wildlife.”

City Parking – how to make the most out of the space we’ve got

City Parking

I heard of the term “city parking” years ago. What it means is that in most situations, you pull your car up forward as far as it will go – leaving some room between you and the car in front or a driveway. And then the person who parks behind you does the same. This can lead to a lot less parallel parking and a better use of space.Surveys - Belmont Dairy Building

I tried to find something on this online, but have not succeeded – if anyone has a better resource than my simple explanation, please post it here 🙂

Given that we’re growing by 112 people a day in Portland, Oregon (Lynn Peterson, candidate for Metro Council President mentioned this in a speech the other day) – figuring out how to park more efficiently will save us all time/energy/frustration. Give this a try and see what you think.

And – I just figured out the best reason to pull forward all the way: it makes YOUR life easier when you continue driving! Pulling out with no car in front of you is way easier than pulling out with a car in front of you!

I did find this article which has some other ideas possibly worth thinking about.

Cruising around the block to find an open parking space can contribute to as much as twenty-five percent of the congestion, so there is recognition now that if you manage your curb space more efficiently, then you’ll manage your street congestion more efficiently,” says Soumya S. Dey, director of research and technology transfer at the District Department of Transportation (DDOT).”

After posting this on Nextdoor, I got some interesting responses which leads me to think that I should have included in my explanation what not to do:

1. don’t leave a lot of space between you and the car in front of you
2. don’t park in the middle of a block when there are no other cars there – pull up as far as you can to the intersection
3. don’t pull back to the beginning of a block (not sure how to best describe that in urban planning/parking terms)

Right: - pulling up as far forward as possible

Right: – pulling up as far forward as possible

Wrong = not pulling far enough forward

Wrong = not pulling far enough forward

Wrong = not pulling far enough forward

Wrong = not pulling far enough forward