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Empower, Educate, Advocate: The Riverwest Neighborhood Association

by Ruth Weill

Our mission is to empower, educate and advocate for residents of the Riverwest Neighborhood. The Riverwest Neighborhood Association (RNA) has been working toward this mission since 2000 when a group of neighbors began the organization in response to the Neighborhood Strategic Plan (NSP), a neighborhood-generated document created through a project funded by Community Development Block Grants.

  RNA group  photo.

 

In the beginning, the RNA used the NSP’s mission of “Building a neighborhood that is: proud, safe, affordable, respectful of diversity and working to embrace urban aesthetics.” These goals are still evident today as the RNA is involved in projects ranging from the farmers market and community gardens, street festivals and safety fairs to holding informational forums for candidates and other issues directly affecting the neighborhood.

Back in 2000 there were five standing committees created around the following issues: green space, development, safety, bylaws and the Holton Street Initiative. The RNA still has a primary focus on development, safety and green space, along with outreach and event planning.

In 2003 the group applied for state and federal not-for-profit status (501 c 3). It was authorized in 2004.

Membership in the RNA is free and open to anyone living within the neighborhood borders of the river to the east and south, Capitol Drive to the north and Richards Street to the west. The city of Milwaukee designates the Riverwest neighborhood as NSP Area 7, and recognizes Riverwest’s western border as Holton Street. The RNA recognizes Richards Street as the western edge.

All members are allowed to participate and vote at general meetings, and receive communications on both our list serves: rnamail and riverwest chatter (both Google groups). Affiliate member status may be applied for through the board and approved by the membership. Affiliate members do not live in the RNA’s recognized geographical boundaries, but share the purposes of RNA or have a business in Riverwest with shared purpose of the RNA.

The RNA is governed by an elected board of directors. The officers, who serve two-year terms, include the chair and co-chair (co-chair becomes chair after one year), a secretary and a treasurer. There are five one-year at-large board positions as well. The board is elected at the November general meeting with terms beginning at the end of the December potluck holiday celebration.

Over the years the RNA’s responsibilities have increased because of new projects and its role of fiscal sponsor ship for other smaller groups in the neighborhood. The RNA now currently has the Farmer’s Market, Fourth of July Celebration at Gordon Park, Center Street Daze Festival and the Riverwest Random Recyclable Art and Gift Show (RRRAGS) under its financial wing. Currently it’s also is the fiscal sponsor for Snails Crossing Park and Riverwest Radio. The founders of RNA knew that having a not-for-profit neighborhood association would be helpful, because it would be able to accept grant monies for projects throughout the neighborhood.

Living up to its mission, the RNA has sponsored and facilitated all types of events throughout the years. Local candidate forums, town hall meetings, self-defense classes, informational presentations regarding potential developments and other issues, litter clean ups and several special events have been organized and presented by RNA.

Both Riverwest Alders Nik Kovac and Milele Coggs send potential new businesses, especially those requesting liquor licenses, to the RNA so they can present themselves at a general meeting. The RNA then votes on whether or not they would oppose the business. This is an important feedback tool for the city to hear from neighbors about potential businesses in the neighborhood.

RNA general meetings are every second Tuesday of the month at Gordon Park Pavilion unless otherwise noted. The meetings are open to the general public.

In July and August the RNA will hold their meetings in Kadish Park during the Skyline music series with a potluck and meet-and-greet. In December the group hosts a holiday potluck party at Gordon Park Pavilion with a short business meeting. Donated libations are provided.

The Riverwest Neighborhood Association is a membership-based organization, and all neighborhood residents are invited to participate. The group welcomes volunteers to assist in fulfilling the mission of empowering, educating and advocating for our neighborhood and its residents.

You can join in making the best neighborhood in Milwaukee even stronger. For more information visit the website: my-rna.org or e-mail