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A Quality of Life Covenant

Posted by sebastianbrown on April 1, 2010

Once again last night, nearly 30 Essex House residents, gathered to move forward with their plans of forming some sort of tenants organization. After last meeting where there was so much energy around the property management’s apparently ruthless car towing policy, last night it became obvious that the group isn’t as eager as we originally thought to move forward on making demands directly to management. Instead, we allowed the group to take a step back, first reviewing some of the many connections between residents that had already been made since last week’s mutual support session.

Then, to try to get a better sense of exactly what tenants’ saw as the most pressing apartment related concern to moved forward with, we asked the question “What is the issue?” In response, a couple residents immediately began offering solutions to the towing issue. But then Tebabu suggested that instead of beginning with such a hot-button issue in which the group would propose changes that management ought to make, we ought to form a code of conduct amongst residents that would outline what residents themselves ought to be doing to ensure a positive apartment living community for all. That way, when we do approach management with a list of demands, we can show them all that we’ve done on our end to hold ourselves responsible before expecting management to do the same. Towing could be on the list, but it would be part of a larger process to envision the ideal community we all want to be living in.

Immediately, the group seemed to be re-awaken, murmuring that before we could even talk about a code, we ought to form an organization through which the resident could take action. Like we all do, the residents were expressing a natural human comfort with structure and order. It provides not only stability but a more quantifiable benchmark for progress. Hoping to ground the group in the importance of the relationship building process that we’ve just begun as an apt. building, Ronnie offered that instead of a code of a conduct, we strive in the next meeting to begin creating a “Quality of Life Covenant.” By the end of the meeting we all seemed to be in agreement that before getting bogged down in the logistical details of founding a formal organization, we ought to have an open dialogue about the ideal community we’d like to live in–along with figuring out the roles both residents and management must play to achieve the that ideal.

In addition, just as the group expressed interest in not pointing fingers solely at management, Ronnie suggested that we should be careful to not make the mistake of taking the opposite extreme of claiming full responsibility for what goes wrong in the apartment building. We have a part, and we certainly should be following the rules, but if those rules are inherently unjust, or even unfairly enforced, we should be comfortable with holding management accountable. But that can only happen if we as residents are united behind a clear vision, hence the covenant.

At the end, a core of about 8 women stepped up to take the lead on planning the next meetings as well as figuring out how to try to get other residents’ input on what the Essex House Quality of Life Covenant would like.

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