In a time when people are asking the city to intervene in all types of neighborhood complaints, the city is pushing a new effort encouraging neighbors to solve problems on their own.
The effort toward “conflict resolution” was recently launched by the city’s Office of Neighborhood Coordination. The small city department often works with neighborhoods to help build new relationships and foster community involvement.
“If we have healthy neighborhoods, we have a healthy city,” said Sara Mancini, manager of the city’s Office of Neighborhood Coordination (ONC).
While most can agree it’s important to try to get along with your neighbors, it’s not always what happens in practice.
Albuquerque’s SeeClickFix 311 complaint website can often show some of the neighborly tiffs that city officials are asked to help solve.
Some of the issues neighbors have reported including litter blowing from dumpsters into front yards, tires stacked alongside a home, even outrage over too many backyard bird feeders.
Mancini says she’s heard of neighborhood complaints herself in her work with the ONC.
“Some of the people we work with, they have their hands open kind of waiting for the city to fill it,” said Mancini. “I just don’t think that’s a healthy posture to take.”
Mancini says the ONC’s latest effort is one to get neighbors to take a role in solving their own problems.
“We’re living in a time where it’s necessary to say, ‘You know what, I have some skills, I have some resources, my neighbor has some skills and together, maybe we can meet the need of another neighbor'” said Mancini.
The ONC’s new “Conflict Resolution and Collaboration Series” website covers an array of topics on how best to solve conflicts with neighbors without causing conflict.
Mancini says the effort is to give neighbors the skills to navigate challenging situations.
“I know that for our neighbors (conflict) can be a hindrance to that community engagement and involvement and getting to know your neighbor,” said Mancini. “Whenever there’s even a little bit of conflict, it’s scary.”
The site includes articles with titles like “best practices to prevent conflict”, “maintain your self-control” and “moving forward through challenging conversations.”
“We want to empower people really address the concerns in their community,” said Mancini.
In cases where neighbors have tried, the city’s is also touting its Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) office. The service offers free mediation for neighbors.
“When they don’t have to look to a court or to police officer to solve their problems, they come up with an organic solution that works for everyone,” said Tyson Hummell, who leads the ADR office.
Hummell says the results he’s seen are often long-lasting.
“We have an 80 percent success rate, so usually when people come together, and they realize how they’ve effected one and other’s lives, they’re willing to change,” said Hummell.
The city takes on about 1,500 mediation cases each year for free.