By Sandy Murray

The Ashford Alliance Community Association is spending this year looking at the government functions that affect our member civic associations and residents the most.

Our monthly programs are a part of a series called “Community 101.” We are exploring what we can do to make our neighborhoods more connected to each other and to our shopping, transportation and parks and recreation areas. Our neighborhoods are isolated from one another by major roads, like islands in a stream, and we want to bring them closer to create a stronger community.

We are asking our member neighborhoods and residents of these neighborhoods to tell us what areas of government are of most concern. Others may provide input too. We created a survey on our website to allow our neighbors to share their opinions.

Here are some of the areas we are examining this year and would like our neighbors to prioritize: development and land use, water and sewage, waste disposal, utilities, roads and transportation, green space and environment, health, public safety, education, libraries, courts, taxation, communication, elections, governance and lobbying and recreation.

In past years, the Ashford Alliance has been a leader on many zoning and development issues by bringing our member neighborhoods together for meetings to get input into the actions we should take. Since the economy has slowed development in our area, not as many high profile developments have arisen over the last year, so we invited our neighborhoods to focus groups last June to give us input on what our next steps should be.

As a result, we are reorganizing our website to provide more information about our member neighborhoods and the alliance. Our goal is to let our neighborhoods be the leaders in the issues. We will provide support and expertise as needed. We continue to lead through our monthly programs, as well as being able to bring resources to neighborhood civic meetings.

The Ashford Alliance is adding a new member this year. Ashford Park Civic Association has agreed to become a member, which expands the Ashford Alliance footprint across Peachtree Road for the first time. We share many common interests in development, transportation, public safety, and parks and recreation and look forward to working with them.

Our next steps are to find out what makes our community more livable.

Early results from our survey show that transportation and education are hot topics. As a result, school board members Nancy Jester and Pam Speaks came to our February meeting to give us an update about the DeKalb schools. We created an education committee in order to continue informing our neighborhoods about the events affecting our schools. We plan to have another meeting to look at the issues facing public education in our neighborhoods.

Secondly, the board members of the Ashford Alliance have been asking ourselves what we would like to see to make our quality of life better in our neighborhoods. Our board members suggested that we pay particular attention to the Revive 285 Top End initiative and traffic issues on Ashford-Dunwoody and Johnson Ferry roads.

Some of our past events, such as the National Night Out at Blackburn Park last August, have honored our police and safety officers. This year, our plan is to honor our fire fighters in October. These events are opportunities to meet the people we count on for our protection and safety.

Our next meeting is scheduled for March 24 at Merrill Gardens at Dunwoody. It begins at 7 p.m. Our guest speaker will be DeKalb County Commissioner Kathie Gannon, who will talk about the county budget and some of the impact the cuts may have on our neighborhoods. Visit our website for more details.

Sandy Murray is vice president of the board of directors of the Ashford Alliance Community Association.