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CCAC makes plans for safety, taxi ordinance

Megan Doyle | Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Student government is developing plans to begin the fall semester safely with an increased number of community events and a standardized taxi service among other things, student body vice president Brett Rocheleau said Tuesday at the Campus/Community Advisory Committee (CCAC) meeting.

The committee meets each month with student government leaders, representatives from the local government and members of the local community to discuss ways students can better interact with the city of South Bend.

Student government is forming plans for neighborhood events, such as a Chipotle night for local citizens and students, to help students interact with their neighbors, Rocheleau said.

“When students go get their keys [from their landlord], they will get a Good Neighbor Guide,” Rocheleau said. “Also, we are going to have safety magnets with important telephone numbers, utility trash pickup, some safety tips, and we are going to be running those through all the different law enforcement agencies.”

Student ambassadors to the Off-Campus Council will serve an important role in community relations, Rocheleau said. These ambassadors will be a face for student government students and South Bend citizens living in local neighborhoods.

“We are going to expand the off-campus ambassador program,” Rocheleau said. “That program is really helpful because those people are the voice who will tell the people living around them how to be a good neighbor and make sure they clean up the yard.”

The committee strongly supported the off-campus ambassador program, which will be officially instituted in the fall.

“The ambassador idea … is a great idea in trying to communicate,” said Michael Carrington, representative for the Local Alcohol Beverage Board. “It makes a tremendous amount of sense. You can try to deal with that smaller number [of ambassadors] and then go back into their area and really communicate.”

CCAC members also discussed the future of a taxi ordinance in South Bend. Assistant City Attorney for South Bend Ann-Carol Nash said the city is reviewing drafts of an ordinance to standardize taxi service.

“Our main concerns are safety, safety, safety, safety,” Nash said. “We want to make sure people can get into cabs driven by people who have licenses, which means they have background checks, which means they have certain standards.”

The ordinance will also regulate fairness as taxis operate in the city.

“Sometimes taxi drivers make up the fees as they go along. We don’t want that,” she said. “We are looking at some changes that will make it harder for that the happen.”

Nash said the council would like to approve the ordinance before fall football season begins. She encouraged McCormick and Rocheleau to pass student complaints about taxi drivers to her office and other local officials.

“If students have any problems related to taxi cabs, if they could report those immediately to the police, but if they also want to send me any information on their experiences, I would be glad to follow up,” she said. “But if I don’t have evidence of the situation I can’t take action.”

Student body president Pat McCormick said service in the local community would be a major tool for the campus to reach out to South Bend.

Notre Dame students, for example, began the West Side Food Security Council in South Bend to address areas of food scarcity in the area.

“What has been really exciting is that students have had the opportunity to not only learn from community leaders but also offer their help in terms of just on the ground assistance and providing support for what we hope will be a community-wide effort to address food insecurity,” he said.

University Associate Vice President for Public Affairs Tim Sexton said students who volunteer in the local community are taking the best steps forward to improve the relationship between their campus and South Bend.

“I think the students get such a bad rep all the time,” Sexton said. “And they are doing such wonderful things in this community on a daily basis.”

Since its beginning several years ago, CCAC dramatically improved community relations, Director of South Bend Code Enforcement Catherine Toppel said.

“People don’t call you when things are going great,” she said. “I look back to when this started, and we have come a long way.”