New Northwood civic leadership; outgoing president calls for audit of Historical Society of Frankford[VIDEO]

New Northwood Civic Association board leadership was introduced Tuesday night, but a familiar voice took hold.

After a debate raged at last month’s meeting around the necessary quorum and other group charter rules surrounding the choosing of new board members, not a single vote was cast at the December meeting.

Instead, new civic president Joe Krause, formerly board vice president, said the board had largely remained the same, except for his promotion and a single new nomination. The group’s charter allows for board nominations to fill vacant seats, Krause said, so no vote was necessary.

Krause is replacing the outspoken and fiery Barry Howell, who retired from the board yet still grabbed the spotlight Tuesday, as he is known to do, by calling for an audit of the finances of the Historical Society of Frankford, something close to a neighborhood sacred cow.

In kicking off his tenure and distancing himself from Howell, Krause listed a number of goals for his leadership: to rebuild a fractured relationship with the civic groups of the adjacent Frankford neighborhood, help develop the Frankford Avenue corridor, bolster Northwood civic attendance, combat vacant and poorly maintained homes and other efforts.

Krause’s vice president and the lone new board member, Frank Bennett, an attorney who moved to the neighborhood a year ago to renovate a Castor Avenue home with his family [sidebar], said he wants to lobby for more police presence:

“We are a fairly dedicated tax base here in Northwood, and yet we don’t seem to have the dedicated police force for it,” he said.

Krause’s promotion and Bennett’s nomination aside, the board is full of familiar faces, including years-long members Gina Panchella, Renee Hudson and Lou Kubik, the latter of whom said he has more than a decade on the board. Longtime board treasurer Bill Rodebaugh remains in his position, though Krause said his work schedule has kept him from attending regularly, if at all, in recent years, and so he may also step down.

Until that happens, the big changes to the board are a fairly young lawyer joining and a rough-hewn, former longshoreman union boss leaving.

Howell, the retired union manager who cites his boxing and hardscrabble Fishtown upbringing often, has become something of a controversial leader during his time, a role he seems to relish.

With Howell, all of the board members, save newcomer Bennett and apparent bystander Rodebaugh, were part of the insurgency that led the fall 2007 ouster of Howell’s predecessor and frequent critic Joe Menkevich, whom they criticized for disorganization and inaction, and Menkevich’s collaborator Len Williams. The vote to remove Menkevich and put Howell in power remains a point of division in the neighborhood four years later.

Despite the turnover, Howell, who said he left the board to focus more on his St. James Lutheran Church parish fundraising, was in attendance and about as vocal as ever.

In a less than subtle jab to another critic of his, Howell implored the new board to focus its efforts in 2012 on investigating grants and other funding efforts by local nonprofits that he claimed aren’t truly benefiting the community, calling out by name the often-treasured Historical Society of Frankford.

“They’re just a bunch of little old ladies who don’t live in the neighborhood drinking tea,” Howell said. “Where is all that grant money they get going?”

It speaks to the level of divisiveness that remains in the neighborhood: Debbie Klak, a former Historical Society director who defended Menkevich in his 2007 battle with Howell, raised questions last month about the board’s voting practices and Tuesday seemed to be getting retribution for that criticism. Klak wasn’t in attendance Tuesday and none of the relatively small collection of a dozen residents brought up any concerns about the 2012 board nomination process.

Krause, the new Northwood president and longtime Howell ally, tried to avoid the fracas and remain more balanced.

“It’s safe to say I’m going to be different than Barry. For one, I don’t talk as much,” said Krause, laughing. “I want to listen and act on resident needs.”

Howell said he agreed: “Joe is going to be a good president. He won’t get in as many fights as I do.”

Also at the meeting: Recycle Bank’s rewards program community outreach manager Felicia Parker-Cox updated residents on the effort to encourage residents to recycle by offering coupons and gift cards. She yurged residents to sign up and answered questions about the program. Find out more at the company’s website here. She also added that the city now accepts the recycling of wax coated milk and juice containers. Wrapping paper is also recyclable, she added.

Residents also voiced concerns about residents parking on lawns and the looming seasonal battle with snow removal and reduced parking availability. The recurrent issue of poorly kept homes was also briefly addressed.

Said Howell, always good for color: “You can’t change a scumbag. Our biggest problem in Northwood is people moving in who don’t care.”

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