Thursday, February 18, 2016

MWHITF: First Meeting

The New MWHI Webpage (text is from the media release)

The Mid-Valley Homeless Initiative task force held its first meeting yesterday.  CCTV was supposed to record it, but it looks like they got only the last 43 minutes.  Maybe they'll find the rest somewhere.  [Update:  the whole vid's now been posted here]

Of the 20 members appointed, 16 were present.  Absent: Gladys Blum, Kim Freeman, Patty Ignatowski, Shaney Starr.

The Statesman Journal's headline reads "Homeless Initiative Members Press for Change."  The article, however, states only that "several members articulated that they hope this committee will be able to bring about real change."  This is very Salem:  publicly hoping = pressing.  The several members who spoke of the need for change were Warren Bednarz, Bruce Bailey, Chief Moore (better coordination needed) and Sheriff Myers ("the homeless don't belong in the criminal justice system, but that's where they end up").

But change is not what Co-Chair Carlson envisioned for the task force when she repeated earlier statements that she wanted the task force to come up with recommendations that would put "meat on the bones" of the ten-year plan.  Would such recommendations satisfy Councilor Bednarz's desire for an "action plan, not a discussion, not a report"?  We shall see. 

Co-Chair Peterson Opened the Meeting

The task force members were grouped (philanthropists - business - providers - law enforcement) and arranged in a square, the four co-chairs seated at their own table at the far end of the Anderson Room, under the display screen.  Those on the side opposite (providers) sat seated with their backs to 70+ people crammed into the other half of the room, many of whom were  technical advisers to the task force.  Just a handful of audience members were not representing media or a service organization of some sort. 
Audience (partial)

The meeting started fifteen minutes late with comments from the Co-Chairs, followed by introductions all around.  When it came his turn, Jon Reeves, with his back to the audience, commented on their number, praising their interest in homelessness as rare and much needed if the initiative was to have any success.  This struck us as somewhat odd, until we heard Diane Merry (subbing for Amber Reeves) admit that the Community Action Agency had never managed to succeed in creating a functional network of local service providers, something we've long suspected, and that she hoped that the Initiative would succeed in doing this.  The question is, are they even going to try?

What, for instance, did the mayor mean when she said, "We are just beginning what will take a community focus."  The provider community?  Or everybody?  If the latter, what's the plan to involve them/us?  There is none.    

Co-Chair Carlson Querys Task Force Panel

After introductions, the "orientation" began with that Jon Stewart video Commissioner Carlson likes so much.  After that, the air began to thicken with jargon and carbon dioxide as all available oxygen gradually left the room, and task force members began to feel as confused as Hasan Minhaj in the Daily Show video.  Finally, at ten 'til six, Councilor Bednarz called a halt.  (Chair-for-the-meeting Peterson had left by then.)  He wanted some "idea where we're headed", that it was 41 days until the next meeting, and he "wanted some action tonight", or "at least homework" for the task force members.  He did not get either.  Co-Chair Carlson assured him that she and her fellow Co-Chairs would be debriefing this
Councilor Bednarz
meeting and planning future meetings, and would
be happy to receive his input.  Carlson told the
Statesman Journal that they might be able to start looking at recommendations by the third or fourth meeting.

A total of eight meetings remain within which the task force is scheduled to complete its work: March 29, May 2, June 6, July 20, September 19, October 17, November 17 and December 1. 

[Update: added detail about task force grouping and July meeting date.]

[Update: agendas and some informational materials are available at the MWHI webpage on the Marion County website (some provided at the meeting, some not, and the "Background and Scope" document used in the first presentation was not posted).  Note:  you end up at the MC site if you go here:]

[Update: meeting attendees

Technical Advisors
Herm Boes, SLF
Diane Merry, Linda Strike MWVCAA
Brent Demoe, Community & Family Svces, PC
Tiffany Ottis, Roberta Moore, CHP
Jayne Downing, CHS
Craig Bazzi, MCJD
Faye Fagel, MCJD
Sharon Nielson, Nielson Group
Andy Wilch, Pamala Garrick, SHA
Christian Edelblute, Sheri Beehner WVHA
Shelly Wilkins-Ehenger, MCHA

Public Safety Reps
Paige Clarkson, Deputy DA, MC
Tim Fox, OSP

Health Care Reps
Cami Jack, Salem Health
Rachel R, Silverton Health
Margaret Terry, MVBCN
Sara Carrillo, OHA/OHP
Robin Sischo, Marion County Health, TAY
Bill Guest, CEO, Willamette Valley Community Health
Walter Reed, HBE Inc.

Social Svces Reps
Janet Scott, DHS, SSP
Melissa Baurer, Community Services Director, Salvation Army
Rick Burnette, Shangri-La
Stephen Goins, NWHS
Eva Corbin, Carolyn ___, Grace House/Shellys House
Jeanne Knight, UGM/Simonka Place
Maureen Casey, Erin Chris Jones, CCS
Linda Bednarz, MWVCAA board

Other Org Reps
DJ Vincent, SLF
Bill Hayden, First Congregational Church
Terry Howard, Volcanoes
Kai Blevins, Salem Social Justice Collective 
Ken & Jan Nelley, OR Voices
David Lewis, Capitol Manor
Melissa Scott, PSU

Gov't Reps
Tom Andersen, Salem City Council
Evan Sorce, Chief of Staff, Representative Paul Evans
David Clyne, City Mgr, Independence
Steve Powers, City Mrg, Salem

Sarah Owens, Michael Livingston, Sara Cromwell KMUZ
Craig Murphy, Keizertimes

Community Members
Pam Rawlins
Pam McCollum, LCSW
Jane Silbernagel, LCSW
Peter Bergel
Lorrie Walker
Maurice Anderson
Sheronne Blasi
Jane Doe ]

1 comment:

  1. A comment received shortly after publication by email (name withheld in the absence of permission to divulge):

    "You painted a very accurate, if depressing, picture of the meeting. I especially liked the "as the oxygen left the room" description. "Liked" as in I found it to be a succinct and pinpoint description, not "liked" as in approved of such a sad sad meeting. A little optimistic, though, and lacked sarcasm. My summary (by "anonymous") would have been something along the lines of:

    Commissioner Carlson, via Mayor Peterson, her very own ventriloquist's dummy, brought the meeting to order. (A neat trick, but Commissioner Carlson's lips were moving the whole time.) The assembled group consisted of well-meaning folks who lack the knowledge or experience to be effective in their roles, and lacked any real guidance or idea of what they were doing and what the task force hoped to accomplish. The assembled group members did not have or reach a shared understanding of what the homeless population of Marion and Polk counties encompasses, what the "problem" is that they are trying to solve, or how their work will ultimately "solve" the "homeless" "problem."

    Although many subject matter experts were in the room, and even assembled into panels and prepared to present a wealth of data to the members, the commissioner and mayor talked to each other throughout much of the panelists' presentations and cut the panels off without allowing all of the panelists to have a turn to speak because, having started the meeting late, there was not enough time to listen to everything they had to say. Not that more time would have made much difference - the panelists spoke mostly in unintelligible industry jargon (which few of the members appeared to understand but, nonetheless, barely questioned) four of the task force members missed the meeting entirely, Mayor Peterson left early, and the vast majority of those members present were so ill-prepared for the meeting that they did not have intelligent questions for the panelists or, with the exception of Councilman Bednarz, the wherewithal to question the direction the meeting was taking. And, when he did pose his questions, with only 10 minutes left of the meeting and nothing yet accomplished, his substantive questions went unanswered and the procedural ones received only the barest of Commissioner Carlson's condescending "assurances" that the other co-chairs and herself would address them privately when they met independently of the rest of the task force.

    Again, however, not that it would have made much difference had the councilman's questions been taken seriously rather than dismissed out of hand. The task force failed to include anyone from the affected populations among its membership, failed to even identify among itself what the goal of the group was with respect to the "homeless" "problem," failed to discuss any of the information presented by the panelists, and walked away from the meeting without having been charged with any interim study or activities. What's more, Commissioner Carlson made it clear that the real work of the group and decisions about the direction the group will game, to the extent there will be any, will occur in privately held meetings among the four co-chairs, without input from or participation by the group as a whole.

    In sum, to the observer, the meeting was poorly organized, poorly attended, poorly structured, had no shared goal, and, frankly, was a waste of time for all who attended. Not an auspicious beginning."