Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The MWHI Task Force Strategic Plan

Courtesy Olive Grove

Marion County [Board of Commissioners] just passed the attached item...This is FYI, but we probably want to document it somewhere as part of our work.

-- Janet Carlson

As further evidence that the "strategic plan" being developed by the Post-Truth Task Force is likely to sit on the shelf, presented below is a list that contains all the recommendations, adopted and pending (P), published so far.  They have been edited for brevity and simplicity.  The full bureaucratic text can be found in the documents linked below in all their permutations. 

The first set of recommendations (10, if numbered consecutively),  adopted in September and discussed here, showed up again last month in Karen Ray's list of 10 approved, and 20 pending (P) recommendations.  Some of those 20 pending (P) recommendations have come forward in the second set of recommendations (11 through 22, if numbered consecutively, as shown here), and will likely be were adopted at the December meeting.  The second set also contains several new recommendations (highlighted here).  [Update 1/23/17: the third set of recommendations (23 through 43, if numbered consecutively, as shown here), will likely be were adopted at the January meeting, except for 32, 33 and 41.  The third set contains several new recommendations (highlighted here).  All recommendations in Karen Ray's list have now been brought forward] The pending (P) recommendations highlighted below have not yet been brought forward (and might not be). Note that leadership has elected not to include the recommendations of either the Polk County's Veterans committee or CANDO ("Favoring a systematic response to homelessness").  At the final meeting in January, recommendations 32, 33 were adopted as reworded, 41 was dropped, and one new recommendation concerning service/assistance animals was adopted.

Summary of Task Force Recommendations

Will be completed/moot by the Task Force's last meeting
Community engagement/outreach (5).

Self-executing (requires no TF action)
"Endorse" the local LEAD effort (2, P11, 37).
"Support" Salem's non-existent anti-panhandling programs (P10 and P12, 28, 29).
"Endorse" the local CCO's efforts to get more people into supported housing (3). (allowed)
"Support" MWIC's affordable housing projects (P1 and 19).
"Endorse" MCREI's transitional housing project (P3 and 19).
"Endorse" [Westcare] veteran housing project (P4 and 19).
"Support" any and all DV and family housing projects (P5 and 20, 21).
"Endorse" UGM's relocation/expansion plan (P6 and 19).
"Support" PHA DV and homeless preferences (P7 and 21).
"Support" Dream Ctr, HOME expansion & similar neighborhood-based services (P14, 18).
"Support" SKATS' travel training program (P16, 25).
"Endorse" Salem/Keizer's implementation of the HNA (11, 12, 13, 15).
"Support" YHDP grant to expand RHY services (1, P13 and 18, 19)(not successful)
"Develop" landlord assessment tool (4) (deleted 1/7/17
"Determine" desirability of "temporary support-coordinated camping" program (P9c and 22c).
"Support" Marion County, Salem Health, etc. in creating a Salem-area sobering station (35).
"Support" community partners in creating a one-stop resource center (36).

Not self-executing
Inventory land/buildings suitable for housing, change zoning as needed (P8, P9d, 14, 22d).
Explore CDL as "regional tool" (P18) and adopt statewide resource network (P19, 26, 27).
Create "Development Team" to implement plan (P9 and 22).
Develop senior shelter, housing, supportive services, and supportive housing (30, 31, 32, 33).
Develop medical street-outreach team (34).  
Develop veteran housing and services as per the list under the 12/31 update below (39, 40, 42, 43).

"Advocacy" only 
for coordinating and facilitating grant applications (6, P9b and 16, 22b, 23).
for more money from the state housing agency (7).
for a home-buyer tax credit (10).
for DV/homeless preference in new housing (P2 and 21).
for greater HMIS coverage and a plan to secede from ROCC (P9a and P20, 22a).
for collaboration between providers and WorkSource Oregon (P15, 24).
for policy changes in SK 24J (P17 and 17).
for continued transit service up the canyon (38). 

"Assistance" only
expanding finlit training in schools (8).
bringing finlit classes to the poor (vs. making them go to a class somewhere) (7).
offer training about requirements related to service assistance animals (adopted at last meeting) 


Stripped of excess verbiage, the plan can be seen for what it is: a perfect reproduction of the values of the provider community it comes from, namely Marion County -- siloed, uncoordinated, unsystematic, concerned with turf, and content to base decisions on anecdote and personal world views, rather than data.  That's why, no matter how hard the Task Force tries, this plan will fare no better, and deserves to fare no better, than the 10-Year Plan to End Homelessness, which is only four years old, and sits on the shelf.  Recall that Dr. Janet*, who was also on that plan's leadership team, when asked what she'd like to see coming out of the MWHI by the end of the year, replied, "some very solid recommendations" that would put some "meat on the bones" of the 10-Year Plan.  Evidently, Dr. Janet was aware her 10-Year Plan needed work.  Why, then, was that the last anyone heard about the 10-Year Plan?  (Unless it was discussed at one of those secret "agenda-setting" meetings.)  The answer: it's rubbish, and everyone knows its rubbish, just like the current plan.  
*We apologize for not having observed Dr. Janet's doctorate in preceding blogs.  We only just happened to notice yesterday from video footage the "Ph.D." on her name tent.  Although we've been to all the meetings, the audience is seated so far away from the Task Force that none of the name tents are legible.  We regret the oversight.

[12/2 Update: to reflect that second set of recommendations were adopted at the December 1 meeting.  Also at that meeting, Verena Wessel said the P15 and P16 recommendations would be coming forward in 2017.]

[12/31 Update: we obtained a copy of the materials given the Task Force members at the 12/1 meeting.  In those materials were six "issue briefs" covering eight recommendations from the PACE students, all  purportedly based on their review of the audio records of the committee on veterans co-chaired by Jennifer Wheeler and Steve Bobb, Jr.  They were: 
1-3 Use SPDAT, VI-SPDAT and VAT as assessment tools. 
4. Provide veterans with bus passes, gift cards and rent support.
5. "Find veterans using rapid identification and assign them to permanent housing."
6.  "Promote coordination among various agencies including HUD Veterans' Affairs Supportive Housing   Program, current shelters, public housing authorities, US Department of Veterans Affairs."
7.  Develop permanent supportive housing units.
8. "Build a 'tiny house' development to house homeless veterans in communities with shared kitchen and living facilities."
It's unclear why Task Force did not include these recommendations in the list of recommendations considered and adopted at the December 1 meeting.

[1/13/17 Update: HUD announces Seattle selected as a YHDP community for our region and feds announce 1115 Medicaid Waiver renewed 5 years.]

[1/23/17 Update: incorporated the third set of recommendations.]

[1/24/17 Update: noted which recommendations were not adopted.]

[2/8/17 Update: incorporated changes made at the last TF meeting.]

6/1/17 Update: final version.]

Monday, November 28, 2016

PTTF: Agenda for Meeting 9

Monday evening before a Thursday meeting.  The agenda's not been posted as promised, so we'll chat a bit about the news from today's committee meetings.

The Caplinger Road project (108 units) has been scrapped, Ron Hays announced today at the Affordable Housing committee meeting.  The Portland Road project (180 units at 3350 Portland Road NE) depends on tax credits and LIFT funding, and probably a bunch of other stuff (read: might not happen).  That's about all there was to come out of that meeting, not counting the formal adoption of certain informal recommendations previously published.

The Transitional Housing/Shelter committee also met today, and had a lively discussion over whether to recommend that Marion/Polk seriously consider seceding from ROCC, with staff and the Center for Hope and Safety weighing in "against", and the Union Gospel Mission and Salvation Army arguing, basically, "for" anything that was likely to address this community's long-standing need to coordinate services effectively.  Unfortunately, we had to leave the meeting before the matter was decided.

Ah, here it is, the agenda's come through a little after 5.  Well, as you can see, there's not much there.  The PACE Project item is the MBAs that Commissioner Carlson dug up to help make sure there weren't "just really big things that we are missing in our sub-committees, just because we don't know what we don't know." She also wants them to "come up with measurements" so subsequent generations can know "did we make a difference" with their strategic plan.  That's 20 minutes.

[11/29 Update: the second set of proposed recommendations have been pasted below, renumbered to follow the first set, which were adopted in September.]

The next item of arguable interest (25 minutes) is the discussion based on a memo from Karen Ray, which was required by the terms of her contract with Marion County.  Looks to be consistent with her advice at the last meeting, but, somehow, it manages to be even more ridiculous in this format.   

Kinda reminds us of Rafael Behr's recent description of Teresa May's "enigmatic confidence" about the government's approach to Brexit:

She hired the Brexit tailors, who promised an outfit spun from a new luxuriant cloth with magical properties visible only to those with the political discernment to appreciate it. She comports herself with gravitas, anticipating the moment when this fabulous attire can be paraded. But already doubting voices rise from crowd. Already people are impatient to know the cut and pattern of the suit. And the fear grows that the prime minister, oblivious to impending ridicule, will lead Britain, naked, into a dangerous world.

[11/29 Update: the proposed recommendations to be considered under Item 3 on the agenda, renumbered to follow the first set of 10, adopted in September.  The highlight indicates the recommendation is new, i.e., was not included in Karen Ray's list of proposed recommendations.]

[11/29 Update:  added links to agenda, memo, and recommendations after they were posted to the web page.]

Finding a Backbone

The Post-Truth Task Force was told at the November meeting that they needed to "pivot" from their planning role and begin thinking about who or what is going to implement their "strategic plan" once it's completed in February.  When asked what this "development team" or "backbone" organization might look like, Jon Reeves, the current head of MWVCAA, commented, "[Mid-Willamette Valley] Community Action [Agency] has taken a stab at that, and it has arguably been unsuccessful."

Reeves was, of course, referring to the decision five years ago that MWVCAA should give up much of its
leadership responsibility for the Marion and Polk County Continuum of Care (OR-504), "merge" with the Balance of State (OR-BOS) or Rural Oregon Continuum of Care, and become ROCC Region 7.

He was also referring to MWVCAA's unsuccessful efforts since the merger to coordinate Region 7's homeless services delivery "system." 
Now, the decision to merge came well before Reeves became MWVCAA's executive director, as indicated by the polite use of the term "arguably", but there is really no argument to be made -- it's been unsuccessful. 

Readers will recall that veteran MWVCAA staffer Diane Merry admitted earlier this year, at the first meeting of the Task Force, that the MWVCAA had never managed to succeed in creating a functional provider network in Region 7, and that she hoped the Initiative would succeed in doing this.

And, here we are, back to the problem of finding a "backbone."

To understand the depth of this problem, which Ms. Ray describes as "the big problem of this [-- the Post-Truth Task Force's "strategic plan"--] becoming something that sits on the shelf", and we have described as irrelevance, one has only to witness the spectacle of the PTTF adopting "strategies" and recommendations everyone knows they don't believe in.  At this point, they're all just wanting it to be over, a phenomenon some have referred to as "momentum."

That being the case, the first thing we must do is to lay to rest the very bad idea that the PTTF should continue past February in any form.  They didn't sign up for that and they clearly don't want to continue.  Unlike Ms. Ray, they know their "strategic plan" is rubbish, and they very rightly would prefer for it to "sit on the shelf" as an embarrassment of time and resources wasted, rather than go through some ridiculous implementation exercise.  So the only sensible course of action is for the community to count its losses and move on.     

But, we still need to find a "backbone."

The obvious place to start is secession planning.  No, not succession planning.  Secession planing.  We need to begin preparing to secede from ROCC.  We need to make the Region 7 continuum of care much more effective in delivering homeless services.  Put another way, we need to pick up where MWVCAA left off, and achieve what Diane Merry hoped the MWHITF would achieve.  We even have a "toolkit" to show us just what we need to do. [FN1]

There are two compelling reasons to secede from ROCC.  One is money, the other is effectiveness.  Being in ROCC means sharing a "collaborative applicant"/HUD liason/program coordinator with 26 other counties.  That's the biggest, and maybe only, benefit we've been able to identify -- i.e., no one in Marion/Polk has to take on that role.

We've already pointed out that, as ROCC Region 7, Marion and Polk Counties are today receiving more than $206K less than our last award as an independent CoC (OR-504), which was in 2010.  Another downside to being in ROCC is that we must meet and coordinate with 26 other counties across the state.  Having spent several months preparing for and attending ROCC's  mostly video-conferenced meetings and committee meetings, it is hard for us to imagine that Marion/Polk would not be more effective operating its own CoC, which we're supposed to be doing anyway.

The way Balance of State CoCs are supposed to work is that each of region within the CoC area 1) collects, 2) reports to HUD, and 3) studies its own, regional data, which study is supposed to inform the delivery of services in that region.  But, as Jon Reeves and Diane Merry alluded to, MWVCAA, who's the "lead agency" in that process for Marion/Polk, find parts 1) and 2) enough of a challenge that they never quite make it to part 3).  It's fair to say that there's no pressure on them to do so as long as Marion/Polk are part of ROCC.

The comparison is in some ways unfair, but just to give some idea of the problem, consider that OR-500 (Lane County) released its PITC results in May, HUD released the national figures this month, and MWVCAA has yet to publish Marion/Polk's numbers.  MWVCAA controls and neglects to publish other useful data, as well, like the most recent AHAR figures for Marion/Polk, even though the AHAR's already been published.  So, yes, no argument, we need to look elsewhere than MWVCAA for our "backbone."  

Returning to OR-500, the "backbone organization" for OR-500 is Lane County.  OR-500/Lane County has roughly twice* Marion/Polk's (counted) homeless, but in 2014 (the most recent figures available) received three times as much in CoC Program funds. [FN2] Lane County must be doing something right.  Let's study what that is, and so on, with the rest of Oregon's CoCs, so we know what a solid "backbone" should look like.

In sum, although we do not pretend to understand the intricacies of HUD's funding formula, it would appear to us that Marion/Polk would do better financially and otherwise as OR-504, concentrating on developing an effective CoC within its geographic area, with all its local providers, non-grantees as well as grantees.  This means we should to stop messing about with the PTTF and its ridiculous "strategic plan", and start planning for secession from ROCC, including identifying a collaborative applicant with the organizational capacity ("backbone") to build an effective CoC.  We have one in mind, but will leave that discussion for a later blog.


FN1 - Some in the community are already engaged in this effort.  Not secession planning, per se, but in making the Region 7 continuum of care more effective in delivering homeless services, which is much the same thing.

FN2 - 2014 Allocations
500 Eugene, Springfield, Lane County* - $2,759,198
501 PDX -  $15,478,198
502 Medford - $323,920
503 Central - $530,465
504 [frmly Marion/Polk Counties - last award (2010) was $954,195]
505 BOS -  $3,164,408 [24% or $761,535 went to Marion/Polk]
506 Hillsboro -  $3,164,408
507 Clackamas - $1,717,124

*Lane County's 2016 PITC was 1,451, a 1.5% decrease from 2015.  Marion and Polk Counties' 2016 PITC was 957, a 24% increase over 2015's numbers.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

The Post-Truth Task Force

Photo by Chrissy Boylan
Someone said recently, "Real respect comes when another human being is passionate enough about an issue to knock on a stranger’s door and talk."  She was referring to the recent presidential election campaign, but the need to demonstrate respect for others' views applies to campaigns of all sort, including the campaign to end homelessness.

One has to wonder how often Task Force members have "knocked on each other's door" to talk.  One Task Force member said she'd not talked to anyone on the Task Force before she was told to do so at the November meeting.  It was not that she didn't have things she wanted to say, it was that she didn't feel she would be heard.  Likely others on the Task Force have felt the same.  Some have never said more at a meeting than was needed to introduce themselves.  The Task Force "leadership", however, doesn't seem to see anything wrong with the situation.

The Task Force "leadership" decided to spend the year meeting and planning (vs. "doing something"), to conduct meetings as if they were U.S. Senate hearings, and to relegate public participation in the process to three minutes at the end of their meetings.  They withheld crucial information from the other members of the Task Force and the public, including a decision to spend a huge sum of money for an out-of-state consultant and the fact that Polk County quit the Task Force.  And, they did it in secret.     

The co-Chairs claim not to have made those decisions -- that they didn't have "the make decisions for or recommendations to the task force on policy or administration."  That might come as a surprise to the rest of the Task Force, not to mention the observant public.  And, if they didn't make those decisions, who did?   

Furthermore, if they're not making "decisions for or recommendations to the task force on policy or administration", if they're "just agenda-setting meetings", why conduct the sessions in secret?  Why not accommodate, and even welcome, the media/public interest, instead of refusing repeated requests for the time and place of the meetings?  (See our first request here and subsequent requests below.) 

The answer is simple: the "leadership" want to maintain maximum control over public perception, even if they have to manipulate the truth to do it (e.g., in addition to the above, their repeated misrepresentations about the fact and contents of Commissioner Wheeler's letter).  And thus we find ourselves in the Task Force's post-truth phase.          

This past week, a Salem City Councilor was forced to resign within 72 hours after it was discovered that he had posted a racist video on his Facebook page.  His attempt to apologize just made things worse, as individuals came forward with additional evidence to counter his apology's one-off narrative.  One such individual, call her S.A., had been collecting print-screens of this councilor's Facebook page for almost a year.  We thought it likely S.A. had felt personally disrespected by the councilor's posts.  We asked her why she hadn't brought them forward earlier?  She replied, "I truly thought that it was well known that he was a hateful bigot and people didn't care .... I never thought anyone would care."  

Sometimes people care about a problem, but don't feel there's anything they can do about it.  It's not uncommon for people to feel that way about big societal ills like economic injustice, of which homelessness is but a symptom, racial and other forms of bigotry, and even abuse of authority by  public officials, like what we've witnessed in the Task Force "leadership", and in members' timid acquiescence.  But, as the Councilor's story demonstrates, one day a line is crossed, and suddenly everything changes.  It can happen, even in the post-truth era.  

Not Open to the Public

>>> SARAH OWENS 11/9/2016 9:30 AM >>>

Lisa, you never replied to our [previous] request to know the time and place of the co-Chairs' meeting.  Yesterday, you said you would let us know when the next meeting was to take place.  You also said that the co-Chairs' meeting was not an "executive session", it was "just an agenda-setting meeting and not open to the public"  (emphasis added).  We don't believe that can be a correct statement. 

Oregon law defines a meeting as the convening of any of the “governing bodies” described in the law “for which a quorum is required in order to make a decision or to deliberate toward a decision on any matter.” ORS 192.610(5) (emphasis added).  You indicated at a meeting of the Support Services/Education committee meeting that the co-Chairs were, in one of these "agenda-setting meetings", going to consider how to respond to "rumors" (Commissioner Wheeler's notice) that Polk County was not going to participate further in the Task Force proceedings.  It is clear now that the co-Chairs decided to hire an out-of-state consultant at a cost of $20K to "facilitate" one of the Task Force's meetings.  

Deciding an agenda is a significant matter for any public body, and it is clear that three of the four co-Chairs (or now two of the three) (a quorum) are needed to do that for the Task Force.  That means these "agenda-setting meetings" must be properly noticed and open to the public.  

We respectfully ask, again, to know the time and place of the next meeting of the co-Chairs, and that you respond promptly to this request, saying whether or not you disagree with our interpretation of Oregon's Public Meeting law, so that we can consider our options.

Sarah and Michael

From: Janet Carlson <>
Sent: Wednesday, November 9, 2016 10:07 AM

Sarah - Here is advice from Marion County Legal Counsel that affirms Lisa's information. And please watch your tone in your communications with Marion County staff.

Thank you,
>>> Gloria Roy 10/25/2016 9:49 AM >>>
Marion County participates in the Mid-Willamette Homeless Initiative Task Force, and provides assistance through public meeting noticing of the various meetings of the task force and its subcommittees. You have asked if a meeting of the leadership team is a public meeting that needs to be noticed. The leadership team is comprised of the two mayors and a commissioner from each county. Under the charter, the leadership team has the authority to "call meetings, preside at meetings, set agendas, make appointments to any subcommittees, and make assignments as necessary to carry out the purpose of the initiative."

The purpose of the meetings is to set task force agendas, review procedures, and discuss information to be gathered or presented to the task force. It does not appear that the public meetings laws or its notice requirements apply to this meeting, as the group does not have the authority, nor is it acting, to make decisions for or recommendations to the task force on policy or administration. ORS 192.610(3). According to the Attorney General's Manual on Public Meetings, (2011), page 117, the leadership team is not considered a "governing body", so public meetings requirements do not apply.

"Even though the [leadership team] decides when to meet and determines what procedures it will use to gather and report information, it is not vested with the authority to decide the direction in which the [task force or its subcommittees] will move on an issue of policy or administration." Furthermore, the leadership team is not making recommendations to the task force on substantive task force matters that would also trigger public meeting requirements.

Gloria M. Roy
Marion County Counsel
(503) 588-5220

Sent: Wednesday, November 9, 2016 1:43 PM

Thanks, Janet, for the prompt reply.  We don't know what "tone" you're referring, but we do wonder if Ms. Roy was aware on October 25th --  or if her opinion would change if she knew -- that the co-Chairs were making the decisions like those referred to below, namely to contract with an out-of-state consultant at a price of $20K, etc., and to consider how to respond to Polk County's decision not to participate in further Task Force proceedings, including drafting and agreeing to recommend the adoption of the "Update" memorandum regarding same.   These would seem to us to be acting, making decisions for, and recommendations to the Task Force with regard to policy and/or administration, making the co-Chairs "leadership team" a governing body under ORS 192.610(3), unless it can be argued, and perhaps it can, that the co-Chairs' decisions in these matters exceeded their authority.  Assuming, however, that the co-Chairs did not exceed their authority in making those decisions, then they would seem to be a "governing body" under ORS 192.610(3).  

But even if Ms. Roy's opinion were not to change based on the additional information, we wonder what possible difficulty or harm there could be in opening these meetings to the public for the sake of a more open and transparent process on a matter of great importance to the community. 

Sarah and Michael         

Sent: Tuesday, November 15, 2016 9:51 AM

Commissioner Carlson and Ms Roy,

To date, we have received no response to our November 9th "public meetings" inquiry below, which outlines the reasons why the MWHI Task Force co-chairs' meetings should be open and accessible to the public.

Michael Livingston & Sarah Owens 

From: Janet Carlson <>
Sent: Friday, November 18, 2016 5:04 PM

Hi Michael - I just returned to the office today from the annual Association of Oregon Counties conference that took place in Eugene this week. I was able to connect with Gloria yesterday at lunch, since she came down for the county legal counsel sessions.

Gloria affirmed that the circumstances you described still do not place these agenda setting meetings under the open meetings requirement. The contract with Karen Ray was not an MWHI contract, it was a Marion County contract. Marion County authorizes contracts up to $100,000 to be approved administratively by the county's Chief Administrative Officer. The contract went through Marion County's regular contract processes.

While Marion County did seek input from the co-chairs prior to executing the contract about whether time should be made on the agenda for Karen Ray to facilitate an MWHI meeting, this was an agenda-setting discussion and thus remained within the parameters described by legal counsel that were sent to you previously.

Have a good weekend,

Sent: Wednesday, November 23, 2016 7:55 AM

Commissioner Carlson:

     (1)  Your report that, over lunch at the recent Association of Oregon Counties Conference, "Gloria affirmed" her previous answer is hardly a "legally sufficient explanation" and raises the question whether Ms Roy is aware of and has considered all of the relevant facts.
     (2)  Whether the execution of the contract with Karen Ray complied with Marion County's contracting protocols is not pertinent to this public meetings inquiry.  What is pertinent is that the current co-chairs, apparently over the objection of Polk County Commissioner Jennifer Wheeler, decided for the other members of the Task Force -- i.e., without discussion and decision by them -- that Ms Ray (rather than, say, someone more familiar with the community) would provide consultant services of a particular type and purpose and that the Task Force would be expected to participate.
     (3)  Likewise, the current co-chairs effectively decided for the Task Force what its response would be to Polk County's withdrawal from participation on the Task Force.   For example, the current co-chairs: (a) decided not to honor Polk County Commissioner Jennifer Wheeler's request (made in an email to Lisa Trauernicht) to distribute to the other members of the Task Force Commissioner Wheeler's October 18, 2016, letter informing the co-chairs that the Polk County delegation was withdrawing;  (b) decided not to disclose to the other Task Force members during the November 7th meeting the reasons for Polk County's withdrawal and the exact contents of Commissioner Wheeler's letter; and (c) drafted the memorandum purporting to clarify the Polk County situation and made Task Force approval of that memorandum an "action" item on the November 7th agenda.
     (4) The current co-chairs' decisions to determine what the Task Force's understanding of and response to Polk County's withdrawal from the Task Force would be and to contract with Ms Ray go far beyond "call[ing] meetings, presid[ing] at meetings, set[ting] agendas," etc., and plainly constitute "mak[ing] decisions for or recommendations to a public body [-- i.e., the task force --] on policy or administration," which makes the co-chairs' meetings those of a governing body and subject to the public meetings law requirement that they be open to the public.

Michael Livingston & Sarah Owens

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Karen Ray's Advice to Task Force: Pivot

The $20K Meeting: Worth it?



The true the goal of this meeting was to fix the "big problem" facing the Task Force: irrelevance.

If you want to know the details of  Karen Ray's $20K session with the Task Force members (mentioned only briefly here), this blog is for you.  Try not to let the fact that you paid $20K for the session affect your assessment of its value.

Ray began her segment of the Task Force's November meeting by telling the members present (hereinafter "TF") that tonight she wanted them to talk to one another, to step outside the planning role they'd been taking, and "think a little bit about how you're going to keep all your good ideas alive and healthy in the community."  She said, "if we are going to take ahold of the Task Force recommendations -- and they are multiple and complex -- and move to implementation, we need to understand some alternative structures that the Task Force can be thinking about as you complete your work."  She said that there were three more meetings during which the Task Force could look at the recommendations in detail, so she did not want to do that during this meeting.  She continued:

Instead, we're going to take a broad look.  If these are the kinds of...strategies that your subcommittees and your experts have suggested can impact homelessness effectively [FN1], what kind of structures are you going to need to implement those alternatives [sic]?

She next put up a slide of all the people who had been "working behind the scenes for a year" to "generate the best ideas."  Then she put up a slide showing that four more committee meetings were scheduled, and read the schedule aloud to demonstrate that "the work continues."

The next slide was a graphic of a leaf.  She said the TF should think about "all these good if you've been exploring a tree piece by piece."

You have more than 75 people [FN2] discussing the minutiae of homeless girls and the minutiae of helping vets, who may or may not understand that there's an alternative to their lifestyle [sic].  You've had lots of interesting ideas about how to fund, how to negotiate with the federal government, how to advocate at the state level.  

Putting up a graphic of a branch and explained, "So you've been looking at the...leaves on a big tree, and some of your committees [FN3] have started to put these leaves together on a branch -- well this piece fits with this piece, and this piece fits with this piece" until, over the last nine months, "you've created a tree."  Graphic of tree.  "And that tree" she said, "you're getting ready to plant."

Don't Look at the Leaves
Come February, someone's going to ceremoniously dig a large hole, and you're going to ceremoniously stand around this tree you've assembled, and plant it.  So, our charge tonight is not to look at the individual leaves -- you have 75+ people [FN4] doing that.  But instead, look at this whole tree.  To look at what the whole tree is doing.  So, before we go any further, I would like to take a moment, and have you talk about your experience in the subcommittees, and your experience on this Task Force.  I'd like you to think about whether you believe the subcommittees have been doing quality work.  [FN5]  I'd like you to think about what you have gained in knowledge or experience as a result of being on this Task Force.  I'd like you to reflect on the quality of work that's been done.   
Ray then asked the TF to share their thoughts privately with the person(s) next to them, which with some exceptions they did, for about two minutes, while the public watched.  [FN6]  After apologizing for interrupting them, she asked if anyone would like to make a statement "publicly, about the quality of the subcommittee work as you've experienced it."  Bruce Bailey and Chief Moore spoke.  In summarizing, Ray said she was hearing that they'd learned about resources they didn't know existed, and also that resources were not adequate to meet the problem.  Councilor Bednarz responded, following which Ray said,

The Task Force agreed to meet for a year and plan.  We need to put a period on the planning, so we can pivot to implementation, so that planning doesn't become the only thing the group does.  And how will we ask the community to structure its implementation work?...What will the Task Force ask the community, and its organizations, to ensure that all the study that's been done by excellent thinkers in the subcommittees [FN7] actually take frution [sic], that you actually plant the tree and it starts to bloom. 

Ray directed the TF's attention to a "chart of recommendations" (a paper document they had before them) and read aloud from a slide those that had been approved.  She then gave the TF five minutes to read their paper charts, which included recommendations not yet approved, while the public watched and waited.  When they were done, she asked the TF to turn to the person(s) next to them, and say whatever they wanted to about the proposed recommendations.   

Strategic Challenges

After a couple of minutes, she interrupted, invited the TF to share their thoughts with staff later, after the meeting, and turned their attention to the three columns on the right side of the chart labeled "Funding", "Coordination", and "Advocacy."  She spoke of the need to find funding, and to coordinate.  She asked the TF again to turn to the person(s) next to them and share ideas on how to coordinate.

After a couple of minutes, Ray interrupted them, and asked them to share their conversations publicly, while she kept notes on easel paper.  Commissioner Carlson, Mayor Clark, Councilor Bednarz, David Leith offered comments, following which Ray asked Jon Reeves and Bruce Bailey to share their thoughts on coordination.  Ray followed up with this observation:

Successful collaborations exist and do good work when they pay attention to the self-interest of each member organization.  So as you shape some kind of implementation team, we'd be interested in what it is that business people need, in order to engage the business community as a whole, [and so on, citing the Salvation Army, UGM, MWVCAA].  Now the payoff for that, then those organizations would need to go to their boards, and we would get board approval and board energy for adopting some kind of strategic framework...If we can get all of the boards of all of the major service providers to be looking at the same document, then we avoid the big problem of this becoming something that sits on the shelf.  [FN8]

Councilor Andersen at the Nov mtg

Mayor Peterson then commented on Bruce Bailey's comment, and expressed gratitude for Councilor Andersen's attendance at Task Force meetings.  After observing that Mayor Peterson would be leaving office in 2017, Ray asked if the Task Force recommendations could be discussed at a January meeting of the Salem City Council, to which the Mayor replied "Absolutely", that the Mayor-elect fully supported what the Task Force had been doing.  [FN9

Ray said, "So what I'm hearing so far is that we need some kind of backbone organization ... some kind of team of people ... who will hang on to the shovel and remember that you are planting a tree, and try to get that tree planted deeply in the proper ground."  She again asked for ideas on how to coordinate such a team.   Carlson said "There has to be some dedicated staff support."  Ray asked if anyone had any ideas how to make sure that there's paid staff?  Carlson suggested that someone in the community ("LT/Ron") might provide funds or a "project manager" for that purpose.

Karen Ray

Ray said she wanted to turn to "a second piece, advocacy", and asked the TF how they could make sure that, during the implementation phase, advocacy actually occurs.  Bednarz, Carlson, Peterson spoke.  Ray asked the TF whether they wanted to ask the committees to continue in some way after February 2017 "Or -- I don't know the culture in this community -- is it important for you to release them, and then invite them back in again?"  Peterson, Shaney Starr, Carlson commented.  Ray said she was hearing it was important to "release everyone", to "complete the charter" and then reassemble in a new, "more nimble" structure, and asked the TF what they thought that might look like.   Reeves, Bailey, Moore offered comments.  Ray responded,

Executive Director Reeves and Executive Director Bailey have spent 33 years putting together powerful collaborations that change [sic] the way business is done among -- in the non-profit community, in a given organization.  [FN10]  You know, down in Eugene-Springfield, they came together, non-profit organizations and safety-net clinics, and an insurance company came together, and they insured 25,000 men, women and children in a two-year period, and provided them with a medical home.  Now that took a big change in the way those non-profits decided to operate together.  Do you think there's a climate where, with specific help and direction, non-profit organizations in this community might use the homeless issue as an opportunity to overcome some of the turfism that Chief Moore is alleging--is allowing?

Following a comment by Reeves, Ray spoke of having met privately with Reeves and Bailey, and of their "great commitment to doing something, because what you're currently doing isn't working", and said she had heard "the same commitment from the three co-chairs."  Verena Wessel and Bednarz commented.  While Bednarz was speaking, Shaney Starr got up to leave.  Ray asked her if she was "leaving angry?", to which Starr replied she was not.  As Bednarz continued, he was interrupted by Carlson, followed by Clark, who invited comment from Irma Oliveros.  Ray attempted to take back the discussion at that point by saying, 

So I'm hearing a kind of multi-step plan already, and Step one is to find some kind of backbone organization to organize the ongoing effort.  Step two, is to ... develop this strategic plan that staff have showed me ... Step three would be to get organizations to officially engage that plan and say yes, this is our plan, and then the next step is to prioritize sets of projects for funding.  That solves several problems, including coordination and funding.     
She then asked the TF if what she'd just said "does indeed summarize what we've said so far about implementation."  She then re-summarized what she'd heard, and asked the TF to agree or disagree, and everyone nodded agreement.  Peterson and Carlson commented.  Ray then asked the TF to be thinking about what organization could serve as the "backbone", and said they could leave the questions of funding, coordination and advocacy to the new, more nimble implementation group that would convene March 1.  She then asked the TF to "turn to the person next to you one last time, and say how was this meeting for you? Was it a good use of your time?"  After a couple of minutes, during which the TF conversed privately, she asked them to rate the meeting's usefulness by a show of fingers.  All fives.  She then asked them whether they believed they could find a backbone structure to implement the recommendations? Mostly fives.  "I plan to be as involved in the future as I have been in the past?"  Mostly fives.  "Karen Ray's style matches my style?"  Mostly fives.  Ray then turned the meeting back to Commissioner Carlson.

Here's Councilor Bednarz's report on the meeting to the Salem City Council:

We have a finite number of days that we're going to be holding these [Task Force] meetings...and we've got to come to -- I don't want another report, I want some action items to come out of this whole discussion, and I will just let you know that after this last meeting we had [with Karen Ray], I'm really glad to see that something's really coming out  -- there's wheels underneath this plan, there's some ideas that are happening, and there's a lot of cogs, a lot of things that are moving out there.  I do know one thing that came out of it is, the discussion about having a permanent, more of a permanent, overall, I mentioned something like SEDCOR, but it's the idea that there's somebody out there advocating for the homeless, who coordinates between all the multi-jurisdictional - jurisdictions - that are out there, and likely - I guess what I'm saying is that likely, I'm going to come to this [Council] - as well as the county, as well as the other communities around here, to help fund some of that, and I certainly hope I won't be on Council when that comes up to fruition.  But I certainly hope that this Council finds some resources, as we were mentioning earlier to help solve, resolve, a little bit of the homelessness problem that we have in our community.  I've noted very much that they're lining up on the sidewalks on Liberty Street next to Rite Aid, I saw them down on Court Street...down across from Busick Court, and boy, they're really coming out in droves.  It's getting colder and wetter out there and we need to take some action quickly about this matter.   

                                       Notes from the Gallery

FN1 - With the possible exception of the Health and Housing Committee (which is not a Task Force committee) and the Veterans Committee (whose recommendations, though submitted, were not included in the chart), there has been no discussion, in either committee or Task Force meetings, about whether a particular recommendation or "strategy" was likely to impact homelessness effectively, and no experts (i.e., researchers, statisticians, data or program analysts, etc.) were consulted in making or adopting recommendations.  See  here and here for further details and analysis of the committees.          

FN2 - It's unclear what basis Ms. Ray had for citing the number 75, but it's likely an assumption based on the total number of Task Force members (20) + the total number of Technical Advisors (50) + staff.  However, it would be wrong to assume that all the TAs have been involved with the work of the Task Force.  Although a handful of TAs have attended most of the Task Force meetings, some have never been called upon, and the rest have been involved in only one or two meetings.  There are certainly not 75 people immersed in committee work -- the average committee size is about six, including non-Task Force members, attendance has been poor, and only staff appear to be working outside of  meetings. 

FN3 -  There is no evidence that any of the committees has tried to "fit the pieces together."  See  here and here.     

FN4 - See FN2.

FN5 - See FN1.
FN6 - This was the first of four times the audience was excluded while the important people asked each other what they thought about the quality of their work and how they might persuade the community to implement their brilliant ideas.  Ray could have asked the audience to turn to the person next to them and speak about these things, but she didn't.  It was as if we either didn't exist, or our opinions were of no consequence, even to each other.  The message could not have been clearer or more consistent with the views of the Task Force's current leadership, which is, of course, why Polk County quit, and why the Task Force has a relevance problem. 

FN7 - Ms. Ray is assuming facts not in evidence here.  See FN1.  Of course, she has no personal knowledge of what's occurred in committee, and knows nothing about this community except what she's been told. 

FN8 - "If we can get all of the boards of all of the major service providers to be looking at the same document, then we avoid the big problem of this becoming something that sits on the shelf." -- That is the $20,000 message Ms. Ray was hired to deliver.  But who decided this was a "big problem"?  What if the community disagrees with the TF's assessment of its work, and concludes its strategic plan probably deserves to sit on the shelf?  What then?    

FN9 - The Mayor is known for her enthusiastic belief that others will ensure her promises are kept.

FN10 -  See FN7.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Minutes 11/15/16

November 15, 2016

Bruce Hoffman, Chair
Woody Dukes
Brock Campbell
Michael Livingston,
Vice Chair
Bob Hanna
Bill Holmstrom

Sarah Owens, Secretary-Treasurer
Neal Kern
Diana Dettwyler

Erma Hoffman
Rebekah Engle
David Dahle
p=present a=absent e=excused

Residents: Gordon Friedman
Organizations: Simon Sandusky, UGM
City and County Representatives: Councilor and Mayor-elect Bennett, Officer Shane Galusha
Guests: none

The regular meeting of the CanDo Board of Directors was called to order at 6:00 p.m. on Tuesday, November 15, 2016, at the First Christian Church at 685 Marion Street NE, Salem.  The Chair and Secretary-Treasurer were present.

The minutes of the October meeting were approved by unanimous consent.

Officer Shane Galusha reported that preparations for the upcoming holiday season were under way and that volunteers were being trained to help with downtown patrols.  He also reported that he and other SPD officers had been called in to relieve PPD “riot team” members dealing with the post-election protests in Portland.  He confirmed that the number of men sleeping along Liberty Street under the Rite Aid awning had increased in recent weeks, and said that the Downtown Enforcement Team could do little about it, other than to ask them to move along.  He did not know why the numbers had increased.  

Councilor Bennett reported that the Mayor had opened Monday night’s City Council meeting with remarks intended to allay fears resulting from the recent U.S. presidential election.  

[The text of the Mayor’s Remarks:  “While the nation may have new leadership, we want to assure you that the City of Salem remains consistent with its values and its vision for our community. Our leadership remains committed to taking care of this community, and to listening to concerns, just as we’ve done in the past. This national election and the tone, I can assure you, will do nothing to change the way our City’s commitment to protecting the civil rights, the inclusiveness and the practices that this city has held dear. It is paramount that this city, this international city, shalom, a city of brotherly love, would continue to remember what we stand for, what we all work so hard for, and what we hope to continue embracing in our community.”]

Councilor Bennett also reported that Council had received a proposal from Home Base Shelters of Salem to help them lease a parcel of city-owned land for a “Rest-Stop” type of program, but that so far, a suitable parcel had not been identified, that plans to demolish the First National Bank Building at 280 Liberty Street NE, designed by Pietro Belluschi, were going forward, to be replaced, he believed, with housing, and that Pacific Office Automation had purchased and would be occupying the building next door at 260 Liberty Street NE.  

In public comment, Sarah Owens suggested that members of the board make a point to visit H.O.A.P. on Church Street NE, between 9a and 2p some Tuesday, Wednesday or Friday, to get acquainted with staff and and the facility, which Stephen Goins has been managing for Northwest Human Services for about a year now.  Simon Sandusky invited everyone to share a Thanksgiving meal at the Mission next week, emphasizing that all are welcome.  

In lieu of a presentation, the board bid a formal farewell to Chuck Bennett in his role as Councilor for Ward 1, and wished him success in his new role as Mayor, which he will be taking up in January.  In remarking on Chuck’s many years of service to CANDO, members of the board said they would remember him for his responsiveness to the needs and concerns of the neighbors, his regular presence at monthly meetings and overall approachability, his open mindedness on contentious issues, his dedication to downtown as livable, walkable, and bike-friendly, and his willingness to take on a revision to the “Tree Code.”  Chuck promised he would maintain his interest in downtown, including its most vulnerable residents, and return from time to time to meet with CANDO.    

There being no other business before the board, the meeting was adjourned at 7:05 p.m.

Note: the next meeting will be January 17th.