Sunday, January 1, 2017

The Hopeless Task Force - Part 1

Karen Ray

"Due to the public nature of the Task Force, we can expect some negative feedback on the strategies it will publish."  -- Karen Ray

Karen Ray's contract expired with 2016**, but did she deliver as promised?  According to Commissioner Carlson, she did a "fantastic job" facilitating the November 7 meeting, but did she accomplish anything else in return for the $20,000 you, the taxpayer, paid for her services?

According to her contract proposal, a copy of which was obtained through a public records request, she was to accomplish four objectives:

1.  "create individual leaders committed to championing the elimination of homelessness",

2.  "garner organizations and their resources",

3.  "market the effort by making the Task Force's work consumable to the layman", and

4.  "develop a plan for a high-profile roll-out event to the implementation stage."

Ray's proposal was, according to the proposal, "designed to ensure a dynamic and effective pivot from planning and data gathering to strategy implementation."  To that end, she was going to help "organization leaders, elected officials and everyday citizens understand" the data she'd been told the Task Force had gathered, and influence those leaders/officials/citizens "to support systemic changes that will lead to a home for every resident."

One Small Request

Now, it's true that Dr. Janet asked her to change that last little bit, on account of system change and whatnot not being "realistic."  Too bad, really, as community support for systemic change that would lead to a home for every resident would easily have been worth $20,000, don't you think? 

But, ultimately, Ray's proposal said she'd try only to influence the community to "support Task Force strategies to reduce homelessness" (not, however, to reduce it "significantly").

Did Ray accomplish her objectives?

Did she, "create individual leaders"?  Help anyone see their "self-interest in solving...homelessness"?  If she did, they've not been seen at any of the Task Force or committee meetings, and they've not been referred to publicly.

Did Ray help the Task Force garner support among local organizations?  Attend their board meetings and community groups with a Powerpoint?  Not that we've heard.

Did the Task Force create a Means Map?  We don't know, but we think it might be this.  We do know that Ray was told to contact the following "key" organizations: UGM, MWVCAA, Mountain West Investment Corp., the local housing authorities (SHA, MVHA, MCHA), Polk County SITs and the Salem Leadership Foundation.

Was Ray able to get these organizations and individuals involved "now, while they can still influence the final plan"?  The first three organizations were represented on the Task Force by Bruce Bailey, Jon Reeves and Ron Hays.  The next five had representatives on the technical advisors list.  So, strictly speaking, they were all "involved", and had been from the beginning.  But, none has so far agreed publicly to commit resources to implementation, or even take the request to their boards.

Did Ray make the Task Force's work "consumable by the layman"?  Has she persuaded us that the Task Force's strategies will work?  What do you think?

How you answer the last question will determine your interest in the next: whether Ray made good on her commitment to outlining a "roll-out plan" to help the community "pivot" to implementation.

If the contract seems to have been a waste of resources, it's not entirely Ray's fault.  She seems to have believed sincerely that the Task Force had collected "enormous amounts of data", and that this data had "led to strategies that will work."  No one told her she'd been hired to put lipstick on the pig.

In mid-October, Ray asked staff to identify three or four strategies/recommendations that would be pretty easy to carry out, three or four that would be hard work, but "lead to substantial improvements in homelessness", and one or two that "will be powerful, but will take a long view."  Ten days later, staff gave her "a list of all MWHI recommendations, sorted into short/medium/long term categories.  All recommendations are included."  At that point, she knew, or should have known, she was a salesperson with essentially nothing she could sell, but it was too late.  She had to punt.

On October 25, Ray wrote to the 3 co-chairs (Polk County had dropped out by then) and told them:
On October 31, we will conduct a working meeting, and I will be keeping track of our discussion on flip-chart paper.  No Powerpoint presentations or such, this is a guided discussion.  As a result of this discussion, we will:
1. Sort the subcommitee recommendations into two groups: a) those where action steps and accountabilities seem obvious and b) those that need more detailed specific action steps and accountabilities.

2. Plan action steps and accountabilities for group b.

3. We will attempt to identify funding pools that will make this work attractive to potential partners who could implement strategies.

4. Determine how to present these action steps / funding ideals to the Task Forde on Nov 7.  (I have some specific ideas.)

5.  We will draft ideals about governance structures for the implementation phase which will begin after Feb 1, 2017.  We will prepare to discuss these ideas with the Task Force at the Nov 7 meeting.        
Some readers may recall that we asked to attend the October 31 meeting, and were told we would not be allowed to do so, because it was "just an agenda-setting meeting", and not open to the public.  We were told, 
"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.
We leave it to you, dear reader, to decide whether Marion County's attorney, Gloria Roy, got this one right.
The result of the October 31st meeting was this now familiar list, about which Ray wrote, "Due to the public nature of the Task Force, we can expect some negative feedback on the strategies it will publish."  (Emphasis added.)  Whatever Ray meant by that statement, we do not know, because, aside from this blog, the community response to the Task Force recommendations has been absolute silence.  One has only to look at the recommendations to understand why.

So, did Karen Ray deliver her end of the bargain?  Maybe.  Was her contract a good or even reasonable use of public resources?  Clearly not.  It might even have been an abuse of the public trust.  But, we must leave that story for another day, as The Hopeless Task Force continues in Part 2.

**[Update 2/1/17: we yesterday learned that the expiration date of Karen Ray's contract was extended from 12/31/16 to 2/28/17, apparently allowing her to facilitate the Task Force's last meeting additional charge.]

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