Wednesday, February 8, 2017

PTTF: Meeting 11 - Pivot to COG?

Photo courtesy T&C Consulting

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.   

-- Karen Ray, November 2016

The big news last night was that Salem and Marion County are talking about putting up  $40,000 each toward the salary of someone to oversee implementation of the Mid Willamette Homeless Initiative Task Force's Strategic Plan.

Characterizing the Plan as "a tremendous platform for our communities to build on", Salem Mayor Chuck Bennett said the City Manager was already working on several items in the plan. "We're very excited about it", he said. 

Of course "we" are not very excited about it, that's just something "we" politicians say at times like this.  Or he might have been referring only to himself and former Mayor Anna Peterson, hard to say.

Because, honestly, the Salem City Manager is not so much working on several items in the plan, as he is working on several of his own recommendations that Chuck made sure got into the Task Force's Plan so as to have something in it worthy of the City's time and attention.  The same is true for Mountain West, UGM, MWVCAA, Center for Hope and Safety, SEDCOR, Workforce Oregon etc., etc., -- they're all working on their own projects, projects that were included in the Plan so as to make it appear that the Task Force was actually doing somethingThe question is, does it make sense to pay upwards of $80,000 to "jump start" the hiring of a full-time employee to oversee such a plan?  We think the answer is an unequivocal "No."   

But let's get back to the meeting.  Mayor Bennett opened the meeting promptly at 4pm with 10 Task Force members in attendance, enough for a quorum, and about 17 in the audience.  Also present was former Councilor Bednarz, who took a seat on the dais, seconded every motion, and voted, even though he's no longer a member, having been replaced by Councilor Andersen.  Absent were the Polk County reps, along with Verena Wessel and Kim Freeman of Keizer, and Gladys Blum of Salem.  Chief Moore and Sheriff Myers arrived late.    

During the public comment period that began about 4:10, Charles Fong talked about ADUs.  TJ Putman of Salem Interfaith Hospitality Network, who also runs a tenant-based rental assistance program called "Fresh Start", asked the Task Force to recommend funding TBRA programs for families.  Tina Hansen, who's attended most Task Force meetings, expressed her approval of the Task Force's work.  Chuck then called on Jon Reeves to talk about the results of his committee's community engagement efforts.  Reeves mused about the process they used, read some survey comments, and received murmurs of appreciation for his hard work.

At 5:35 precisely, Commissioner Carlson began introducing the two recommendations not adopted at the last meeting because they needed to be reworked, and one new recommendation to offer training on service/assistance animals to landlords and "other agencies."  The Task Force adopted those, and also voted to delete the landlord-assessment-tool recommendation made by the Health and Housing Committee, as they'd decided it wasn't useful.  Commissioner Carlson then moved adoption of the Strategic Plan, which motion passed.

 At that point, Karen Ray was asked, once again, to help the Task Force "pivot to implementation."  There followed something that did not feel much like the "ceremoniously stand around this tree you've assembled, and plant it" moment she had promised last November.

Ray began by telling the Task Force that they'd put together a "high quality plan" that would require "changes in organizational policies and procedures."  She asked them whether they voted for it because it's a quality plan, or just to "go along."  Bruce Bailey copped to going along.  Carlson said it put "meat on the bones" of the 10-Year Plan just as she talked about doing last year, thanks to the high-quality work of the committees.  Councilor Andersen said something about its needing a project manager.  Ray changed the subject.

Ray's "map" of Marion-Polk Homeless Services
She began by claiming that the Task Force had "dissect[ed] what's currently going on in the community" and found that services for the homeless were not well coordinated.  (Her illustration at left.)  She went on to say a whole lot of things about the need for systems change and what not that really didn't have anything to do with the issue facing the Task Force, which was that, so far, no one on the Task Force or in the community had volunteered to be the "backbone organization" that would oversee or staff the Plan's implementation.

According to Ray, this was likely because they'd "not yet seen what their self-interest is in solving the persistent problems of homelessness."  Well, maybe, or maybe they,  along with the local paper, are of the opinion that "More than a year [after the Task Force began its work], it's hard to see what's been accomplished", despite more than 1,300 hours spent in meetings** and the completion of a 20-page strategic plan.   

Prior to last night's meeting, the Task Force had had very little discussion about plan implementation.  They'd had the one meeting with Karen Ray where nothing was decided, a five-minute discussion at the end of the December meeting, and a few minutes at the very end of the the January meeting, which they spent listening to Commissioner Carlson talk about about her Implementation Structure Concept memo (p 41).  So some were taken aback to hear, half an hour before the meeting and the Task Force were to end, Mayor Clark propose that they discuss putting a staff person in the MWV Council of Governments (COG) to "make sure the strategic plan happens."

The first problem with this proposal: homeless housing and services are not something the COG has done, or is interested in learning about. 

When we [Carlson and Clark] talked to the [COG Board of Directors'] executive committee, they were really not all that interested in being the ones that understand homelessness, so that's where this group of leaders [?] would be an advisory group to the COG Board.  So we would construct an implementation team that would have leadership from the participating organizations, and then a middle management team, and then there would be networking amongst the line staff.  So that all has to be developed. 
As best we can determine (had to watch the video a couple of times), Carlson and Clark were proposing that someone, probably Carlson and Clark, choose a leadership team and hire a staff person who, under the direction and control of COG, as advised by the leadership team, would convene a 3-layer implementation team that would be responsible for "making sure the strategic plan happens." If everything works out, implementation would begin June 1, 2017, and the COG would adjust dues payments to pick up the cost of the staff person.     

About 6:15, with everyone wanting to go home, and no one really understanding what they were voting on, the Task Force approved the proposal.  Then Mayor Clark announced that the COG had given the Task Force some kind of award, reminiscent of the one Mayor Peterson received last year, and Commissioner Carlson handed out framed certificates of appreciation to all the Task Force members, and crystal-looking trinkets to each of the staff.  Sorry homeless people, maybe we'll have something for you next winter.  

**By our calculations, Task Force members, staff, and technical advisors spent a total of 538 hours in Task Force meetings.  Members of the provider community, media and general public spent another 642.  That's a total of 1,008 hours in Task Force meetings, to which may be added another 330 hours in committee meetings, for a total of 1,338 hours in meetings, at a value of at least $31,523 ($23.56/hr volunteer rate for 2015).  First and last month's rent and security deposit for 9 homeless families.      

1 comment:

  1. Very disappointing end to what could have been a fresh start to helping alleviate homelessness in the Salem community. Unfortunately no public comment allowed at the end. Shameful waste.