Sunday, January 31, 2016

Homeless for the Holidays

The ARCHES Project on Madison Street NE, 2016

 Revised: December 2018

By Sarah Owens and Michael Livingston

In 2009, the Salem Weekly published a piece by called "Homeless for the Holidays" (Salem Weekly, 31 October 2009) that set out to "paint a picture of homelessness", but found in the end that "no single brush, color or canvas" could do the subject justice.  In 2016, we updated the article after paring it down to a listicle.  Here is this year's update.

2016:  The $79M NASA Moon mission did, in fact, locate water on the moon in 2010. 
2018:  NASA's next flagship Mars mission, the Mars 2020 rover is projected to cost >$2B.  The Pentagon estimated deploying troops to the southwest border per order of President Trump would cost $72M.

2016:  Mattel's "homeless" doll, Gwen Thompson, which retailed for $95 in 2009, can still be purchased on eBay -- for $190 (she's no longer advertised as a homeless doll).
2018:  The doll is still available on eBay for between $120 and $200.

2016 eBay listing for Gwen Thompson doll

2015:  Visits to The ARCHES Project day center on Madison Street totaled 2,290 in the third quarter, down from 2,945 in the third quarter of 2009.
2018:  Visits to The ARCHES Project day center on Commercial Street NE totaled 5,385 between  opening day (July 25) and October 16.  Visits in October alone totaled 2,851 (daily average 124). 

2016:  The ARCHES Project on Madison Street had no shower or laundry facilities for clients.
2018:  The ARCHES Project moved to Commercial Street NE in June 2017, and still has no shower or laundry facilities for clients.

2016:  Shelters still "specialized."
2018:  Unchanged.

2016:  Sleeping in public was still cited, but less often.
2018:  Impossible to know for sure, but changes in the law suggest sleeping is not being cited.

2016:  Homelessness was still a merry-go-round. 
2018:  Largely unchanged, despite claims for MWVCAA's "Coordinated Entry Program."

2016:  Discriminating against those with felony convictions was still allowed, but a new "reentry" program was helping a few be more successful.
2018:  Unchanged, except that Salem Housing Authority has lowered some criminal history barriers

2016:  Thanks to the initiative of five women, there were a few public toilets open 24/7 downtown. 
2018:  The "Arta Potties" initiative folded in January 2018.  See full story, "Toilets and Panhandling", here.

2015:  The homeless student count was down to 491 from 879 (2009).  
2018:  The homeless student count rose above 1,100.

2016:  The wait lists for government housing in the rural areas around Salem were unfrozen. 
2018:  Unchanged.

2016:  There are still 1,000 housing vouchers for rural areas around Salem, and a long wait list.  
2018:  Unchanged.

2016:  The Salem Housing Authority still had about 3,600 housing vouchers, and a long wait list.
2018:  Unchanged, except the list is frozen.

2016:  Demand for emergency food boxes from Marion-Polk Food Share had been rising steadily. 
2018:  Each month, MPFS serves >9,000 families (40,000 individuals) through its partner network.

2016:  Salvation Army was still turning people away each night. 
2018:  Salvation Army eliminated its transitional housing program, greatly restricted its meal service, and raised requirements for admission to the emergency overnight shelter, such that there are often empty beds.

2016:  UGM still sheltered an average of 200 men each night.   
2018:  Unchanged.

2016:  Mid-Willamette CAA was keeping wait lists again. 
2018:  Unchanged, except they're now calling them "interest lists."

2016:  The $10.5 million set aside by Housing Opportunity Bill to build affordable homes for low-income residents, not necessarily homeless, between 2009-2011 had little, if any, effect on Salem's housing market.
2018The Legislature increased the document recording fee for affordable housing from $20 to $60, which is expected to raise $90M/biennium, and allocated $5M for emergency shelter, a portion of which came to MWVCAA to support area warming shelters. 

2016:  Lack of housing remains the main complaint. 
2018:  Unchanged.

2016:  The enforcement of vagrancy laws has been greatly relaxed. 
2018:  Salem tried unsuccessfully to pass a "sit-lie" ordinance, but repealed its vagrancy law (SRC 95.560).

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Minutes 1/19/16

January 19, 2016

David Dahle, Chair
Woody Dukes
Brock Campbell
Michael Livingston,
Vice Chair
Bob Hanna
Diana Dettwyler
Erma Hoffman, Treasurer
Bruce Hoffman
Neal Kern
Sarah Owens, Sec’y
Rebekah Engle

p=present a=absent e=excused

Residents: Bill Holmstrom, Deb Comini
Organizations: Simon Sandusky, Guest Services Manager, Union Gospel Mission, Alan Mela, Grocery Outlet
City and County Representatives: Councilor Bennett, Officer Renz
Guest: Kim Lemmon, Director, St Francis Shelter

The regular meeting of the CanDo Board of Directors was called to order at 6:00 p.m. on Tuesday, January 19, 2016, at the First Christian Church at 685 Marion Street NE, Salem. David Dahle was in the chair and Sarah Owens acted as secretary.

The minutes of the November meeting were approved unanimously.

Officer Renz reported that ODOT and the City had that day been in conversation about who would be paying to fence off the area under the Center St. Bridge near UGM, but had no estimate as to when work was to begin.  He also reported that, as of January 1, Oregon law permitted cyclists (bike and motor) to proceed at a red light if the signal "fails" to turn green after a "one full cycle."  He also cautioned residents to avoid phishing scams of the sort currently circulating on Facebook under the guise of games and personality tests.

Councilor Bennett urged the board to read the latest report on pedestrian deaths, which is on the agenda for the next City Council meeting, commenting that many of the pedestrian safety improvements made in recent years were in Ward 1, and that the flashing lights at crosswalks cost the City $25K to $30K apiece.  He asked residents to let him know of unmarked crosswalks or other pedestrian safety hazards that concerned them particularly, in response to which the unmarked crosswalk at Leslie Street and Commercial was identified and discussed.  He also reported that a railroad “quiet zone” through downtown was expected to go into effect in the coming weeks, no “big changes” in the City’s budget were expected, and that two police officers would be added back to the Downtown Enforcement Team, perhaps more, in connection with the Courtney Bridge to Minto-Brown Island.  He said there would be work session on where to site and what to include in the new police facility tomorrow, and the next phase would be how to “package” the related bond measure.  Finally, Councilor Bennett announced he would not be running for the Ward 1 position on City Council, as he is running for Mayor, and encouraged the board to invite Ward 1 candidates Jan Kailuweit and Cara Kaser to its meetings.

In public comment, Sarah Owens relayed a complaint from Barbara Grant that she has seen an increase in the number of folks camping out, day and night, in the HOAP block, especially at the vacant office and back parking lot at 654 Church NE. Ms. Grant asked neighbors to call SPD’s non-emergency number when they observe camping.  Bruce Hoffman let the board know that SAIF had presented to SCAN the details of its renovation/demolition plans for its Church Street facility, and would be happy to do the same for CANDO if there was interest.   

The board heard a presentation from Kim Lemmon about the St. Francis Shelter.

There being no other business before the board, the meeting of the Board of Directors should have adjourned at 7:04 p.m. 

Friday, January 15, 2016

The Faces of the MWHI Task Force

Revised: December 2018

By Sarah Owens and Michael Livingston 

In January 2016, Salem Keizer, Polk County and Marion County each appointed five individuals to the Mid-Willamette Homeless Initiative Task Force.

Kim Freeman, Keizer CC

Mayor Clark
Gladys Blum

Mayor Peterson

Warren Bednarz, Salem CC
Chief Moore, SPD
Ron Hays

Mayor Peterson reportedly experienced poverty as a child, was married right out of high school and had a child herself while very young.  Still, she, along with Chief Moore and Sheriffs Myers and Garton (pictured below), are known to view homelessness through the lens of public safety.

Mr. Hays ran the Marion Polk Food Share before going to work for local developer Larry Tokarski.  Hays is reportedly working with First Christian Church and Shaney Starr (below) to determine the feasibility of siting a resource center for adults in what is presently the Department of Energy building.   

Councilor Bednarz's spouse is a social worker, and on the MWVCAA board.  They, along with Ms. Blum have substantial real estate holdings.

Mayor Clark home-schooled her kids and has described Commissioner Carlson's reentry initiative as a model of success.

A reader tells us Patty Ignatowski (not pictured) is on the Oregon Rental Housing Association board.  (Update: Patty resigned in April and was replaced by Kathleen Ashley of Making Homes Happen Inc.)  Kim Freeman administers "affordable housing homeownership" programs for the Oregon Housing and Community Services Department. 

Mr. Bailey is Executive Director of the Union Gospel Mission.  UGM receives County funding, and is reportedly planning to revive its stalled capital campaign to build a new men's shelter at 885 Commercial Street NE.

Steve Bobb, CTGR
Mr. Bobb, a Native American, is an elder in Oregon's eighth-largest charitable organization.  Mr. Reeves directed MWVCAA's Headstart program for many years, and has been MWVCAA executive director for almost a year. 

Jon Reeves

Heidi Mackay

Heidi Mackay is a member of the business community. 

Irma Oliveros (not pictured) is Salem-Keizer's homeless student/family liaison.

Sheriff Myers

Sheriff Garton
Shaney Starr
David Leith (not pictured) is a Marion County Circuit Court judge.
Commisioner Wheeler

Shaney Starr was with the Marion-Polk County Medical Society before going to work for Dick Withnell.

Commissioner Wheeler "takes particular interest in public safety." She also wants "to promote community awareness regarding women’s issues (including domestic violence) and child abuse, as well as behavioral health and homelessness...she serves on the Board of Directors for Sable House (the only women’s crisis center in Polk County), the Mid-[Willamette]Valley Community Action Agency and Community Mediation for Polk County (VORP)."

Verena Wessel has a long association with Northwest Human Services, and probably has more direct experience with Salem's impoverished, and knows more about Salem's social service delivery system, than all the other Task Force members combined.  She is an outspoken advocate for creating a resource center for adults in the downtown area, and for making public toilets available 24/7 downtown.  She is serving on the Task Force in her capacity as a citizen of Keizer.

Verena Wessel (purple coat)

Commissioner Carlson
Commissioner Carlson is expected to control the direction of the Task Force.  She holds advanced degrees in public health. 

Technical advisors to the Initiative task force will be housing agency heads (Andy Wilch, Salem Housing Authority, Shelley Wilkins-Ehenger, Marion County Housing Authority, Christian Edelblute, West Valley Housing Authority) a planner (Lisa Anderson-Ogilvie, Salem Community Development Department) health care agency heads (Rod Calkins, Marion County Health Department, Scott Tiffany, Mid-Valley Behavioral Care Network, Noelle Carroll, Polk County Behavioral Health), and two shelter providers who enjoy the City's special favor (Jayne Downing, Center for Hope and Safety, and TJ Putman, Salem Interfaith Hospitality Network).

[2/5/16 Update:  added to the list are Todd Londin, ABC Window Cleaners; Sue Curths, Berkshire Hathaway; Josh Graves, Catholic Community Services; Tiffany Otis, Congregations Helping People; P. Garrick, City of Salem; Faye Fagel, Marion County Juvenile Department Director; Missy Townsend, Women at the Well Grace House; Marti Palacios, Center for Hope and Safety; Bill Hayden, First Congregational Church; John Teague, Keizer Police Chief; Brian Moore, Mountain West Investment Corporation; Herm Boes, Salem Leadership Foundation; Emily Dayton, Salem-Keizer School District; Sam Osborn, DHS District Manager; Sharon Nielson, The Nielson Group; Kevin Ray, The Salvation Army; Elan Lambert, Westcare.]

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Homelessness as a "Public Safety" Issue

Revised: December 2018

By Sarah Owens and Michael Livingston


Could we please stop talking about homelessness, or, more precisely, "the homeless" as a public safety issue?

"Homelessness" is the condition of all homeless people, including the working families and individuals doubled up with relatives or living in their cars, the elderly and frail, the victims of domestic violence, the homeless children.  If the homeless are considered a public safety concern, it's not out of a concern for their safety, it's only because homelessness has been criminalized, by law and by stigma. 

When we talk about homelessness as a public safety concern, we are euphemistically implying that the homeless are dangerous criminals.  That is both cruel and unfair.  It is also dishonest and hypocritical.  And, it's bad social policy.

Stigmatizing behavior that a society considers undesirable has been known to work, but not in every area.  And, just like stigmatizing poverty didn't keep people out of poverty, criminalizing homelessness hasn't put people in homes.  In fact, it has had just the opposite effect. 

In the 1980s, when homelessness was so visibly on the rise, anti-homeless laws might have seemed like a good idea -- a sort of "Just Say No" to begging, sleeping, micturating and defecating in public places.  But, like the War on Drugs, the strategy has proved to be a dismal and expensive failure.  Today, even the Salem City Council has come to recognize that "we're not going arrest our way out of this."  That recognition is good, but it isn't enough. 

Continuing to talk about homelessness as a public safety concern is a vestige of a failed policy designed to stigmatize poverty and "otherize" the homeless that just makes doing what needs to be done more difficult.  Those in a position to know have said that the disgust/anger/scorn response so many people have to homelessness as a result of our stigmatizing it, "more than any specific policy change or resource need, looms as the biggest challenge facing elected leaders and anti-poverty advocates in their question to end homelessness in Oregon."  (Emphasis added.) 

As any social service provider will tell you, it is far easier and cheaper to keep someone housed than it is to re-house them after a prolonged period of homelessness.  They will also tell you that people often wait far too long before asking for help and that the main reason they wait is the social stigma associated with needing/being helped.  That is why it is just stupid to continue, however inadvertently or well-meaningly, to stigmatize and otherize people in need by talking about homelessness as a public safety concern.

Let's be clear: when we talk about homelessness as a public safety concern, we're not talking about the safety of those without homes -- were talking about the safety those with homes.  If you want to talk about the safety of those without homes, you must enter the province of the social services, particularly public health, and that's where our conversations should be taking place, it's where they need to take place.

So when Commissioner Carlson and her colleagues on the Marion County Public Safety Coordinating Council come to your neighborhood association, by all means share your public safety concerns, but don't let homelessness into the conversation as one of those concerns.  If anyone else brings it up, please for heaven's sake, say something, the way you would if someone started talking about the Latino, transgender, or Muslim residents of Salem as a public safety issue.  If you're afraid, or don't know how to confront bigotry, seek advice, here, for example.  However you choose to do it doesn't matter.  What matters is that you stand up and take on The.Biggest.Challenge. 

(And while you're standing up, think about asking why pedestrian and bike safety isn't considered a public safety issue -- it is for most people we know, so why not talk about that instead?)

Sunday, January 10, 2016

The "Collaboration Capital"

Camping areas favored by residents experiencing homelessness  

Revised: December 2018

By Sarah Owens and Michael Livingston


[Originally posted under the title "Poverty and Homelessness in the Collaboration Capital."]

I'm excited about the opportunity for the four jurisdictions to collaborate. This is another great example of leaders from these four areas saying, "Hey, let's get together and combine our knowledge and resources and come up with solutions that work for our region." -- Salem Mayor Anna Peterson (Williams, C. "Salem Creates Collaborative Homeless Initiative", Statesman Journal, 10 January 2016.)

Mayor Peterson was fond of saying that Salem is the "collaboration capital", but in reality, it is anything but.  The Reaganesque-libertarian view that poverty and homelessness are choices and that people who don’t like how they’re living should make better decisions is pervasive in Salem, and so is the view that poverty/homelessness is primarily the responsibility of “charities” (not government).  Salem residents tend to want to provide for immediate needs, piecemeal, through volunteer services.  

Needless to say, Salem has never developed a comprehensive approach to poverty or homelessness.

If Mayor Peterson, or her Mid Willamette Homeless Initiative Task Force, or anybody, aspires to "come up with solutions that work for our region", they need to know what they're up against.    

Much of Salem is poor: The federal poverty level for a 2-person household in 2016 was $15,930. In 2018, the federal poverty level for a 2-person household was $16,460.

In 2012, over 25% of all Salem (MSA or metropolitan statistical area) households earned less than $25,000 annually.  That figure is unlikely to have changed for the better since then.  Fifty-four percent of Salem renters are “housing burdened”, meaning they pay 30% or more of their income toward rent. 

To keep housing costs within 30% of income, a household in Salem had to earn almost $13/hr.  Thus, a one-parent, one-child household earning minimum wage would spend over 50% of income on rent and basic utilities in Salem.  Such housing burdened families are but one serious illness, accident, misfortune or misjudgment away from homelessness.
The Lee Mission

Salem's social services culture is entrenched: In keeping with its Methodist missionary history, Salem’s poverty programs, like much else in Salem, are largely parochial.  That is, they are “of, relating to, or supported by” Christian religious institutions and their members.  While this parochial aspect must be subsumed when a program also receives financial support from the city, county, state or federal government, it often remains evident in program names and locations (e.g. Congregations Helping People, St. Francis Shelter, Salem Interfaith Hospitality Network, Union Gospel Mission and Salvation Army, all of which receive or have received government funding).  

The connection to religious institutions (predominately, but not exclusively, Christian), and the relative success of responses like the Churches as Neighborhood (CaN) Center initiative in 2003, have tended to reinforce the perception of many that Christian charity is the answer to the problems of poverty.  Thus, the view of many in Salem is that poverty/homelessness is not primarily the responsibility of government, but "charities."  For that and other reasons, residents have over the years made few demands of their civic officials to do more than they do in the normal course of things, and civic officials have responded accordingly.

Everyone, but everyone, agrees collaboration is key to government, business, and non-profit success, however that term is defined.  Salem’s official reports to HUD repeatedly assert that the City and its service providers collaborate to fill gaps in services and avoid duplication.  But, until recently, the City's  reports did not give specific examples of its efforts.  Now they do, and now we can know just how much time the City spends "going through the motions."   

Salem’s social service workers have earned a reputation for being poor collaborators.  There are exceptions, of course, but, for various reasons, workers have tended to remain in their service silos, hoarding information, donors, and even resources, whether out of habit or complacence, or for fear of losing what few resources they have to a competitor, or ignorance, it doesn't much matter.  The problem is, nothing and no one is pushing them to behave otherwise.  

Salem does not measure outcomesMany poverty programs target particular demographics (e.g., youth, domestic violence/human trafficking/stalking victims, veterans, elderly, disabled, reentering felons, people with HIV/AIDS, people with addictions, people with mental health conditions, people with disabling literacy or language limitations, chronically homeless people and recently unemployed/homeless people).  

The unavoidable result is segregation and duplication of facilities and services, though providers usually claim this is is not true, "because we're not serving the same people."  But segregation and duplication of facilities and services not only makes collaboration in delivering services a challenge, it also makes it difficult (but not impossible) to determine how well the system is working overall.   

Salem has very little information on how well, or how poorly, its service delivery "system" is working.  The City's Federal Programs Division ensures minimal compliance with HUD grant requirements, which don't include impact or outcomes analysis.  The local Community Action Agency, which is responsible for collecting what should be relevant data, shares very little with the public.  There are a couple of reasons for this.  

One is that it's "extra" work (not "required" or perhaps paid for).  The other is it's taboo.  In a culture that relies on charities and religious institutions to provide for "the needy", you don't talk about performance measures or outcomes.  Not without coming across as rude or ungrateful.

Some providers get it:  Find them.  Work with them.  Culture change is hard, but not impossible.  Don't be afraid.  Maintain or raise your standards and expectations. Don't give in.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Salem's Federal Housing/Homeless Programs

Revised: December 2018

By Sarah Owens and Michael Livingston

[Originally posted under the title, "Decoding Salem's Federal Program Lingo.'"]

Salem receives federal support through a number of federal departments like USDA, USVA, USDOE, FEMA and HUD.  Those interested in housing and homelessness would do well to be familiar with the language of HUD, or the Federal Housing and Urban Development Department, HUD programs, and HUD-related structures, because, like it or not, HUD holds the purse, and determines national housing policy and resource allocation. 

Most of Salem's HUD funding is in the form of rental assistance (public housing, Housing Choice Vouchers [HCVs][fka "Section 8" vouchers], and project-based vouchers) and goes to the Salem Housing Authority (SHA).  HCVs are only available through housing authorities (HAs).  SHA has portability agreements with the Marion County and West Valley (Polk County) HAs, which allow families with a voucher in one HA's jurisdiction to move to another HA's jurisdiction. 

Salem also receives HUD funding through its Urban Development Department (UDD), Federal Programs division, which administers the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) and Home Investment Partnership (HOME) programs.

Salem providers may also compete for HUD funding through the Balance of State or Rural Oregon Continuum of Care (ROCC), a collective of 28 counties that receives homeless assistance funding through HUD's Continuum of Care (CoC) program.

HUD's Office of Public and Indian Housing - Salem Housing Authority
For the most part, SHA's HUD funding comes through the Office of Public and Indian Housing (PIH).  PIH's job is to "ensure safe, decent, and affordable housing; create opportunities for residents' self-sufficiency and economic independence; and assure fiscal integrity by all program participants."  It operates largely through public and Indian HAs.

SHA is the third-largest HA in Oregon.  It is actively regulated by its funding sources, which include federal, state and local governments, as well as private investors.  Although SHA was established in 1969 under state law (ORS 456.075), it's organized as a division of Salem's UDD, and its executive director is the City Manager.  The City Council, minus the Mayor, acts as SHA's Board of Commissioners (or SHA Commission).  In addition to providing safe, decent, affordable housing to Salem and Keizer residents, SHA ably administers a variety of programs designed to assist low- and moderate-income families (which, by definition, may consist of a single individual) achieve self-sufficiency through stable housing, economic opportunity, community investment, and coordination with social service providers.  Details of SHA programs are available on SHA's website.  

A little history on one SHA program:  the Emergency Housing Network (EHN), which consists of 150 or so housing and social service providers who meet monthly, was originally a subcommittee of the Marion and Polk Continuum of Care Collaborative (aka, the Mid-Valley Housing and Services Collaborative), which was formed some time in the 00s for the purpose of receiving homeless assistance funding under HUD's CoC program.  When the Collaborative "merged" with the ROCC in 2011, EHN continued to act as Salem's primary housing and social services network and today doubles as SHA's Program Coordinating Committee (PCC), which HUD requires of all public housing authorities (PHAs) that have family self-sufficiency (FSS) programs.  See 4 CFR 984.202   The CoC structure described in Salem's 2015-19 Con-Plan at 137, para. 2, is what existed prior to 2011 (i.e., it is incorrect).

HUD's Office of Community Planning and Development - Salem's UDD and the ROCC
CDBG, HOME and CoC are programs of HUD's Office of Community Planning and Development (CPD).  CPD "seeks to develop viable communities by promoting integrated approaches that provide decent housing, a suitable living environment, and expand economic opportunities for low-and moderate-income persons."  By "integrated approaches", HUD means public-private partnerships.

The CDBG program has been around since 1974.  It is one of HUD's oldest, continuously run programs.  Its stated purpose is to provide decent housing and a suitable living environment, and to expand economic opportunities, principally for low- and moderate-income persons.  The HOME program was started around 1990.  It is the largest Federal block grant to state and local governments designed exclusively to create affordable housing for low-income households.  Its stated purpose is to provide funds for direct (meaning not vouchers) rental assistance to low-income persons and building, buying and rehabilitating affordable housing.  Both programs require participants to develop a Consolidated Plan every five or so years, including developing and following "a detailed plan that provides for and encourages citizen participation in the planning process."  HOME participants are required to provide 25% matching funds.

The UDD's Federal Programs Division administers the CDBG and HOME grants.  Until 2018, Salem awarded CDBG and HOME funds through a competitive (sub)grant process using advisory committees to review grant applications and make recommendations.  However, in 2018, a long-standing controversy about grant applicants serving on the advisory committee came to a head, and the City decided to alter its process.  See here, here and here.  As of this writing, a new process has not been articulated.

The CoC program originated under President Ronald Reagan.  Its primary purpose is "to promote community-wide commitment to the goal of ending homelessness."  To that end, CPD "competitively awards grants" for "new construction, acquisition, rehabilitation, or leasing of buildings to provide transitional or permanent housing; rental assistance; payment of operating costs; supportive services; re-housing services; payment of administrative costs; and grants for technical assistance." Private, nonprofit organizations, states, local governments, and instrumentalities of state and local governments are eligible to apply "if they have been selected by the CoC for the geographic area in which they operate."

Oregon's 36 counties are divided into seven CoCs, six in metro areas (totaling eight counties).  The remaining 28 counties make up the seventh CoC, called the Balance of State or Rural Oregon Continuum of Care (ROCC).  Each CoC is responsible for reviewing and ranking annual funding applications.  For many years, Salem, Marion and Polk Counties had their own CoC (see above), but in 2011, a decision was made to join the ROCC.  Since then, Salem-area providers have had to compete for funding against providers in 26 other counties.  They have also been expected to coordinate services with the other 26 counties.  Many feel this arrangement is sub-optimal, but political will to reform the local CoC is lacking.