May 22, 2024

Whole Community News

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As city sets program metrics, neighborhoods convene ‘constitutional convention’

6 min read
Eugene's neighborhoods launch a three-month equivalent of a constitutional convention, and the city looks at performance metrics that could determine future neighborhood funding.

Eugene’s neighborhoods launch a three-month equivalent of a constitutional convention, and the city looks at performance metrics that could determine future neighborhood funding. At the October NLC meeting:

[00:00:13] Cindy Koehler (Office of Equity and Community Engagement, OECE): We’re inviting those on the boards to comment on the draft NORP (Neighborhood Organization Recognition Policy) that we have out there. So please encourage, talk to your boards to have it be on your board agenda, whatever. But please make sure you make some comments on that.

[00:00:26] We’ve extended the date for the feedback to November 15th. I’m not sure we’re going to be able to extend it further than that. We really want to try to get it before mayor and council at the first possible moment, which would be January at this point.

[00:00:39] John Q: The NORP is the Neighborhood Organization Recognition Policy.

[00:00:44] Fabio Andrade (OECE): Our initial idea was to get the policy documents simplified and unified, and that’s actually an approach that many cities have taken and have a simple—a single document—with more direct and accessible language that most board members would be able to understand and know how it applies to their work.

[00:01:05] We got almost 50 people who gave comment and most people in support of the change. We have heard from a few people that have concerns with about five items in the new documents. And after we are done with this commenting period, we’ll have a final draft from our office that would go to the city attorney’s office for review and then would get into the council process, which also includes public participation and another round of comments.

[00:01:35] Jackson Kellogg (Cal Young): Thanks so much Fabio and Cindy, for everything you guys do to support neighborhood work. I know it’s not an easy job…

[00:01:41] I’ve heard from you that you’ve sent this email to the ‘all boards’ list. People from your office could actually attend board meetings. These issues are pretty complicated and if you haven’t sat in the NLC meetings, like most people in this room have for a long time, it’s hard to wrap your mind around this. So I think it would be super helpful if you guys, as an outreach thing, went to the individual board meetings and talked about this.

[00:02:05] We need to see more of you guys—the staff members—and you need to have a bigger presence, actually, meeting neighborhood leaders and neighborhood board members. Sending the email is inadequate in my opinion.

[00:02:18] John Faville (Northeast Neighbors): I don’t think that very many people in the broader structure of boards have come to grips with the changes proposed in the NORP. It’s just a lot to take on. And so I think we need another mechanism for getting people involved and we need to get more people throughout the community involved. We really need a way to get more people commenting on this. It’s a pretty fundamental document.

[00:02:43] Jennifer Hoover (Whiteaker Community): It would really be good if you came to the meetings without necessarily being on the agenda. But ask people if they have questions and see what they come up with, rather than go in there and give them a lot of information that they don’t understand.

[00:03:02] Rene Kane (Jefferson Westside): I’m reminded of that community engagement thing of you need to go where the people are and not wait for them to come to you. And so I would encourage you also to reach out. And that info session we did was the first—so far the only—opportunity for board members from other neighborhood associations, together, to have a conversation about this. And I think people learned a lot and were surprised at—to hear how important the NORP is…

[00:03:34] Staff gave us the changes to the NORP, for us to react to. It wasn’t a partnership of, ‘Look, we’re having this issue, help us figure it out.’ So it was very much top-down, avuncular, it’s like, ‘We know better than you do what the policies are about.’ It wasn’t in partnership. It wasn’t in true collaboration. And so we are in a position now to be the ones saying ‘No’ and the ones to push back.

[00:04:08] Ted Coopman: There just seems to be, for me, a fundamental disconnect on the nature of what we’re doing. We seem to be trying to combine everything, and it’s really can’t be combined. We have the NORP, which is a constitutional type of document that is more conceptual and should not largely be probably messed with unless we absolutely have to, and then a bunch of process and procedures of what we’re going to do now.

[00:04:33] I think that moving forward on the process and procedures is probably a really good idea. But something like the NORP, which is a foundational document that needs to go before city council, is something that needs to be dealt with a little bit more thoughtfully and driven by the majority of which are the neighborhood associations and their elected boards.

[00:04:52] And so I think some sort of constitutional convention to discuss this would be a good way to move forward to also be inclusive, because, as I said, there’s a lot, most of the boards are just really trying to keep their head above water as far as running their neighborhood associations with volunteers, and we all are volunteers and that they should really be very educated on something that is going to directly impact what they’re going to do…

[00:05:20] If we’re going to turn this into something that is not merely just a clerical exercise, but something that’s going to strengthen and empower neighborhood associations to live up to their full potential and to fulfill their role and to strengthen democracy, is that we need to take the time to strengthen those boards, to educate those board members to realize what their responsibilities are, and to allow them to more fully engage in their role as chartered neighborhood associations.

[00:05:50] John Q: The formal vote:

[00:05:53] Jackson Kellogg: Okay, so we’re putting forward a motion here that the process will be extended for three months and that the NLC neighborhood leaders commit to resolving this in three months to have something for the city attorney to review and to work with city staff constructively to get this finished… I think it’s unanimous. It passes unanimously.

[00:06:13] John Q: The neighborhoods will launch a three-month constitutional convention. Fabio said the city is moving quickly to identify metrics for its new method of budgeting,

[00:06:22] Fabio Andrade: There is a significant budget shortfall and right now the entire organization is working through recommendations on how to change budget processes.

[00:06:31] The city is transitioning into priority-based budgeting. And that is budgeting by programs, and programs need metrics. And there are different ways for us to justify investment in each one of the programs. So in the new budget, it’ll be how much that program costs, how much outcome is being generated by the program to justify the investment.

[00:06:53] So there are different processes happening at the city right now that have already been decided, and we are promoting the changes that we need in our office so we can plug the work we do into this new reality that we’ll be working in. And that process is moving pretty fast.

[00:07:08] We will have service level decreases or increases, which programs will be eliminated, which programs will be strengthened. That’s something that is happening right now, is the internal preparation that staff across the organization had to do first to identify the programs and the metrics for each program.

[00:07:28] Thia Bell (Friendly Neighbors): I’m really concerned about funding for neighborhood services and I want to try to assure you that you might have a lot of very vocal, very grateful advocates for neighborhood services, and I think a lot of us are interested in trying to assist and lobby and do everything we can and increase your funding if we can.

[00:07:48] John Q: A new constitution for the neighborhoods, and the city looks at measuring outcomes of Eugene’s neighborhood associations.

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