Good neighbor in good faith

The IFC has a Good Neighbor Plan and a lease for its Homestead Road facility. And Lee Storrow came into his own at last night’s Town Council meeting, standing up tentatively but tenaciously for certain safeguards to be added into each document.

Homestead Road neighbors have held IFC’s toes to the fire throughout the process of approving what started out as a transitional housing facility, then grew into an emergency shelter as well. One point of contention in crafting a Good Neighbor Plan was whether IFC could change the terms without council’s blessing. IFC executive director Chris Moran stressed that any proposed changes would be brought back before council; that was implied in the wording, he said. Storrow said, in effect, spell out in the document “for approval” by council.

Similarly, Storrow wanted to make sure the Community House Advisory Committee would not disband, leaving no mechanism for resolving future complaints. He pressed for specific language in the Good Neighbor Plan that said the CHAC would continue to meet throughout the term of the lease.

Donna Bell disagreed. In her best social work voice, she said she didn’t want the document to lock in a programmatic solution by requiring a committee to meet when there was no need for it to meet. Storrow softened his stance, dropping a set schedule for the meetings, but insisted, cushioned by ample verbiage, that the document codify the existence of CHAC as the problem-solving mechanism. He prevailed in both instances.

When it came to the lease, Matt Czajkowski suggested including a time frame for IFC to vacate the Rosemary Street building. In the course of the discussion that evening, it became apparent that though the town presumed moving the shelter to Homestead Road would clear the problem off Rosemary Street, IFC planned to make the current shelter into an admissions office for shelter applicants. So the Homestead Road neighbors would lose its peace of mind, and the downtown merchants and customers would continue to be plagued by problems from shelter guests.

Jim Ward sided with Czajkowski, saying that the town needed to “apply nurturing pressure” to the IFC to move on and allow other uses for that property. Unfortunately, Ward and Czajkowski were the only two on the dais in favor of that tough love, and the measure failed. The lease that finally passed has no provision for the IFC to do anything other than business as usual on Rosemary Street.
– Nancy Oates

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6 Comments

  1. Terri Buckner

     /  June 12, 2012

    From what I understood the town lawyer and the mayor to be saying, the safeguards Lee asked to have codified were already in place due to the fact that the Good Neighbor Plan was part of the SUP. It doesn’t hurt to have them codified, but it was probably unnecessary.

    As to the facility of Rosemary Street, the IFC doesn’t assume it can stay on at that facility. The language in the GNP says ‘as long as the town allows.’ In other words, the town is in control. Also Chris told Matt during the meeting that he could guarantee they would vacate within 4 years.

  2. Mark Peters

     /  June 12, 2012

    Nancy, very good summary, thanks!

    Terri, I disagree that they were codified. Stipulations are clearly codified. That a GNP had to be created was codified, but enforcement of the GNP was not directly defined in the lease and needed to be. GNPs are not something that the legislature codified to be part of SUPs and they are not tested in the courts, so it makes sense to spell it out.

    After all, if Ralph thought it was covered implicitly, then why the objection to state it explicitly? There should be no objection. Likewise with “present” versus “approve” in the modification language. They clearly have different meanings.

    The parking space agreement/payment debacle earlier in the meeting was an example of poorly crafted or poorly understood agreements.

  3. Nancy Oates

     /  June 12, 2012

    Terri — As I recall the exchange between Matt & Chris, Matt first picked the arbitrary time frame of 2 years, and Chris said that would not be possible, so Matt asked whether 4 years would work, and Chris said the IFC could work toward that goal. Chris was very careful not to commit to leaving Rosemary Street. The exchange raised red flags for me.

  4. The IFC is in a difficult position.

    They took on our community’s emergency shelter burden for what was supposed to be a relatively short time and ended up “owning” the problem for decades.

    It’s been a hot potato that our local leaders, to date, haven’t shown great willingness to deal with directly.

    That’s why I found Penny’s remark that citizens needed to petition the BOCC to take that burden off of the IFC a bit mystifying.

    I’ve called on the Town Council to engage directly with the BOCC and represent our residents’ interest in a more sustainable emergency shelter solution but got little traction.

    I’ve petitioned the BOCC several times (most recently during the sales tax increase debate, suggesting several avenues to explore) with little luck.

    During the recent debates over the use of the new sales tax, I asked Penny, the Council and the BOCC to allocate part of those funds to take on the responsibility they long deferred to the IFC.

    Again, no luck getting support from Penny, most of the Council or most of the BOCC for funding a more permanent emergency shelter solution serving the whole of Orange County.

    Who else wants to take on that task?

    The IFC (and I expect most CH residents) doesn’t want to simply shutter the shelter and create a humanitarian mess.

    The CHTC and BOCC, after a decade of specific calls to action, haven’t stepped up with a plan to smoothly transition IFC’s “ownership” of what is a County responsibility to some other organization.

    Even last night, when Matt opened the door to discussing “next steps” in providing emergency shelter services, the Council decided to focus only on the lease and GNP.

    If that wasn’t the time to start talking about taking practical steps forward – even codifying them within the agreement – then when?

    Given all that political hesitancy, it’s very understandable why Chris and the IFC are unwilling to commit.

    I support putting a date certain on moving the shelter out of old Town Hall.

    A date certain, though, is not enough. We need a specific commitment by all three governments to work closely with the IFC and other interested parties on that transition.

    It would seem like setting a date would be enough to get the CHTC, CBOA and BOCC on-board but having just gone through the solid waste discussions – where the landfill closure was a given but the municipalities both acted surprised by the long known measurable and predictable consequences – I’m not wholly optimistic.

  5. Terri Buckner

     /  June 12, 2012

    Nancy,

    Do you think it is good business practice to make commitments without exploring the implications? The link to last night’s agenda is not available on the town’s website right now, but I distinctly remember reading in the IFC report that it stated the intake interviews would be conducted at the IFC administrative offices in Carrboro or at the Rosemary St facility if the town allowed them to continue using it.

    Matt tried very hard to make Chris commit to something when IMHO, he should have been working with the town to say what they want and then telling IFC what they can or cannot have.

  6. IFC Truth

     /  July 31, 2012

    Lack of transparency and accountability has long been a problem with social service agencies and virtually everything they do and this includes the IFC.

    Whatever happened to a ten-year plan to end homelessness? This initiative was started many years ago and we’re already nearing the ten-year mark and the homelessness problem is even worse than before.

    Chris Moran has been the head of IFC for many many years. Most of the people at IFC have also been in their positions for a very long time. Again, we see this pattern in most social services agencies.

    So let’s look at the culture we are dealing with here. A ten year plan to end homelessness is created and not only is the goal not met, but the problem also gets worse. At the same time, those in charge of implementing the plan in agencies all over the country (Including the IFC) hang onto their jobs.

    Try this in private business where there is accountability and a demand to produce results and see what this kind of track record would do to your career path.

    Is it any wonder that IFC has an insular culture that does not feel the need to take outside input into account? They do not even listen to their own clients, so why would they feel the need to listen to neighbors or anyone else?

    When an organization is allowed to simply make request after request for public resources without any requirements to show results, nothing healthy is going to come from it.

    The committee charged with creating the good neighbor plan was assigned to do so by the town council as a condition of a public permit and was serving a de facto public function. Therefore, the committee should have adhered to NC open meetings laws, regardless of whether or not they were technically required to do so. This would have simply been the right thing to do and would have built a foundation for public trust.

    IFC cannot have it both ways. They cannot claim that they are fulfilling a public function and then turn around and say they don’t have to be accountable for serving the public interest because they are a private organization.

    We criticize large private corporations in the business world for this kind of behavior, and rightly so. IFC should be held to the same standards.

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