Monday, June 23, 2008

Set up at the Control Board

Angry and disgusted. Furious and cynical. Bitter and determined. Not surprised and yet somehow still blown away at the machinations of city government.

I went to the Springfield Finance Control Board meeting this morning to show support for the Open Pantry in its current struggle to feed the poor people of this city, along with Behzad, Ellen, Liz and Doug with Arise.. The Open Pantry was there to ask for some short-term financial help from the city I saw Bill Miller, Director of Friends of the Homeless, Paul Bailey, Director of Springfield Partners for Community Action and Gerry McCafferty, deputy director of Springfield's Homeless and Special Needs Housing across the room.

Chairman Chris Gabrieli phoned in to say he was stuck on the turnpike in a rainstorm, so the meeting, which was supposed to start at 10:30, didn't get going until after 11 am. By then I was close to having to leave for another meeting, so OP Director Kevin Noonan gave his spot to me and he took my spot later on. Finally the public speak-out began.

Most of the people who eat at Loaves and Fishes and get food from the Food Pantry are not homeless, I said in part of my three minutes, just too poor to avoid hunger on their own-- nothing very profound, just the truth-- and that we as a society are judged by how we provide for those who have the least. Then Liz and I had to leave, though I wanted to stay.

As I was pulling out on the parking garage onto Columbus Ave. to the first red light., Bill Miller pulled up beside me in his car.

"Did Chris Gabrieli ever show up?" he said. So I knew he had left even before the speak-out.

"Yeah, he got there," I said. "Says he'll have to start staying overnight in Springfield." Then the light changed.

My sister gave me a look.

"Somehow, in spite of everything, I've managed to keep a civil relationship with Bill Miller," I said.

The rest of this story I've reconstructed from people who stayed at the Control Board meeting,

Kevin presented to the Control Board (in the speak-out, even though he'd asked to be on the agenda) about who the Open Pantry serves and what kind of help the agency needs to keep going.

Then James Morton called on Gerry McCafferty, who said that if the Open Pantry was no longer able to serve, that other agencies would step up and provide the services. She said that Friends of the Homeless serves 300 people on Sunday (?) and would be able to handle the Soup Kitchen. She said that Springfield Partners for Community Action would be able to take over the Food Pantry. (SPCA currently rents space to the Open Pantry for the Pantry) and Paul Bailey confirmed that. then she said that of course, if FOH and SPCA were to do so, they would need to get money. Gabrieli agreed and said the city would have to put out a Request for Proposals.

So let me get this straight: They won't give the money to the Open Pantry but they will give the money to FOH and SPCA to provide the same service.

If this doesn't completely indicate the malice of the city toward the Open Pantry, I don't know what does. And agencies, which once upon a time stood in solidarity with each other, stab each other in the back.

Of course the city would be more than thrilled to have the Soup Kitchen out of Christ Church Cathedral and as hidden away as possible. (Carol Costa, who lives at the Classical Condos right across the street from the Cathedral, was also there, chatting away with Gerry McCafferty.)

FOH's eating space is quite small and its kitchen underequipped. Will people eat in shifts? Will a queue stretch down the stairs and into the parking lot? Will the people who eat there have enough time to chat with each other, or be rushed right along? How many people won't be able to get there at all, given that FOH is less central? And, let's face it, will families with children be comfortable going to a setting dominated by homeless adult males?

I see James Morton quoted on Channel 3 tonight saying the city can't give the money to the Open Pantry, because of an "Anti-AID" amendment that supposedly prohibits the city from giving money to non-profit agencies. How will the city then get the money to whichever agencies apply to the Request for Proposals? Is there not even one non-profit which has received city money in the past? I doubt it.

I won't write more now. There's a lot to think about.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Mr. Morton claims that the city can't give money to the Open Pantry, because of an "Anti-AID" amendment that supposedly prohibits the city from giving money to non-profit agencies.

Well, here is a quote (and the article below) in which it is reported that $2 millon were allocated to the Friends of the Homeless, a non-profit agency, for its shelter and resource center:

"Approved $2 million in city funds toward a new, expanded homeless shelter and resource center on Worthington Street. "

Control Board votes to launch superintendent search in Springfield
by The Republican Newsroom Thursday December 20, 2007, 8:01 PM

SPRINGFIELD - The city's Finance Control Board voted Thursday to launch a search for a new superintendent of schools rather than extend the contract of current Superintendent Joseph P. Burke.

In announcing the search, by way of a 5-0 vote, the board said Burke was free to submit his application.

Control Board Chairman Christopher F. Gabrieli, however, said the board had to ask itself if it was satisfied with how Springfield is doing educationally and answered "no".

"Do we think there are people we could find who could build upon where we stand and accelerate the pace?" Gabrieli said. "Yes, we do."

Burke could not be reached for comment.

In other action yesterday during a four-hour, year-end meeting, the board:

Received news that the city ended fiscal 2007 with a surplus of $30,453,077, representing the balance that remained at the end of the year that ended June 30, as certified by the state Department of Revenue.

Approved a new tax rate of $16.03 per $1,000 property value in fiscal 2008 for residential property, reflecting a one-cent decrease over last year's rate. The tax rate for business was set at $32.04 per $1,000 value for business property, an increase of 13 cents. The rates were recommended by the mayor and approved by the City Council.

Approved $2 million in city funds toward a new, expanded homeless shelter and resource center on Worthington Street.

Authorized its executive director, Stephen P. Lisauskas, to review and possibly amend or rescind the proposed appointment of City Councilor Rosemarie Mazza Moriarty to a newly created school administration job. Burke has recommended her for the $65,000-to-$70,000 job as administrator for the International Baccalaureate Organization middle school program.

The vote to launch a search for a new superintendent of schools occurred just one day after news that Burke was not included in the list of finalists for the state Commissioner of Education's job.

Mayor Charles V. Ryan joined in favoring the open search for superintendent, saying: "I don't think the School Department has achieved its full potential."

Ryan was attending his final meeting as a member of the board, set to be replaced Jan. 7 by Mayor-elect Domenic J. Sarno.

Others voting for the search were board members James O'S. Morton, Robert G. Nunes, and City Council President Kateri B. Walsh.

The control board authorized Gabrieli to appoint a five-member search committee, and for the committee to be aided by a newly hired consultant.

Morton said he is particularly concerned about reported high student high drop-out rates in Springfield. There has also been differing opinions about Springfield's progress in MCAS student test results.

Some School Committee members recently sent a letter to Gov. Deval L. Patrick, asking to have a say in extending Burke's contract.

School Committee member Antonette E. Pepe sharply criticized the committee for sending the letter without any advance notice to herself or Ryan, who as mayor, serves as chairman of the School Committee.

Pepe said most School Committee members have close relatives working for the public schools and conflicting interests.

Within the letter to the governor, committee members said the majority of the committee feels Burke's tenure has been "a strong and progressive one."

The search for a new superintendent follows one month after the control board authorized an open search for a new police commissioner, due to the pending retirement of Commissioner Edward A. Flynn, who is leaving Springfield to take a job as police chief in Milwaukee. That search was approved by a 3-2 vote, with Ryan and Walsh opposed, saying they wanted the job to go to Deputy Police Chief William J. Fitchet.