City’s grading plan gets a ‘D’ (for dopey)

Betty BeanFountain City, Knox Scene

City bureaucrats have decided to monitor the inner workings of neighborhood organizations to see whether they are legit. Grades will be issued and prizes awarded.

“Neighborhood organizations will be categorized as a Start-Up, an Informal, an Organized, a Proactive, an Outstanding or an Exemplary Group. Details on how to achieve these will be coming soon,” says the Office of Neighborhoods’ June 18 newsletter.

Neighborhoods will be given six months to submit proof that they are following “Best Practices,” including:

  • Most recent copy of bylaws, lists of officers including names and contact information plus descriptions of the election process that installed them.
  • Documentation of voting and proof of notice provided to members (“For instance, did your board give permission to speak in front of City Council, or did your entire membership give permission; and how were each notified there would be a vote? If so, we want to see the flyer and meeting minutes.”)
  • Documentation of how a group votes or achieves consensus on supporting/opposing issues before government bodies. (“For instance, did your board give permission to speak in front of City Council, or did your entire membership give permission; and how were each notified there would be a vote?”)

Performance rankings under the new rules may determine who gets grant money and/or city projects.

I could say I think this is a profoundly dumb idea that should be tossed into File 13, but why do that when I can ask Carlene Malone to sum it up?

Unsurprisingly, she’s inclined to scoff in the bureaucrats’ general direction.

“What are they going to do, have a party and not invite us?”

Malone says it’s a mistake for the Office of Neighborhoods to issue grades to volunteer organizations.

“It’s clear that they don’t understand how neighborhood organizations operate. Is their gold standard communicating with everyone in your organization before taking a position on every issue that goes before MPC or city council? MPC meets every month. City council meets every other week, and even though there’s a public notice from MPC well in advance, you don’t know the staff recommendations until much closer to meeting time. We’re talking about volunteers who have lives and jobs and limited funds.”

She predicts serious consequences for neighborhoods who go against lawyers and hired guns:

“Anything the administration sends to the Office of Neighborhoods is public record. Attorneys representing the other side would love to have access to this information.

“This is a wrong-footed thing. The idea that government needs this so that council members will know who we are really suggests that we have a bunch of dumb, lazy people on city council who don’t get out and about, and you wonder how they got elected.”

If neighborhood groups are being required to operate under new rules, those rules should apply the Chamber of Commerce and businesses who lobby city government, as well, she said.

“Is the Office of Business Support asking similar information from professional organizations and their paid lobbyists – ‘How do you communicate with your members? What are your bylaws?

“Or are you just going to demand this of the fricking volunteers? Government needs to be afraid of what you’re going to do. You don’t need to be afraid of what government’s going to do.”

So there.

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