Kathy Marshall: The usual NCRC dance – January 20, 2010

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

I have been out-of-town during the City Council’s public hearings on the North Coast Resource Center’s (NCRC) proposed expansion of lunch services. I did not comment, publicly or privately, to any of the city councilmembers this time around.

In the past I have spoken out against NCRC/Endeavor expansions because I have not seen evidence of good management and I have seen no statistics reinforcing their assertions of success. I do try to keep an open mind and approach each new NCRC proposal with as fresh a perspective as I can manage.

However, again, I found their opening inquiries into expanding their lunch services confrontational and insulting. I don’t respond well to insulting insinuations that I am not a caring and compassionate person while being asked for my support. And after watching last week’s city council meeting I still have many unanswered questions and doubts.

Each time a city councilmember asked a specific question about a management or monitoring plan, John Shelter avoided answering the question. During his presentation, Mr. Shelter offered to sit down “one-to-one” with each councilmember to tell them how the NCRC had implemented suggestions in the Baron Report. Why didn’t he simply present a public report right there and then?

When asked repeatedly, first by Councilmember Mark Wheetley, then by Vice Mayor Susan Ornelas, about plans, Mr. Shelter gave anecdotal evidence and assured the council that, “we will do it right.”

Again when asked how the program would be monitored, Mr. Shelter suggested that the NCRC could partner with the business community to monitor the activities in the NCRC’s parking lot, stating that might work really well for everyone’s benefit. That actually may be very true, but I haven’t seen anything to suggest the business community has agreed to any such plan.

I have often been admonished to volunteer for or visit the NCRC and see for myself how it works. Unfortunately, my interactions with Mr. Shelter and various NCRC boardmembers in the past make that a very uncomfortable prospect. I also have other causes, issues and obligations that keep me very busy and limit my time.

In addition I don’t feel that I should have to experience an organization first-hand in order to support it. There are many organizations I support that I have not volunteered with, EPIC, the NEC and Arcata House being a few. Those organizations do, however, provide me with specific information that justifies my support; information in the form of reports with statistics and updates on issues and the implementation of their plans to meet their goals. And, none of those local organizations has insulted me before asking for my support.

I’m disappointed that the Arcata City Council is content to simply take Mr. Shelter’s word that, “we will do it right” as an appropriate plan for evaluating the effectiveness of the program and monitoring not only the challenges but the potential successes.

Rather than consider and require specific accountability guidelines to measure failure or success, the CC has turned over the onus of evaluating a management plan to an already overworked staff. They have essentially pre-approved the expansion without actually evaluating any concrete plan for themselves.

I thought I elected them to be more thorough and involved, not simply to be the well-meaning people they are.

Kathy Marshall is a Sunny Brae resident.

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