Tuesday, March 27, 2007

the impact of IMPACT

Finally my latest excuse to delay working on the book is behind me. IMPACT's Nehemiah Action was held 3/15/07. It was a great event on many levels: the amount of participation exceeded the capacity in the MLK Performing Arts Center (well over 1350), the coming together of so many different faith communities unified in addressing social justice issues in the community, and the participation by many public officials.

While the concept of grassroots, interfaith organizations addressing social justice issues is not new in this country, it is certainly new to Charlottesville and Albemarle county. I'm not sure any of us knew what to expect from this first Nehemiah Action.


Highlights:

- I am so grateful to, Angela, our organizer for keeping us on track and getting us to this point.
- I am thankful to Peace for exceeding our attendance commitment.
- I realized again how blessed we are to have Pastor John as guide and mentor on our journey. The Worship God Wants set the tone.
- The City Councilors agreed to call this a public meeting. City Councilors Norris, Taliaferro & Lynch and Mayor Brown participated. Way to go City of Charlottesville!
- Albemarle County Board of Supervisors (BOS) would not agree to call this a public meeting. Five BOS came to check us out, but because of their process, they wouldn't all participate. Only Slutzky and Boyd participated. Change is the name of the game for Albemarle County.
- Norris was an enthusiast yes across all solutions. Because of his involvement with PACEM, he knows this crowd and he speaks with integrity. What can I say, I'm a big fan.
- Taliaferro was a strong yes across all solutions. His anecdote about meeting people that lived paycheck to paycheck and that just didn't seem right - was right on.
- Lynch's "yes, but" was weak. The environmental speech seemed ill-timed. I'm sure you wouldn't get an argument from many in the audience about its importance, but that's not why we were there.
- Brown's "no, but" was even weaker. We know the issues are complex. We know the County is not doing it's share for affordable housing. That's why we proposed solutions that were small steps in the right direction. That certainly seems better than no direction at all.
- Slutzky's "yes" was appreciated. He seems to be the lone Albemarle County BOS member that comprehends the severity of the affordable housing crisis.
- Boyd's "further study" was disappointing. There has been lots of studying done already, here & here. Not to mention the investment in research done by IMPACT's affordable housing research team members. Even the county has studied it here and concluded it doesn't do enough.

What did we accomplish?

When I started on the affordable housing research team, I hoped that we would accomplish the following and I think we made a good start:
- City to acknowledge and put in place measures to address affordable housing issues short-term and long-term.
It looks like the City will adopt Charlottesville Affordable Housing Investment Program (CAHIP) into its budget

-City to show commitment to addressing affordable housing issues by reflecting it in the city budget.
City has added additional $420K for affordable housing for 0-30% AMI into its budget

- Leverage existing programs and services and their ability to generate dollars from city commitment.
Additional $420K can be leveraged by non-profits

- A regional approach and commitment to addressing affordable housing: Charlottesville, UVA, counties.
Creation of a Regional Affordable Housing Task Force was proposed, the only affordable housing request made of the county, and even this seemingly "weak" solution is being resisted.

2 comments:

Wags Outside said...

It was indeed an exciting evening. The challenge will be to keep the pressure on and follow up. The crowd (being churchgoing folk) was probably a bit more charitable to the "yes but" answers than was deserved....

es said...

I found the BOS response severely disappointing, to say the least. Follow-up conversations with Boyd and Thomas indicate that the BOS considers IMPACT outside the process and needing to change its tactics; Thomas referred to IMPACT as an imported solution that might work elsewhere but is not wanted here. [sigh]