Wednesday, September 27, 2006

And every child should have a pony

So the “consultants’ report” is in on the Survival Center. Among the recommendations: they should have social workers on staff, child care for board members, and a new location. As luck would have it, I believe that magical money tree they planted out back is just starting to blossom.

It would have been nice if the consultants had focused on how to help the Center get through this crisis in a way that ensures they stay true to their mission and history, and to help them see through the noise and opportunism of this continuing assault to recognize the legitimate issues.

Instead, according to the paper, they get more piling-on of criticism, and a list of expensive “fixes” all aimed at turning the Center into an entirely different kind of an agency.

Why don’t “they” just start from scratch, and create this “ideal” new agency from the ground up? Why did the Survival Center have to fall in order for this vision of a new agency to emerge?

Providing social services is not a zero-sum game.

4 comments:

Richard Morse said...

This controversy will tell us some profoundly discomforting things about who we are as a community, if we insist on being honest with ourselves. I am still struck by the breathtaking intensity of the accusers, and their public statements about "so-and-so must go". The fact that one of the accusers is a Select Board member, invoking her position on that Board, is very disturbing.
These folks got under a full head of steam because they had discovered an important truth: that there were serious problems at the Amherst Survival Center. But they have ignored the reality that theirs is certainly not the only truth. People make mistakes. People who serve the less fortunate make mistakes. Actions and words get misinterpreted. Usually in disputes, we depend on processes that separate accusers from fact finders. That has not been done here, and we can already see the damage to a treasured Amherst institution and to the people who have given their time to it. We must try to ensure that this does not happen again.

Stephanie O'Keeffe said...

Hey Rich --

Thanks for adding your opinions to the mix!

I largely agree with you and don't mean to quibble, but in regards to what you call "an important truth": it is my belief that the town's necessary and only true role in this was to determine whether or not there were serious problems at the Survival Center.

So what have they determined? We have no idea. Why don't we know? Why has the question of serious problems been drowned out by a management critique? Is that because no serious problems -- problems like human rights violations -- were found, only management problems? If so, that's a very different story, isn't it?

I sound like a broken record here, but: lax management, poor leadership, bad morale, etc. are the internal issues of a private organization. No one has the right to demand that the place be managed in a different way.

If management issues are causing people's rights to be violated, then that is clearly a situation that requires intervention.

But a lack of social workers isn't a human rights violation. A cramped location is not a human rights violation. An ineffective board of directors is not a human rights violation. Nothing we have heard from the town yet shows evidence of a human rights violation. If they have found anything they certainly haven't told us about it.

Drastic intervention by the town must be limited to extremely serious circumstances. Surely we don't want to set a precedent whereby it's OK for the town to go in to a private organization and unilaterally reorganize it based on their "official" judgment that it is being managed poorly, or "needs improvement."

I don't want to believe that is what's happening here, but I have yet to see or hear any evidence to the contrary.

Stephanie

Larry Orloff said...

If you regularly contribute to a charity, and learn that the charity's management is dysfunctional, you can opt to discontinue contributing; in effect, walk away from the problem -- or else, put up with your hard-earned bucks being poorly used.

These are not sppropriate options for the Town, which contributes its taxpayers' hard-earned dollars to the Survival Center. TM chose to overspend its budget rather than decrease contributions to residents who find themselves destitute. We can't "walk away" from them. Nor can we tolerate wasting taxpayer dollars. Thus, it seems appropriate that the Town pro-actively attempt to deal with the Center's management issues.

Stephanie O'Keeffe said...

Hi Larry --

I agree wholeheartedly that the town must spend ts money responsibly -- its money is our money, after all. And as a "major donor" to the Center, the town certainly has some leverage.

But ensuring that its money is well spent and helping the organization to better itself are a far cry from beating the place into submission under the guise of "human rights violations."

I already gave my spiel about accountability to the town in my repsonse to Carol as part of the "Paved with good intentions" post, so I won't bore you with that again here.

Thanks very much for commenting!

Stephanie