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An opportunity was missed to distribute Measure A funds to deserving community based, non-governmental non-profits in the low income sectors of this county. What ended up being supported were those non- profit organizations which could have been funded using the RFP contract procedure. That established approach was not used.

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What could have been done? First, let’s keep in mind that these Measure A funds were obtained via the sale of authorized bonds using the ‘good faith and credit’ of the taxpayers of the County of Santa Clara. Simply stated, this was ‘We, the People” money. Today this county has two economic levels: Those who are very well off and those who are not. From the beginning, a policy decision could have been made to use these Measure A funds to underwrite ‘micro-allocations’ to CBO/NGO non-profit organizations which were directly dealing with the fallout of the current economy. The public testimony made to the BOS on Tuesday, April 16th was commentary that could have been received before county staff made their rankings and recommendations. And a procedural agreement must be made that next time let staff evaluate those proposals received without any alleged undue influence by one BOS member. Or, if one BOS meets and confers with the staff of each evaluation committee, then all should meet and confer. And at the very beginning, if any BOS member needs to ‘recuse himself/herself’, then that should be known to all prior to the evaluation and ranking process. One local publication (The METRO) published a report which described alleged ‘insider influence’ based on the record that only one supervisor took the time to meet and confer with all committees, prior to ranking the recommendations which were communicated to the BOS. The outcome was very few winners and many more unfunded losers.

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What could have happened? The BOS could have considered funding as many proposals as possible. Imagine what may have happened when 48 nonprofits, which are serving the low income needy of the county, each received $200,000 funding. Why this approach? One reason is to develop a larger reservoir of volunteers who have enough training and orientation to do early detection, intervention and referral. An objective is to have EDIR result in the effective and efficient delivery of services by those needing said services early on. This may reduce the cost of therapy necessary, while increasing success rates.

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Those $200,000 awards could have been made with ‘attached requirements and conditions such as: A) requiring that agency board members, executives, and staff become trained in Robert’s Rules of Order as a decision process; financial management, organizational structures, keeping required administrative records, be subject to overview and audits, establish and practice some form of metrics to facilitate management, evaluation and effectiveness. B) Submittal of activity reports to permit transparent monitoring, and C) an approval to solicit matching funds on a 1:1 basis. Then each award might reach the potential of having $400,000 value impact.

Make no mistake….low income individuals could have, and would have, donated $20 each to buy into havimg a sense of being a ‘participating stakeholder’. Local low income residents would have experienced being part of the solution. And the base of organizational management and experience would have been expanded. An increased level of hope would have been generated by this proposed approach for the use of these Measure A funds. In a community which prides itself on its innovation and creativity, the status quo was nurtured with these Measure A funds (which are really The People’s money).
The BOS meeting (April 16, 2014) could be very instructive to all who participated. Some 92 proposals from local community based non-profits had prepared their submittals with minimal direction and guidance. The ‘business plan and purpose’ of this proposed allocation effort was not well defined from the beginning. Since these proposals could have been ‘RFP’s”, but were not, the county staff did not have the rigorous guidelines. Finally, ‘Direct Services’ guidelines were used. That could have been the case from the very beginning.

Next time, first schedule a public ‘focus group’ meeting to which interested NGO/CBO non-profits are invited. At this meeting let this concerned community leadership communicate their ‘grass roots’ perspective. Someone may even provide a fair transparent process which could be adapted by the BOS and implemented by the County Executive. Then the current feeling of anger, frustration, and disappointment would not be so great. Do not miss the next ‘great opportunity’ to let the community guide the use of ‘The People’s money’.

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