Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Plaza 16 = Undemocratic Cabal of Nonprofits & Campos

The Mission is well-known for the vibrancy of the Latino, queer and artistic cultures long-established but ever-diminishing in the district and our neighbor suffers greatly from the lack of political vibrancy, not to mention genuine democracy and transparency, and the reason is Plaza 16.

This front group for the nonprofits receiving millions in City and other government and private grants sucks up the most political oxygen and frustrations of Mission and citywide folks, and it's time to look at the Plaza 16 foundation laid down via Team Campos at his City Hall office.

Responsive public records from Campos generated by my request shed necessary light on how a cabal was created. Let's start at the beginning.

(Click on each image to enlarge for easier reading.)

After having contact with Bert Polacci, Maximus Partners' lobbyist, Campos' right-hand Nate Allbee contacted reps at two nonprofits, the key person being Oscar Grande at People Organizing to Demand Environmental and Economic RightsPODER.

On September 13, 2013, Allbee began soliciting feedback on arranging meetings between Maximus and nonprofits, asking a rep of Dolores Street Community Services, DSCS. to attend a meeting of "community" based organizations to attend and wondered if a subsidiary of her group, the Mission SRO Collaborative, MSROC, would also be present.

Previously released Campos emails disclosed this note:

"From: Oscar Grande []
Sent: Friday, September 13, 2013 12:59 PM
To: Allbee, Nate Subject:
Re: Meeting with 16th and Mission Development

"Nate, Both those dates work fine with me. Also, when we spoke over the summer we talked about getting a meeting of stakeholders together on the state of affordable housing in the district. From your vantage point do you feel it's an issue the Supervisor wants to get a handle on/prioritize? Our interest is in having a back and forth with smart folks on when and how to move forward (together) on the opportunity sites like 17th & Folsom, 1950 Mission, Shotwell (oyster development offsite), others... Thanks!"

Make note, please, of Grande not pushing Campos to meet any demand and no mention is made of opening the debate to the at-large community beyond Allbee's nonprofit contacts. Those "smart folks" Grande cites ain't the riff-raff who don't work in grant-driven advocacy.

"From: Bert Polacci []
Sent: Wednesday, September 25, 2013 8:34 AM
To: Allbee, Nate Subject:
Re: Meetings with CBO's

""Thanks Nate. Lets talk before we set up any more..
On Sep 24, 2013, at 2:57 PM, "Allbee, Nate" wrote: > 
Hi Bert, > > So schedule is as follows: > > Fri, September 27: > > PODER:10:00am - 10:30am > Dolores St:10:30am - 11:00am > Carecen:11:00am - 11:30am > > Setting up more service oriented CBO's for the next week and working on that neighborhood group as well. Have you had a chance to meet with the Principal of Marshall Elementary yet? > > Nate"

From the get-go, no effort was made by Grande and Allbee to deliver transparency to the real community. No public letters were circulated, no town hall held, nothing posted on an open web site.

A few meetings between Maximus and the nonprofits took place and we, the people, were not informed of any of this. The above email is dated October 2, 2013. Democracy isn't a big concern to Grande and the nonprofit reps Gabriel Medina of Mission Economic Development Agency, MEDA,  Fernando Marti of the Council of Community Housing Organizations, CCHO, and Vero Majano of the Mission Neighborhood Resource Organization, MNRO.

On October 3, 2013, Medina circulated a proposed agenda for an upcoming meeting of the nonprofit cabal and he audaciously listed info sharing, the community's need, everyone's vision and inviting other possible stakeholders/partners. 

The cabal met behind closed doors at MNRC on October 9, 2013, as documented in Grande's email.

The next day, October 10, 2013, Grande sent out notes from the meeting. We see that Maria Zamudio, who resides in the East Bay but works at Causa Justa, Wendy Phillips of DSCS, Laura Guzman of the Mission Neighborhood Health Center, MNHC, and Joel Streicker of the Central American Resource Center, CARC, joined the cabal.

They discussed what role Campos would play in addressing Maximus and building a major condo complex at Mission and 16th Streets and whom to invite to the next in a continuing series of invitation-only meetings. 
Those folks included Roberto Hernandez, executive director of the Carnaval Celebration that has received robust six-figure grants from the City and Victor Marquez, Latino lawyer and Democratic Party stalwart.

Grande announces he's off on a junket to the Philippines for a week's confab. 

An October 24, 2013, from Grande reveals he invited more nonprofit reps to the meeting including Sara Shortt of the Housing Rights Committee/SF, HRCSF, Allbee from Team Campos, Andy Blue, an anti-developers gadfly, Christina Olague and Mara Rosales of the SF Latino Democratic Club, SFLDC, Jose Carrasco of Our Mission No Eviction, OMNE, an ad hod committee, and Erick Arguello of Calle 24, a Latino advocacy group.

More than a month after Allbee began his outreach to a restricted list of nonprofits and Campos supporters about Maximus, none of these or other emails release show a shred of concern to make this info and process transparent to the larger Mission community. The nonprofit cabal kept a tight grip on invitations and sharing of emails.

Again, an email from Grande shows his key position in this cabal, dated Nov 1, 2013, about the previous well-attended meeting at a nonprofit (city-funded) office. Because of the length, the email was divided into two screen-grabs with part one above.

Part two of Grande's email reveals the cabal in secrecy decided these ideals were important: inclusion of those most impacted by the problem of Maximus' condo plan, put community needs above the needs of individual organizations, articulating what the community really needs.

It's the height of domineering arrogance that Mission Housing Inc, my term for the nonprofits, to see how these "community" leaders agree on the agenda for the rest of us, all done without any sunshine or voices outside the cabal's circle.

One month later, Campos aide Hilary Ronen circulated an email on December 9, 2013, concerning future closed-door meetings of the cabal. She writes of the sensitivity, without specifics, of the meeting and that only folks in previous meetings should be at the January 2014 sessions. Very telling, Ronen moved conversations from the email-trail to the telephone and no public record of those verbal communications.

This December 19, 2013, Grande email is probably the most telling about his (and by extension the other nonprofit cabal members') ultimate motivation: his organization. Grande writes he must skip a meeting and has staff evaluations to attend to and that "staff stuff trumps all else". Yes, those four words scream what is the central problem of the Plaza 16 leaders and their stewardship.

Their organizations and the government and foundation and corporate grants and donations, and everyone's paycheck, trumps all else.

So, when did these un-democratic leaders finally get around to sharing a smidgen of their activities and knowledge about Maximus and related issues? 

On May 16, 2014, at the Victoria Theater opposite where Maximus would build its condos, eight long months after a lotta meetings and emails and phone chats amongst themselves, the nonprofits held a public meeting giving formal birth to Plaza 16 with themselves in charge of the agenda.

There can be no political vibrancy and effective, authentic grassroots community organizing in the Mission until such time as the nonprofits are held to account and made fully transparent. 

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