CCTV Human Service News and Information TV/Blog Alert/Update: No Public Comment Period for Mayor's Siddiqui Homeless Working Group Meetings!

CCTV Human Service News and Information TV/Blog Alert/Update: No Public Comment Period for Mayor's Siddiqui Homeless Working Group Meetings!

Why Don't You All Fix This and Allow Public Comment While There is Still Time to Do So?

  • Posted on: 8 June 2021
  • By: HRASHID

Peace Be Unto You,

I gave public comment at the Cambridge City council meeting as part of my homeless community adocacy work. I spoke in responst Mayor's Siddiqui's efforts to bring an ad-hoc Homeless Working Group(HWG) into existance. The HWG she constructed will allow the public at large to attend it's meetings, but will not allow any type of public commemt periodsat its upcoming public meetings. Also it is being funded with public resources. The exact tex of my public comment will follow for your viewing, folowed by a copy of Mayor's Siddiqui's agenda item annoucing the formation of the Homeless Working Group. Following this will appear a summation and response to Mayor's Siddiqui's Homeless Working group project.

I. Hasson Rashid's City Hall Public Comment:

Peace Be Unto You,
Hello Everybody, I'm Hasson Rashid, I reside at 820 Massachusetts Avenue. My public comment is in regards to Mayor's
Siddiqui's Homeless Working Group Project and Initiatives.

In the past when the city held homeless working group type meetings, such as the Homeless Charette, the Ten Plan to End Homelessness, Coucilman's Mark McGovern Regional Homeless meetings, etc., public comment was allowed at them.

According to the federal Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the city will be in violation if it moves ahead with this homeless working grouup and meetings. If public comment is not allowed at it's meetings than this is exclusionary and discriminatory.

Why don't you all fix this and allow public comment while there is still time to do so? Thank You.

II. Mayor's Siddiqui's Agenda Item Annoucing the Formaion of the Homeless Working Group:

OFFICE OF THE MAYOR
Sumbul Siddiqui
Mayor
To: Cambridge City Council
From: Sumbul Siddiqui, Mayor
Date: June 2, 2021
Subject: Communicating information about Homelessness Working Group
______________________________________________________________________________
To the Honorable, the City Council:
I have asked the City Manager to appoint an ad hoc working group in connection with a project to address ongoing issues of homelessness in Cambridge, and he will be appointing Councillor Marc McGovern as Chair. This ad hoc working group will provide input and guidance to the City Manager and staff following consultations with service providers and unhoused people. The ad hoc working group, supported by a dynamic team of consultants who have worked extensively in Cambridge and with communities across the nation, will also organize a series of meetings to inform the City’s Homeless Strategy moving forward.

Additionally, the ad hoc working group, based on the findings of its study and research of best practices and regional efforts, will help develop targeted strategies and recommendations that the City, in partnership with the Continuum of Care, could take to address both long-term and shortterm goals relating to homelessness in Cambridge. The ad hoc working group will meet over a six-month period. All meetings will be available for public viewing, but no public comment will be taken.The mission of the ad hoc working group in its work on this project is to bring together city, nonprofit, and community members to discuss ways to support individuals who are unhoused and in shelters in Cambridge with the concrete goal of offering 3-4 recommendations of policies,programs, and practices that can be implemented to address both short and long term challenges. These recommendations are expected in September 2021 with a goal of increasing the number of individuals who are housed.

Ad Hoc Working Group Members will include:

Marc McGovern (Chair), Cambridge City Councillor
Jivan Sobrinho-Wheeler, Cambridge City Councillor
Adrienne Klein, Constituent Support Manager, Mayor’s Office
Ellen Semonoff, Assistant City Manager Department Human Services Programs
Branville Bard, Cambridge Police Commissioner
Maura Pensak, Housing Liaison, City of Cambridge
Liz Mengers, Planning & Development Manager, Cambridge Continuum of Care
Michael Johnston, Director, Cambridge Housing Authority
Michael Monestime, Central Square Business Improvement District
Denise Jillson, Harvard Square Business Association
John Chute, Cambridge Resident; Former Unhoused Community Member
Mary Althoff, Unhoused Community Member
Franny Wu, Project Right to Housing
Cassie Hurd, Executive Director, Material Aid and Advocacy Program
Theresa Young, Director of CASPAR Emergency Services at Baycove
Mark McGovern, Healthcare for the Homeless
Rev. Adam Dyer, First Parish Unitarian-Universalist
Kate Layzer, Minister of Street Outreach, First Church
Jennifer Mathews, City Manager’s Office

Consultants that will provide services to the City in support of the project include Jeff Olivet, Donald Whitehead, Matt Aronson, Ayala Livny, Lauren Leonardis, and Alice Colegrove.The cost of the project is estimated at $9,937, which will include hosting 4 community conversations and submitting recommendations for ongoing work. For more information, contact Nikolas Emack-Bazelais at nemack@cambridgema.gov.

Respectfully,
Sumbul Siddiqui

III. Hasson Rashid's Summation and Response to Mayor's Siddiqui's Homeless Working Group Project:

The homeless voices of the public at large matters. Mayor Siddiqui brought into existence an ad - hoc Homeless Working Group (HWG) that will allow public attendance, but no public comment period. It should be the job of these elected officials and others appointed to this HWG to also listen to the public attendees and address their needs. If constituents and public attendees are not allowed to tell the policymakers and others why it is important to make ending homelessness a priority, etc., during public comment period, the policymakers and other appointees may never know what they need to do so. Their job should be to listen to public attendees, and the public attendees’ job should be to tell them what the local homeless community needs. The public attendees’ homeless stakeholders are accessible to the same rights, meaning that the power of involvement (public comment) was not equally bequeathed. This negates the purpose and goal, of public participation (public comment) and could potentially create resentment among the marginalized homelessness stakeholders. It is known that non HWG stake-holders are not accessible to the same rights, meaning that the power of involvement (public comment) was not equally bequeathed. Interestingly, public participation in the decision making process is literally non-existent here an involvement can only be considered appropriate when the public is allowed to participate actively in the planning process (public comment).

Public participation (public comment) is ‘a process by which people are enabled to become actively and genuinely involved in defining the issues of concern to them, in making decisions about factors that affect their lives, in formulating and implementing policies, in planning, developing and delivering services and in taking action to achieve change’. Also and more importantly, the local homeless communities are not been clearly informed of their rights to public participation (public comment). The local homeless community is not participating in the decision making process of any proposed HWG developments and the absolute power to decide will be handed to the local government. The administration system failed to prioritize local homeless residents’ participation in development planning via public comment, etc., rather…failed to develop collaborative processes based on trust, cooperation and respect between homeless citizens and the local government. Public participation (public comment) could also lead to better policy and implementation decisions and can thus be associated with a greater attainment of public programs’ goals.

By incorporating citizen participation (public comment) into the usual business of this event will better serve the main objectives of the HWG. Who is to be blamed and held responsible for failing to educating the local community about public participation (public comment) and their rights to get involved in the decision making process of this event. Even if difficulties exist within this HWG does not mean that the public participation process (public comment) should be terminated or at the very least limited to the publics at large, especially the homeless sector and mosaic. When local residents fail to be allowed to participate in public comment at this event, they may face real problems of exploitation by the local government itself. Public participation (public comment) is associated with knowledge sharing the public has also helped to inform a wide range of planning and decision-making processes by participating as stakeholder, during public comment periods. The purpose of the HWG participation process should be to benefit the local homeless community and stakeholders, serving the purpose of enhancing, knowledge, skills and abilities relating to the development of public policy, with specific emphasis on the meaningful inclusion of homeless stakeholders and citizens. Unfortunately it is not the purpose of the HWG. The importance of public participation (public comment) stemmed from the principle that those affected by public policies should have a meaningful and equal opportunity to influence policy outcomes.

The public participation process, however, is sometimes threatened by bureaucratic constraints caused by the lack of a systematic approach and an inadequate public administration system, which contribute to the homeless at large public exclusion from the process. From the local homeless public’s perspective, the act of inviting to engage in the decision making process is considered as a sign of acceptance by the government. Effective public participation is difficult to achieve if the residents are not equally represented within or as part of the whole group of stakeholders. I have identified how the local At- Large Homeless public is being excluded in the HWG decision making process. The United States Planning Association defines planning as a ‘comprehensive, coordinated and continuing process to help public and private decision makers arrive at decisions that promote the common good of society. It is publicly known that individuals affected by any development plan have the power, to a certain limit, to exercise their rights in terms of opinions and needs. Citizen participation is a categorical term for citizen power. It is the redistribution of power that enables the have-not citizens, presently excluded by the HWG processes, to be deliberately included in the future. In short it is the means by which they can induce significant social reform which enables them to share in the benefits of the affluent society.

Finally, it is important to realize that although public participation (public comment) would only be allowed to a certain extent, an involvement can only be considered appropriate when the public is allowed to participate actively in the planning process. Public participation ( public comment) as a process by which people are enabled to become actively and genuinely involved in defining the issues of concern to them, in making decisions about factors that affect their lives, in formulating and implementing policies, in planning, developing and delivering services and in taking action to achieve change. It is therefore highlighted here that the main purpose of public participation (public comment period) is to offer the public an opportunity to participate in the (HWG) decision making process of related development planning. Here, related development planning refers to a stakeholder engagement. The homeless voices of the public at large matters.

Yours In Peace
Hasson Rashid
Human Service News and Information TV/ Blog CCTV
Cambridge,MA