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McKnight Neighborhood Meeting 8/11/15

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Board Meeting: August 11, 2015
Approved September 08, 2015
Minutes McKnight Neighborhood Council
Meeting called to order by Pres Lamont C at 6:10 pm.
Board Members Present (12): Lamont E Clemons, (Pres), Tawreak Eddington, (Asst Treas), Brandi Gamble,(Sec/Clerk),  Colin Kirby, (Treas), Walter Kroll, Bryan McFarland, Elizabeth O’Gilvie, Henry Payne, (Vice Pres), Synthia Scott-Mitchell, Elizabeth Stevens, Ben Swan, Jr, Paul Swenson
Board Members Not Present (3): Lloyd A Creswell, (Asst Sec/Clerk), Jack Dubose, Art Jones
Administrative Staff:   Elizabeth Lederman
Neighborhood Members: Jesse Lederman, Ed Zuckerman, Deb Papagno, Roberta Kilkenney, Greg Gavin, Alison Messier, Valerie Carman
Guests: Emila Ponikiewski, Laura Carr, Lorenzo Gaines, Lou Boynton, Ellen Boynton, Ted McNeil, Charles Rucks, Johnnie Ray McKnight, Alan Stearley, Andrew Maxwell, Reverend Doyle St Louis
  • Pres Lamont C welcomed those attending the meeting.
  • He acknowledged the presence of a freelance videographer who had set up a camera to videotape the meeting, and observed that a motion would need to be passed stipulating that the Board was in agreement to have meetings videotaped, or recorded. He expressed his support, saying that it would provide accurate documentation and would give the community, especially those who are in media, an opportunity to be involved.
  • Rep Bryan M offered a motion for a discussion of video recording, in addition to the audio recording of meetings, which was eventually withdrawn, and put forward as follows:
  • MOTION: (BM moved) to vote on whether the Board should proceed in the future to add video recording, in addition to the current audio taping, of Board meetings; (BG seconded); (LEC called for discussion):
  • Rep Elizabeth S expressed her discomfort over arriving at this meeting and finding that it is a fait accompli, and that it is still unclear who the videographer actually is and why he is here. While she was willing to consider the issue for future meetings, she felt there was too much on the meeting agenda which needed the Board’s attention, and that she was not in favor of video recording at this time. 
  • Rep Tawreak E felt that recording should be allowed based on the subjects that were being discussed at any particular meeting. Pres Lamont C explained that the motion being entertained would determine whether recording of any type would be allowed—whether it was freelance or commercial media like the newspaper or tv stations.
  • Rep Ben S acknowledged that Board meetings are public and therefore open to viewing, but his inclination was that the issue of recording needs to be studied in terms of how it relates to privacy issues.
  • Rep Elizabeth O drew a distinction between being recorded by public media vs freelance, and the need to find out whether media releases needed to be signed, particularly in relation to audience participation.
  • Guest Lorenzo G and neighborhood member Jesse L offered opinions on “open meeting law” and how it might apply to the question of videotaping.
  • Rep Walter K reiterated the need to investigate the issue overall, since it is uncharted territory, before going forward with any approval one way or the other; and Rep Ben S further emphasized that there was a big difference between the Board “authorizing” the videotaping, as opposed to not taking a position at the present time.

  • MOTION (see above) WITHDRAWN by Rep Bryan M at the conclusion of the discussion.

  • Rep Paul S brought forward the following motion:
  • MOTION: (PS moved) that the Board take the issue of videotaping under advisement, do some research, and revisit it at a future date; (BM seconded); (LEC called for discussion):

  • The discussion clarified that the motion was about researching the issue, not about stopping the media from recording. 
  • Rep Elizabeth O questioned the value of the motion if in fact it was legal regardless of the Board’s position.
  • Reps Paul S and Ben S re-emphasized that the legal issues and ramifications, whatever they might be, should be known if in fact videotaping would be occurring in the future, regardless of whether or not it was “endorsed” by the Board. 
  • MOTION (see above) (LEC called the question); Yea—10; Abstentions—2; Motion carried.
  • Reverend Doyle St Louis, of the All Nations Church of God, presenting an update on the renovation of the church property at St James Avenue and Clarendon Street. Rev St Louis introduced Andrew Maxwell, a minister in the church who is the project manager.
  • The renovation itself is currently on hold. Recent work includes closing off the fire escape and basement windows for safety purposes, and currently the architect and structural engineer are in the process of making recommendations on the weather proofing of the building for winter so that no more damage occurs to the structure from the elements.
  • Work on the renovation itself expected to begin in the spring. Expect a 12-month timeline from then to completion.
  • Rep Elizabeth S and audience member Ed Z encouraged the church to look at changing the façade from its current style to its previously historic design from earlier in the century and that many neighborhood members would come forward in support to the Historical Commission. The church reported that the Commission had supplied them with pictures of the original style and their architect was working with these as he developed the plans.
  • Rep Synthia M asked how parking would be handled. The church is hoping to turn the vacant lot they bought near the church property into a parking lot, and they are hopeful that the Board will support the proposal for this when they take it to the Planning Commission. They are aware there is a very old tree on the lot, which they are making provisions to keep.
  • The future operation of the Church, once occupied, will include regular services, a food pantry which operates one Saturday a month for two hours, and educational events.
  • Nick Cocchi, candidate for Hampden County Sheriff—unable to appear at this time.
  • Pres Lamont C reported that he met yesterday with the presidents of three of the adjacent neighborhood councils—Old Hill, Upper Hill, and Bay—and they collectively feel that the councils working together will benefit the whole area, so they will be meeting monthly.
  • The presidents made plans to put together a permanent subcommittee with members from each of the councils to plan National Night Out, which will meet on a monthly basis. The first meeting is October 20, and Lamont will provide complete information to the individual who is representing McKnight. He stressed the fact that it is important to have a designated Board member attending to insure vigorous collaboration and a stellar event for next year.
  • Going forward, Pres Lamont S has developed a list of 10 different priorities which includes projects he has identified as potential goals for the McKnight Council for the next year, and he will be sending this plan out to Board members for their review and collaboration—so that projects such as the Rail Trail, the Community Center, National Night Out, etc, can be discussed and prioritized.
  • He is in the process of meeting with City officials—i.e. Code Enforcement, Cathy Buono who handles CDBG funding, Ed Whitley from Neighborhood Services, the Mayor, the police—as well as any other individuals from City departments who can help him to develop a good understanding of how to best serve the neighborhood.
  • He will also be meeting with former president Walter K to get ideas and assistance on how to touch base with the right people.
  • Vice Pres Henry P reporting no current activity, but going forward he will be discussing issues related to new businesses coming into the neighborhood.
  • SECRETARY’S REPORT: (Brandi Gamble)
  • Minutes of Board meeting, July 14; Executive Board meeting July 30; and Special meeting, August 5; submitted for review and acceptance by Sec/Clerk Brandi G.
  • MOTION: (EO moved ) to accept as presented; (BM seconded); (LEC call for discussion):

  • Pres Lamont C requested the following clarification in the August 5 minutes—strike “does not sleep at 64 Thompson Street”; should read “it is no one’s business where he sleeps”.
    • MOTION AMENDED: (EO moved) to accept all minutes with corrections as noted above; (TE seconded); (LEC called the question); Motion unanimous.
  • TREASURER’S REPORT: (Colin Kirby)
  • Treas Colin K distributed a budget summary and a copy of the current bank statement.   He reported receiving the 4th quarter reimbursement check from the City of $3191.15, which will bring the current balance to funds to $7,287.96. Questions raised about the about the budget summary as incomplete. Agreement to table report. Treasurer requested to forward a more complete budget summary with the appropriate format to Board members prior to next month’s meeting for review.
  • MOTION: (BS moved) as discussed above; (EO seconded); (LEC called the question); Motion unanimous.
  • A second motion was made to approve the purchase of ink by the Treasurer for use in printing reports.
  • MOTION: (BS moved) to approve purchase of ink; (TE seconded); (LEC called the question); Motion unanimous.
NEW BUSINESS—Open to the Floor 
  • No new business.

  • Creation of Officer Duties’ Document
  • Pres Lamont C noted that the officer’s duties are only briefly described in the Bylaws and that he sees the need for these to be more detailed, and a document created to reflect this. He also makes the recommendation that when the Bylaws are updated officer duties should be addressed.
  • A discussion followed about the overall need to create the Bylaw committee which would address this, as well as election procedures, and any other items which need updating or refining.
  • MOTION: (SM moved) to establish an ad hoc Bylaws Committee to revise the present Bylaws; (EO seconded); (LEC called for discussion):

  • Rep Ben S observed that the bylaw revision process includes eventual Board approval, and ultimately neighborhood approval; and that the committee need not be limited to a small group, but to anyone including neighborhood members who want to participate.
  • Reps Synthia M and Elizabeth O explained their recent experience in revising the bylaws of the Food Policy organization; and the value of careful review.
  • Rep Walter K expressed similar experience in an earlier revision of the MNC bylaws, wherein each article was reviewed, section by section, and carefully worked through over a series of meetings; returning to the Board and neighborhood for input throughout the process, which gives everyone a chance to own the work.
  • Pres Lamont C suggested the need to act quickly to complete the revisions, and was provided with the overall feedback that it was not a quick process if it was done properly; and that the Bylaws at present were not a hindrance to Board activities or projects.
    • MOTION: (see above): (LEC called the question); Motion carried unanimously.
  • Rep Ben S drafted to chair Bylaws committee; Reps Paul S, Tawreak E, Elizabeth O and other Board members volunteering to be on committee. Sign-up sheet circulated to audience members.

  • National Night Out Discussion
  • Pres Lamont C reported attending an organizing meeting for the National Night Out event in late July and being confused and uninformed about MNC’s commitment to sponsoring the event.
  • Rep Elizabeth O explained her brief involvement in the National Night Out planning this year—attending a meeting on behalf of the Board in late June/early July organized by Old Hill. She commented that although McKnight was not unsupportive, no commitments were made due to the late planning and overall disorganization of the proposed event; and had there been any commitments made, she would have informed the Board.
  • Rep Walter K confirmed the same, reporting that co-sponsoring the event last year with Bay and Old Hill had been problematic and that in the end McKnight pulled the event together. Encountering the same organizational problems this year, with cancelled meetings earlier in the year, and no real planning, there was not time left for any reasonable collaboration, but that Old Hill had opted to move forward on its own.
  • Rep Ben S observed that Old Hill has generally initiated National Night Out, and that in the past this has not been a major event, however if the Board wanted to go in that direction, it could be a worthy event with good collaboration between the four area neighborhood councils.
  • Pres Lamont C asked all Board members to please communicate any information to him that would be helpful in his transition; particularly issues that might have pre-dated his participation on the Board; and will appreciate the Council’s support in moving forward.

  • Lloyd—Creation of Outreach Committee--Rep Lloyd C absent. Item tabled.
  • Improving Communication Between Board Members
  • Pres Lamont C reiterated once again the need for active communication between himself and all Board members about events that they attend—as well as sharing information in general—and the need for all Board members to be broadly informed and up to date about any activities that relate to the Council.
  • Request made by Rep Ben S to address the following agenda items in Executive Session at the conclusion of the regular meeting:
    • Administrative Staff: Withdrawal of Resignation—Board Approval 

  • Administrative Staff: Clarifying Role at Board Meetings
  • Administrative Staff: Employee Performance Evaluation 
  • MOTION: (BS moved) to address administrative staff issues in executive session; (EO seconded); (LEC call for discussion); no discussion; (LEC called the question); Motion unanimous.

  • Lloyd—Participation in Stone Soul Parade
  • Stone Soul Parade is Saturday, Sept 5. Rep Lloyd C requesting that the Board participate and carry the banner. Pres Lamont C encouraging participation because it gives the Council more visibility and will help expand participation. General agreement from Board members to try and participate.
  • He also let the Board know he is ordering McKnight pins to help identify Board members and encourage unity. The pins will be based on the McKnight logo, and he is paying for them himself.
  • Lamont—Diversity Inclusion Discussion—Item tabled due to time constraints.

  • Standing Committees
  • Rail Trail, Chair, Elizabeth Stevens
  • Rep Elizabeth S working on setting up a meeting with public safety officials like Chief Barbieri and others to discuss safety issues relative to the Rail Trail development, so that she will have information to share with the Parks Commission at their September meeting. Anyone interested in attending is welcome to come.
  • Public Safety, Chair, Walter Kroll
  • Rep Walter K reporting that issues being reported at the Watch and Sector F meetings still center around street gangs and gang violence. A lot of petty theft is occurring—a problem which always increases during the summer months. Public safety officials still looking for people to step forward and participate—but the range of policing initiatives is daunting to the average resident—they are working on a packet of information to push out to the neighborhoods to help make the information more comprehensible. At some point it would be prudent for the Council to ask for a meeting with the people who run the Dispatch unit, since complaints continue about how calls are responded to when residents try to report incidents and request help. Rep Ben S reporting that the management at Girard Ave apartments has recently employed off duty police officers to help patrol the complex.
  • Housing & Code, Chair, Colin Kirby—no activity to report.
  • Good Neighbor, Chair, Elizabeth O’Gilvie
  • Rep Elizabeth O reporting that there were five home sales last month, and that she sends welcome notes to each new homeowner. She reports that she also makes productive contacts with neighbors while working in the garden she has established on the corner lot next to her home, and has been giving away fresh vegetables.   Rep Colin K asked about outreach to renters in the apartment buildings, and was told that time constraints prevent that level of engagement; however he was invited to participate if he had time to take that on.  Neighborhood member Deb Papagno has joined the committee.
  • Communications, Chair, Ben Swan—no activity. Admin staff Elizabeth L has been updating website.

  • Ad Hoc Committees
    • Food Access, Chair, Elizabeth O’Gilvie
    • Rep Elizabeth O reporting that she has been elected as President of the Springfield Food Policy Council and explained the work of the Food Policy Council as it relates to food access in the city. Rep Synthia M, also a member of the SFPC and past president, talked about the Mason Square Farmer’s Market and encouraged people to buy their produce there, and the many reasons to buy locally.

  • Debate Committee, Chair, Paul Swenson
  • Rep Paul S reporting that it will be a vigorous election season, with six declared candidates for mayor; and races in six of the eight ward precincts. In Ward 4, Councilor Henry Twiggs is being challenged by Victoria Rowe. In the at large race, the five incumbents are being challenged by five new contenders. McKnight can potentially plan to host three debates—one for the Ward race, one for the at-large Council, and one for the Mayor’s race. Will be meeting with committee members—Reps Walter K, Tawreak E, and Elizabeth S—to develop plans.

  • McKnight Community Center, Chair, Damian Phillips
    • Chair Damian P absent. Pres Lamont C to contact him to determine if he is interested in continuing to chair the committee. Neighborhood member Roberta K interested in being a member, and would be willing to host an initial meeting. Rep Walter K willing to consider assuming chairmanship if needed.

  • Beautification—Chair, Bryan McFarlandMOTION: (BS moved) to reimburse painting costs as requested; (ES seconded); (LEC call for discussion); No discussion. (LEC called the question); Motion unanimous.
  • Rep Bryan M suggesting to those who walk their dogs as he does, or who take walks in general around the neighborhood, bring an extra bag for random trash they encounter, noting that it makes a difference, and that the more people who do it, the more of a difference it makes. Next beautification project planned is to repaint the fire box near Thompson Triangle—requesting reimbursement of $20 to $30 for cost of materials if the Board is agreeable.

  • Neighborhood member Ed Z reporting large realtor sign placed on tree belt on Ingersoll Grove. Discussion about whether this was a Code issue, as tree belts are city property.   Rep Brandi G recommended that it was probably better just to call the Realtor and ask them to remove it. 8:00 pm: Regular monthly meeting adjourned. 
MOTION:   (BS moved) that the Board retire into executive session; (EO seconded); (LEC called); Motion unanimous. 
MOTION:  (BS moved) to adjourn; (BM seconded); (LEC called); Motion unanimous.
            Submitted for approval by Elizabeth Lederman, Administrative Staff, 09/08/15