It's Response vs. Response as Cliff Manor Task Force and DHA, MDHA Agree to Disagree

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Mike Faenza, Mayor Tom Leppert and Mike Rawlings at an MDHA event in 2008
Wednesday night, the nine members of Dave Neumann's hand-picked Cliff Manor Task Force abruptly ended a meeting with Dallas Housing Authority officials at DHA HQ: They walked in, listened to a few remarks from the council member, dropped off a four-pronged letter of demands, and scooted out the door. The task force gave DHA and Metro Dallas Housing Alliance officials till 6 p.m. Thursday to respond to the demands "for good faith negotiations and cooperation," which include maintaining the "status quo" at Cliff Manor. MDHA and DHA moved in 17 formerly homeless residents last week. The task force wants that number to remain as-is for at least six months.

To which MaryAnn Russ, president and CEO of DHA, and Mike Faenza, executive director of MDHA, said: No.

"There is little doubt as to the legal and Fair Housing ramifications involved in denying or delaying eligible people housing," they write in a statement you'll find in full on the other side. "However, the matter of addressing the needs of our neighbors, family members, and friends who would benefit most from being able to live indoors, is a simple matter of discharging our duties. That process cannot and will not be delayed." DHA and MDHA are supposed to move in 50 new residents -- half of the original number, after Mayor Tom Leppert intervened.

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MaryAnn Russ
Otherwise, Russ and Faenza write, DHA and MDHA are happy to "'start from scratch' in having a meaningful dialogue that addresses the concerns of the neighborhood and the Cliff Manor families." They are also fashioning a "good neighbor agreement," and have asked the task force to return to the table for further discussions.

To which the task force replied: Maybe, maybe not, we'll see.

Its response to DHA and MDHA's "failed response" is also on the other side, and in it, task force member Dodie Butler, president of the Stevens Park Estates Neighborhood Association, says "It is unfortunate, but not surprising, that the DHA and MDHA have chosen to disregard those taxpaying residents most affected by their unilateral decisions. This faulty position is a show of disrespect to not only the citizens of North Oak Cliff, and Dallas as a whole, but also is a dangerous choice to the population they are tasked in serving. These two agencies' unwillingness to engage the community as directed by Dallas City Hall reflects stalwart leadership and does not bode well for any DHA or MDHA project in Dallas' future." North Oak Cliff Task Force Response
MEDIA ALERT
DALLAS (August 12, 2010)

A response from the DHA and MDHA to four commitment points delivered to them by the citizens on the Cliff Manor Task Force fails to prove to the citizens on the task force those organizations are working with them in good faith, task force members say.

At a task force meeting on August 11, the nine citizen members of the task force delivered a letter to representatives from the DHA, MDHA and the city of Dallas asking agreement to four commitment points in order to continue on their collective mission. Those points were:

1. Pause and maintain the status quo, including taking no actions which place DHA/MDHA in a position requiring additional placements, at 17 PSH placements at Cliff Manor during the duration of negotiations of good faith for not less than six months.

2. During the good faith negotiations, agree to use best efforts to develop a successful Cliff Manor community plan and good neighbor agreement, to include best practices on such vital areas as supportive services, security, qualifications, amenities, and successful client outcome.

3. Immediately develop an enforceable temporary good neighbor agreement and complaint resolution process.

4. Work in good faith with the City of Dallas to implement a successful, equitable city-wide subsidized/supportive housing plan, including a PSH program, which incorporates best practices and is in accordance with the regional fair share provisions of the FHA.

The response from the DHA and MDHA rejected the Task Force's first request for commitment. Instead, it said, "the matter of addressing the needs of our neighbors, family members, and friends who would benefit most from being able to live indoors, is a simple matter of discharging our duties. That process cannot and will not be delayed."

The response did mention the creation of a good neighbor agreement but no reference to best practices, or a complaint resolution process were included in the response.

"Work will continue on developing a "good neighbor agreement,' " the response said. "We would like to have task force members participate in that effort and follow through on its stated commitment to do that. We have provided an initial draft of this agreement to serve as a starting point for discussions and look forward to your continued input in the crafting of this document."

"It is unfortunate, but not surprising, that the DHA and MDHA have chosen to disregard those taxpaying residents most affected by their unilateral decisions," says task force member Dodie Butler, president of the Stevens Park Estates Neighborhood Association. "This faulty position is a show of disrespect to not only the citizens of North Oak Cliff, and Dallas as a whole, but also is a dangerous choice to the population they are tasked in serving.

"These two agencies' unwillingness to engage the community as directed by Dallas City Hall reflects stalwart leadership and does not bode well for any DHA or MDHA project in Dallas' future."

The response also made no mention of working with the city to develop an equitable city-wide plan for subsidized/supportive housing.

"It's too bad," said Fort Worth Avenue TIF chair Randall White, who also serves on the committee. "We could have helped the project succeed, but not without being confident we were working with agency partners who value honesty, collaboration and innovation.

"We cannot even get the DHA and MDHA to directly answer four simple questions."

As of Thursday evening, the task force members were determining how they will move forward in light of the failed response from DHA and MDHA.

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