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May 26, 2013

Present: Z, Gatlin, Greg, Hannah, James, Jesse, Jessica, Keith, McAllen, Meghan, Mike, Molly, Nolan, Paul, Ryan

Meet and greet

James Mathis(sp?): I know Gatlin; want to become an associate and move in in 2-3 months when a room opens up

Keith Pope: Been here for about two years; was very interested. Read about it online.

James has no pets, is allergic to cats, wants an apartment

Keith has a dog, allergic to cats, wants a room

Officer reports


McALlen: Don't have anything to report.


Greg: Going to have some electrical work starting this week. 103, 104, 203, 204, 205. Will start Tuesday. Will have their subpanels and disconnects replaced. Will be without electricity for the whole day. If it doesn't start Tuesday, will start Wednesday.

Ryan: Do we have to do anything about the aluminum wiring?

Greg: The electricians will compensate for it. Panels are made for aluminum or copper, so, if we pull out the aluminum wiring, then will be fine. Whether it should be pulled out depends on when the wiring was put in. If put in before the mid 70's, then should be replaced.

Victor: Was available in 68 as well. They just didn't always use it.

Mollie: Is that the only part of the apartment that they need access to?

Greg: Yes. The following day, 105, 106, 107, 206, 207. Next will be 101, 102, 111, 201, 202, and 211. Final set will be 108, 109, 110, 208, 209, and 210. Should be done in four work days. Will take out a known fire hazard and replace them with brand new panels and breakers. May turn out that the city requires us to replace the wire that goes from, if you look at what we have outside, there's a trough, looks like a gutter and comes down to a bunch of little stubs, and a meter and a box, and the city might require us to replace the wire that goes from the trough to the roof, or require rounding rods. Should be doable in the same time frame. We've been having trouble with the electric in 204 and 205, so want to get them done first. Having no luck getting additional plumbers to bid on the gas line. In addition to the one who came and gave us a bid, which is due to expire on June 8, I've called an additional three plumbers. They've said they would give us a bid but no response. I suspect they're concerned about the nature of the job. Going to replace 40 valves. After that's done, they have to do a pressure test. Between when the gas comes in and everything else in the complex, we have to hold pressure for a minimum of 30 minutes without anything moving at all, which will prove to the inspector that we don't have a leak. If that test fails, after $8-9000 of work, then they have to find out where the leak is. Could be anywhere. Might have to tear out walls, slabs. I think the plumbers are afraid they won't get paid because we're a nonprofit. We may have to just go ahead with the bid we have. Way more than we wanted to spend, but we may have to just go ahead and do the work.

Ryan?: How much?

Greg: $8500.

Ryan: Are we getting any money from NP?

Greg: Not sure.

Molly: Is this the time to think about fundraisers?

Greg: There's an effort to raise money. Gatlin working on a kickstarter project with Erin. Now that I'm elected to the CHEA board, it's one of my priorities for CHEA.


Hannah: Hillary moving to Sasona. Moving out the 21st. Meghan will be moving into her room the 22nd. Paul signed a contract last weekend. Still talking to Z. Luke and Bjarnea moving out at the end of the month. McAllen and Mike moving into Luke's unit. Jess and Beth moving into Bjarnea's unit. Talking to HACA; trying to get permission to do the rent change. I think it's going to go through. They have invisible regulations that they don't tell you about until you send something in. I think I've gotten to the end of the “oh, and another thing” chain, but we'll see. Need to get new contracts from pretty much everybody since they expire in June. Afaik everyone re-signing except Hillary. Most of us not held to the mandatory food plan; we need to figure out if our food plan is happening this month or next month so I can provide an appropriate contract.

Molly: An additional two hours of labor a week? Can we do all of our labor with the meal plan?

Hannah: Ask Gatlin; seems reasonable to me. We probably need to find a solution to things happening in the courtyard. It's a problem. We need to address it.

Jessica accepted as an associate


Jesse: Got a list of the food stuffs that we could potentially set up for common use. I've got a menu planned for Friday for the first day we roll this out. Got a list of labor for the meal preparation. Concerned about the fact that we have a commons kitchen that is actually for other co-opers. When we start producing meals, given they'll be eating them, we're going to need this kitchen for 4-5 hrs/day, 3 days/week. Not sure how this is going to work with the individuals who are staying here. Plus we're also going to need storage.

Meghan: Which three days?

Jesse: People encouraging Monday, and I'm thinking Friday.

Z: In general, should be fairly easy to get around. Even if you guys are cooking, doesn't mean that you'll be using every single square inch and nobody can come in.

Jesse: Was a policy we had at Pearl St. During the period when we were cooking meals, the kitchen was off-limits. Becomes increasingly difficult to produce a meal for 20-40 people in a small space. When we originally made the decision to buy this place, we were intending to completely change this space. Wasn't going to be apartments rented into it. Poses a number of issues. In terms of legality, this kitchen is not going to pass inspection for a food establishment, which is what we'd require if we're going to be producing food for more than 25 people. I'd suggest the analogy of fight club. This is a supper club.

Z: As long as we're not selling food, none of this applies.

Jesse: Not true. If it's part of a lease agreement, becomes part of the kitchen.

Z: We got around that at Occupy somehow. Were cooking for 100 people on a 24-7 basis.

Molly: People aren't paying for the food; are paying in their leases.

??: Sounds like the solution is to keep the meal plan optional until we can turn it into a better kitchen.

Jesse: Sort of my responsibility now. Shifting my intentions to the kitchen and how we can abide by the legal requirements of providing food and yet still not do the kinds of renovations that we'll need to do.

William: Very much in agreement with the idea of requesting that people join the food program optionally; keep it below 25.


Ryan: Deposited $18,343 this month. $258 from the laundry.

Hannah: From this week?

Ryan: From whenever we pulled the money out. About a month's worth.

Greg: $250 less than what we expected.

Hannah: We don't know if that was really a month.

Ryan: Approximately a month. I don't know all the expenses because the month's not over yet. The court date was Friday at 9am. We need to provide proof that the people we are evicting, whether they have been enlisted in the military. Need to provide proof or they won't consider the case. Didn't have the information. Going to be adding that to new contracts (a birthday and a ssn). will need someone to go to court Tuesday. any takers? need to go to the library near the courthouse and talk to the librarian. if i came in Monday or Tuesday, he wanted it later that day, but Tuesday would work, too. I'm going to be out of town; won't be back until Wednesday.

Whether and how to allow in-kind donations of food to the food program

Jesse: I think it's an accounting issue. Very easy to do this. For providing $12/month, there's ample opportunity for an individual who doesn't have cash to provide donations as long as it's accounted for. If the person goes below a 0 balance, the person would have to get back to a 0 balance or not be able to participate. Laws don't allow people to buy food for someone else if they're receiving food assistance.

Greg: How will accounting be done?

Jesse: Will need to be limited. We don't want that position to become an accounting issue.

Greg: Can't say that we've received $50 and mark it as if they had, since it will throw off an audit.

Ryan: If I'm doing double-entry accounting, then can be accounted, but right now I'm just doing cash accounting.

Greg: Want to make sure that we're legal and can pass an audit. I support what we're trying to do.

Jesse: We can set that up so that it's an accounting function of the food cooperative process.

??: Can give people credit for the food they bring.

Ryan: The way audits work is that they take samples of your accounting.

Jesse: If we're producing that number of meals, almost inevitably you'll go to the refrigerator and see that there's something missing.

Molly: We could have whoever is cooking discuss the menu with the menu planner if they want to change something ahead of time.

Jesse: That's one of the issues with having a commons kitchen. If you're going to open it up for the members' usage, can set aside things for the next meal. There will be shopping done throughout the week in addition to whatever is purchased for the week/month.

McAllen: What exactly are in-kind donations?

Hannah: Donations that are not money. Things that would be useful to the recipient.

William: U.S. dollars are not fungible with dollars according to the U.S. government. If someone donates a hose, not a good way to convert that to money.

Jesse: Do you know the number of individuals?

Hannah: Only one for sure right now. Can I go ahead and sign a contract with them for $400? I can type something up saying that they agree to donate $50 worth of food every month. They can sign an addendum.

Jesse: Should work. If it becomes a problem, then we revisit it. Legally we can't ask people to purchase things with their food stamps. Can ask them to contribute because it's a cooperative.

Proposal for labor holiday to prepare for bed bug treatment in 102 (Greg)

Greg: We have a guideline for preparation for treatment in an apartment that has bed bugs that has 22 bullets on it. All of this together is a huge amount of work. Tried to start this at the last minute the weekend before last, got a lot of people volunteering but wasn't going to be enough to get the whole thing done. I believe we need a labor holiday (a whole lot of labor done at once) to get this done. Will require someone to head up that particular project. I can't do it. To define the pieces of work that need to be done, look for people that can do them. Taking all the clothing out, taking it to the laundromat, putting it in the dryer for at least a half-hour so that larvae can be killed, and on and on and on. Things that Claude can't do himself. In preparation for the treatment of the room, which we've decided to do as a heat treatment and not as chemical. Part of the warranty of the heat treatment. We can't accommodate that. It's just as much work to do the chemical, and the only treatment that kills them in all stages as heat.

Jesse: Since I share a wall, will this affect me?

Greg: No. I thought we could put it together quickly. I think the reason it didn't take last time is that Claude has a lot of stuff in there. Could talk to him about selling/decluttering. Has things to work on his car that he probably won't use again.

Gatlin: Would like to try multiple things, but Claude is first priority. Would like to volunteer to do that. We live together, so should be easy. I'll make that my labor holiday priority and figure out what we can do.

James: I have a truck.

Greg: i think it needs to be done within the next two weeks.

??: A number of things you can do for things in his apartment that don't need to be treated.

Ryan: Will NP pay for this?

Greg: They should since it handles bed bugs.

Gatlin: As far as labor holiday, it's an unofficial thing that happens a lot. At other houses, it's part of the contract. If it's not part of ours, then I'll make it a vote at the next meeting.

What's the plan for the north end of the garden beds?

Greg: Kids have been taking clunks of dirt and throwing them all over. It's a real maintenance problem. This end of the garden is inviting for that kind of thing because there are no plants there now. Could get things in there so that it doesn't look like play things. Given that there's dirt that comes up lately, how are we going to get that up?

Gatlin: Could ask a friend what they think about that section of garden. Would solve that problem and be inter-cooperative.

Allow ornament project to be assembled

Hannah: I'm a big fan of weird public art stuff. Ryan and I were talking about doing some wheat pastement on the exterior walls and brick areas and fence. Want to do more. Inessential compared to air conditioning and bed bugs, but important to have fun. I think it encourages everyone else to have fun. Been doing this a while ago. A bunch of okra pods that went woody in my friend's garden. Make a little rattling noise. Want to hang them from the second-story balcony.

Molly: What about along the staircase? It's a little firmer, architecturally-speaking, and cool-looking as a promenade.

Hannah: The idea of kids is important to keep in mind. Looking for permission to put them somewhere. Would like a little bit of reign to experiment. Could also do them in here.

William: I don't like the idea of them being across any space where people would be moving in and out their furniture.

Hannah: Was thinking of strung them across the courtyard.

William: Sounds great.

Hannah: I spent a lot of time doing this because it was fun. If little hands rip them down eventually, whatever.

Proposal passes.

Discuss sliding-scale rent proposal (Ryan)

Ryan: Mentioned this in the past. Been doing other things. If we're going to do this, need to pass it at the next meeting. Also, should include in the proposal to state whatever legal residency requirements we might have, have to have a certain percentage below an income rate. Decide if we want to prioritize Section 8 or a number that we want. Looked up the MFi for Austin. If you're at 50% or below, would be good to keep you at the current level. People who are higher than that (up to 80-100) could be $850. Everyone above that could be $900. 50% for a single person = $25,650. 80% is $41,000. 100% for a 4-person is $76,000. 50% is $36000, 80% is $58,000.

William: When Victor and I talked about moving in together, we talked about how we would split the rent. Not opposed to the idea of changing our agreement, but our agreement seems beneficial to me. Taking a smaller space. I pay slightly less. The current lease that I've signed does hold that up. Is that not a feasible option? I don't know how long the lease I signed was.

Hannah: Twelve months.

Ryan: A lot of us are signed until June. I think that's a separate issue. Can make that a policy. Could be a specific amount for a small room or a big room and layer an income scale on that.

William: Sounds good.

Meghan: When are we going to have that figured out?

Ryan: Would like to vote next week. Will be hard for Hannah to sign contracts.

Greg: Surprised that we decided to have different pricing based on square footage of the rooms.

William: I just brought that up just now. This was between me and Victor. Victor and I both wanted the bigger room. I opted for the more economical and smaller room. Not a policy that I enacted.

Ryan: I don't care how much you pay as long as I receive $800 for the unit.

Molly: When Hillary and I first moved in, I offered to split the rent based on space. She said no because there's a lot of common space. I think that people should be able to decide on their own what the individual rent is. If we're going to do the income at certain levels, how do we do that with an apartment, if one person is at a different income level than the other person?

Ryan: They sign different leases. Ask everyone to tell us what their income level is, look at a chart, assign them the rent level.

Mathus: Pricing rooms differently based on square footage is a separate issue from progressively scaling based on income. Probably best to vote on those separately.

Meghan: Different people signing leases at different times. Will have some people with rooms priced differently. Should be uniform.

Ryan: If you have people who make a lot of income, like the progressive taxation argument. Also gives us the benefit of, if we have a certain threshold at the higher number, if HACA is cool with that, it's the number we get from the housing authority.

Molly: What about peoples' incomes who will not be at a specific stable level? I'm only working 4 days/week now but with the expectation of working 5 in the future.

Ryan: Will ask how much money you make once a year. Not sure if we're required to get proof.

Greg: I think Daniel said it's self-reporting.

Molly: If my income goes up over the next 12 months, I could come to you and say that my income has increased. I'd feel bad basing it on what I'm making right now.

Nolan: I had a lot in savings, and the IRS took all but $90. I would have gone down significantly. I'd hope we could go in the opposite direction.

Ryan: Would want to see some sort of proof, but could be possible.

Nolan: Would be no problem, but, if you self-disclose at a higher rate and suddenly are on hard times, then you're on the hook for an extra $600 over the course of the year.

Ryan: Should have a way to lower the rent in the proposal.

Hannah: Under the terms of our lease now, we can sign a new lease. 30 days notice has to be given. We're not obligated to sign a new lease, but can make a policy that, as long as it stays above the minimum threshold, can resign when circumstances change.

Mathus: With just asking people, only the non-lying rich people will pay the higher rate. What if people do drugs, or their parents give them money?

Ryan: Make the minimum amount something that's sustainable. If everyone discloses as below 50% mfi, we still need to be able to run the coop.

Molly: Instead of an income tax return, can start with last couple pay stubs.

Ryan: With Section 8, a good way to do it is to pick a specific number–5-10 units–and, if we're below that threshold, then anybody who's on it gets prioritized on the waitlist. Something similar to the ADA. They get a room first even if they show up later than someone who got approved earlier. I think that's how I'll propose it unless there's some sort of discussion.

Molly: Are we also going to have a certain number of units reserved for people with disabilities to go along with the original idea behind the coop, to prioritize disability access, too? How would that work?

Ryan: Not sure what the status is. Don't think we're certified as an ADA-compliant housing facility.

Molly: Are we going for that?

Ryan: Eventually. After we build out the kitchen and fix the electrical.

Z: Have a concern about stratification. The more types of memberships and levels that you end up having, the more you're going to have someone who has a conflict. I'd have a hard time being in a position where I have to self-disclose and pay higher rent and be bumped from the list because someone has more need but hasn't done the time/labor. The more types you have, the more likely it is that you'll have conflict between different types of members. Might be good to digest that level of membership before we add more stratification.

Ryan: Wouldn't define a kind of member. Would guarantee a higher level of diversity. We market to who we know. Not attracting Section 8 kind of people. We would like to attract people of different economic backgrounds. Already have a relationship with the housing authority.

Z: What about prisoners?

Ryan: We don't have a relationship with a prison. Not going to recommend because we're not set up to do right now.

Molly: In a country like Sweden, to analyze why they're so happy, people get similar services but pay different amounts. If we were doing differentials on rent here, would be a similar situation, to ensure that we can get the same high-quality stuff back. It's stratification barely. About ensuring equality of services rather than differences in rent.

Mathus: Over the last week, Sweden has had massive riots.

Molly: Denmark then.

Mathus: All three of the nordic countries were colonized by the Swedes. All of these countries have a vast contingent of people they're trying to help. Isn't working fast enough and causes problems. Good intentions can lead to unintended consequences.

Molly: Was quoting form a BBC piece; meant Holland, not Sweden.

Hannah: Unless someone makes an effort to write a big swath of policy peacemeal, coops work best when people write policy incrementally. These don't need to be discussed together. Can discuss prioritization of section 8 at another meeting.

Grounds coordinator

McAllen: Would like to create a position. If we utilize most of the garden space, needs to be managed closely. I for one can do that.

Hannah: Paul said he was interested.

Paul: Not sure that there would be enough hours per week to bring on other people. Not sure if it would be a full-time thing for me. Would also like to be maintenance coordinator.

McAllen: I don't know how many hours it will take. Can be flexible. Can be taken on by more than one person.

Nolan: Not necessarily opposed to this, but originally we talked about a committee-based system.

Paul: Seems like this is a sort of maintenance of the garden and plants. Any large decisions will be on a communal basis.

Molly: Was talking to Gatlin before the meeting. Said I didn't think we'd talked about grounds coordinators. Gatlin said that William was also interested. Sounds like we almost have a committee.

Hannah: A long time ago, I had an idea that we're talking about and would like to see us return to, and Gatlin is interested, and put it away in favor of an organizational system we know because we had so much transitional stuff to deal with, but would like to see us return to the idea of maintaining these domains by a committee with a committee coordinator. The elected coordinator would be a committee head whose job is to ensure that the committee is functionally. Only a failsafe; not supposed to be an executive. Could be a lot more time put into the gardens with a crew.

Jesse: Will post information on a structure this week. We've talked about the gardens. Excited because they're going to provide food. Planting tomatoes and peppers. There are so many things we could be doing. Cleaning the wind tunnel. Have no-parking zones at the self-facing wall. It's the hottest side of the building. At Pearl Street, they did something I suggested three years ago. They drilled brackets in the structure and had vines to provide green space and reduce the heat on the wall. I'd love to see grounds crew do things like that. Basil, tomatoes, and peppers keep pests away from one and another.

Z: I'm usually the last person to require a point person, but, if plants don't get watered, they die. Important to have a person to take responsibility. From that perspective, not having a joint position, and having a main groundskeeper and a vice groundskeeper would be the way to go.

Paul: There was still a particular officer.

Z: For once in my life, I'm going to say that having an officer is particularly important.

McAllen: Was talking to Molly a few days ago. Don't think she has a lot of garden expertise. We need a group of people who know how to garden, whether we lump that into the grounds crew or make it a separate committee, but I'll disagree with your comment that there should be a set of people who are responsible and competent to take care of a garden. However we want to do that, it's fine with me.

hannah: There can be specific responsibilities decided in a committee. Should be posted on the wiki for transparency. The idea is to maintain accountability but not limit peoples' willingness/enthusiasm. At other coops, was doing all I could but didn't have time to do everything I wanted to do. On a membership committee, I could talk and see who could do those things. Would like us to experiment with this hybrid committee system. The way we do things now is good but could be better.

McAllen: The duties of committees could be flexibly done by different people at different times. Would like to see some intensive gardening and permaculture projects. I think Jesse is on the same page with me.

Jesse: Committees are fluid. Members decide how they want to get the work done. For the larger coop's responsibility issues, there's one person who is the chair. Doesn't necessarily need to chair the meetings but still recognized by the coop.

McAllen: I want to make someone responsible for upkeep of the garden. If I need to postpone my proposal for the system to set that up, then that's fine.

Jesse: We do need a groundskeeper. It's still part of that structure. You can make your proposal to start the process. That person is still going to be responsible for the work however the structure is set up.

Proposal passes.

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