Present: Russ, Jamie, Wanda, Lydia, Paul (minutes), Barak (facilitator), Bernard, Amanda, Jason, Burgess, Serene, Don, Gatlin
Nobody for Meet and Greet.
No wiki updates.
(Hannah) Introduce and Q&A with new CHEA Operations Manager Rachel Leonard
Barak (board member): Rachel was hired to serve the houses and bring their ideas to the CHEA board, and to help the CHEA board tackle its own projects. She's here listening.
Rachel: I'm from Michigan. I've lived in College Houses. I was on the board of College Houses for two years. I've traveled quite a bit - I've lived in Egypt, Korea, elsewhere - and keep ending up in co-ops in Austin. I've done contracts for tutoring in local schools. I'm excited to work with everyone.
Hannah (board member): The goal of this position, previously held by Natalie, is to make sure that the houses and the board are communicating smoothly, and ensuring good financial and other functioning.
Rachel: I also want to create more institutional memory as board members turn over and so forth. Making sure that both houses are interoperating well is a goal of mine as well.
Ryan (treasurer): We're a 501c(3) - a non-profit. To maintain that status we should be able to prove that we are providing affordable housing within the requirements of our non-profit status and now for our new loan. I talked to Daniel Miller (at NASCO Properties) and he suggests that we simply have people fill out the affidavits when people move in. If poor people move in and then they get higher income - the government doesn't care; that's a success story. We'd need to get the membership officers of both houses to start doing that. I did talk to La Reunion's membership officer - we have 5-6 affidavits already.
Rachel: I have the board records but not the membership lists of the individual houses.
CQ for Ryan: Can we access the results of the income survey we did through Travis County a few years ago?
Ryan: I do want to get away from doing this through surveys.
Rachel: On another note, maybe we could do the quarterly finance officers meeting more often, without the external bookkeeper.
Rachel: Do we have an official preferred vendors list? Maybe we can share with Sasona or get recommended vendors from other local cooperatives.
Maintenance: We have some go-to people for specific maintenance needs, but no.
Ryan: There's a new city ordinance that if you're deeply affordable you can do things like drop parking requirements, lose height limits, and other things that can prevent expansion. I think it was 70% of the residents of the building needs to be under 30% MFI. Something else to look into.
Barak: Hopefully one outcome of this meeting is that the membership of the co-op will not hesitate to talk to Rachel for anything she can help with.
Ryan: So our mailing address is Sasona, which is wise simply because it's easy (and a pain) to lose keys the way they're done here. So, reimbursement checks go to Sasona and they can take months to arrive and get dealt with.
Rachel: We talked about getting a PO Box downtown, between the two houses. I'd probably also have access to it.
CQ: We could look into getting a compost system through the city.
POI: It'd have to be a private contract; the city doesn't do compost pickup for “multi-family residential” like us.
POI: Roof stuff: We don't have a ladder, and we have to coordinate to get our ladder for maintenance. It's an energy-efficient white roof that needs regular cleaning or it just becomes … a roof. We haven't been doing that either.
(Robbie, Yarrow, Serene, Paul, Wanda, Bernard) Member review of Jason for:
Jason: I'm high-anxiety, and it's not better in front of a group of people, especially when they're judging me. So I'm going to be obviously nervous here. I spend more time with computers and books and not with people and it doesn't lead to good word choice. I'm also older and don't know as much about acceptable language. Where I grew up there was a generic term for people gone awry, and it was “gang-banger.” I thought it was race-neutral, or just didn't research it. The rule we were discussing at the time is simple and straightforward, and I think too much sometimes. I overthought the rule. Food wastage means a lot to me, since I grew up in rural spaces and received food charity growing up. I have a strong moral standard and moral code, and I didn't intend to cause problems. I feel a sense of duty to this community and I want to improve it and make it better. I heard gunshots the other morning and I might've made hyperbolic statements as a result. I usually write my ideas rather than communicating them in person, and I flubbed it.
Bernard: I was apprehensive when I first moved into the co-op, but it grew on me. No one's anxiety is an excuse to set judgement on others or say degrading things about others. If you feel that way you should keep those comments to yourself. I've seen a lot here. No one has used that kind of language here where I've heard it, until you did. The issue isn't about wasting food; I grew up poor too. The issue is your offensive language declaring a judgement about people you know nothing about. You were upset that people “didn't let you finish” but I was glad when Richard stopped you, because your language was rubbing me wrong and agitating me. This cooperative is for all kinds of different people with different background and struggles. I felt like you didn't care about other people here when you made those statements. Those rules were in place when I got here, and they'll be here after I leave.
Amanda: I'm here as a character witness for Jason. I've lived with him and he's not xenophobic. He didn't intend harm. I“ve witnessed Jason's actions and words and he's not a racist.
Richard: The xenophobic part was Jason, in the heat of an argument, telling Vaidy to “go back to India.” I don't think that's an acceptable thing to say no matter how upset you are.
Jamie: I appreciate you coming out here and being willing to discuss this. It's not about how useful you are - you are useful - it's about your sensitivities to how other people are going to receive it.
Jason: I plan to do a lot of self-censorship. When every interaction is a potential land-mine, why chance it? As far as “gang-banger” goes, my go-to example was the blond fellow with the offensive language about our cooperative on his rear windshield.
Wanda: I can tell you're regretful. It's not about where the line is, it's about how you interact and think about others. Self-censorship is not you changing that. When you think in a certain way, people can feel it.
Burgess: When someone has an accident, the accident must be acknowledged, and the person at fault must admit it and apologize.
Jason: I do apologize. I definitely could've used calmer words to describe how fruit helps kids. I didn't mean to provoke anyone.
Bernard: The fellow with the offensive language on his rear windshield has nothing to do with this situation. When you say things like this in public I have to wonder what you're saying and thinking behind closed doors. You have to think about the way your words will be interpreted. There's no age-based excuse here. There's no “I heard gunshots” excuse here. These words are placed on people to degrade them or make them less like people.
Barak: I wasn't present for these incidents. I appreciate the regret expressed. I don't think you hate people here. I think you do contribute to the cooperative. Here's some advice: if you are in this situation, surrender and apologize immediately. Don't deflect, like I've seen you do in this meeting.
Amanda: I'm trying to imagine a behavior contract for this behavior that's not purely subjective. He messed up; he said he was sorry; let it go.
Russ: I'm glad we have zero tolerance for hate speech here. We're all survivors of the dominant community that has harmed us in many ways. I've also lived with Jason. He was an exemplary roommate. Nobody's perfect, and I think that being a multi-dimensional person, he needs to recognize how we feel about certain word choices. This is a sanctuary, and what we do to protect it is important. I don't want to see Jason lose his housing here. It's important to me that Jason has apologized.
Rachel: I'm not a member and don't want to pass judgement, but someone asked how we could work on behavior.
Serene: I think you are a bigot. Your attempts to dance around it here have not impressed me. I don't feel comfortable around you. The things that come out of of your mouth represent what's in your heart.
Jason: About the Vaidy thing: he was talking about leaving the country and cooperative, so it was in my head.
<Jason leaves so we can discuss whether to do nothing, ask for a behavior contract, or have an eviction vote.>
Amanda: Y'all are upset about words. He's apologized for using those words, because he didn't understand they were offensive. He won't use them again.
Richard: He said we just have to rely on his self-censorship. I don't see that we have to wait for that.
Bernard: I agree with Serene. I didn't see remorse from Jason; I saw him saying what he needs to say for this review. What happens when he uses a new, different racial slang?
Russ: If it came to it, a behavioral contract for racial slang could be used, as a compromise.
Wanda: It just doesn't seem like he's made an effort at conflict resolution, at understanding what he did wrong and why it was wrong. I'm open to a behavioral contract, but it's not the cooperative's duty to educate.
Amanda: I want to ask how we explicitly define the list of things Jason isn't allowed to say. I don't understand what's acceptable and what isn't. I don't see the harm or the violence involved.
Serene: I think Jason will say anything; he's plastic. I think how he tried to justify what he said to Vaidy is crazy.
Barak: I think Jason didn't take my advice. I think he continued to deflect.
Richard: I think it's notable that the people advocating for leniency are people not personally affected by it.
Russ: I feel like Jason sometimes doesn't connect his emotional self to his logical self, and says things he shouldn't.
Amanda: I've been offended by things Jason has said before. We talked about it. We argued about it, sometimes. We came to an understanding. We're still close. I don't consider language to be physical harm.
Bernard: Given that he's said the things he's said, how would leniency prevent him from saying those things, or new terms?
Straw poll for no action / behavioral contract / eviction - 1/7/8
Eviction under discussion.
Don: Everyone deserves a second chance.
Amanda: I can't sleep or eat without him. I don't live alone; not anymore.
Barak: Amanda's situation is also affected here, so that must be factored in as well.
Gatlin: I was looking to see learning here. I did hear people asking, “what's the harm” and also apologies. I don't think anyone should necessarily lose housing over this, but it was pretty bad.
Russ: I think it was insensitive language; I don't think it was hate language. It wasn't directed at members of the cooperative, except for Vaidy, and that was said in anger.
Serene: I'm tired of making excuses for racist language. I think the behavioral contract will be a long time to craft and possibly not even work.
Paper ballot voting.
Eviction does not pass; behavioral contract discussion.
Suggested behavioral contract rules:
1) No making racist, violent, or xenophobic comments in public spaces or towards other members.
2) Do not willfully ignore house rules intended to ensure member safety and accessibility.
Both rules pass.
Behavioral contract to last one year or end of lease, whichever is longer.
Behavioral contract length passes.
Behavior contract approved.
No new business.