Sixth San José Human Services Commission Meeting

Tonight is my 6th San José Human Services Commission meeting. I came down a little early to write this at the noodle shop across the street from City Hall, so if you’re attending the meeting, come on by and help me finish this glorious pile of egg rolls.

Tonight’s agenda is a mix of moving forward the major issues we’ve been working on, including funding and properly implementing the Women’s Bill of Rights; protecting our community from how this administration is choosing to run our already-broken immigration system, with a special focus on ICE’s impact on children), new ideas, like leveraging the Neighborhoods Commission’s Quality of Life subcommittee to address how Law Enforcement treats and communities women in commercial sex in South San José); and process, defining the Work Plan for 2018-2019 and figuring out who will be Chair and Vice Chair next year. Below are my thoughts!

Women’s Bill of Rights Policy

This is my item. CORRECTION: A previous version of this post reflected my understanding of the current budget situation, but the news is actually a lot better! To avoid misinformation spinning out into the aether, I’ve updated the language to reflect what I know now.

  1. Funding: After the Human Services Commission recommended back in April that the City Council allocate $300,000 for a consultant to manage the gender analysis of city departments, programs, and policies, and Vice Mayor Carrasco asked for $150,000, the Mayor supported her request (page 8 of the pdf); according to staff from the City Manager’s office, that means the budget for an independent consultant will be real once council approves the budget!
    My thoughts: This is a huge win for women, non-binary people, and men in San José. A truly independent gender analysis will provide much-needed data on whether we’re investing equitable in women, non-binary people, and men in our community. I’m so proud of our commission and every community member who stepped-up to support this request. Budgets are statements of values and this shows a real commitment to this work.
  2. Inclusivity: Here’s the draft bill, based on this best-practice research! Feel free to leave comments if you have feedback. I’m hoping to get feedback from my fellow commissioners tonight, then at our August meeting (we don’t meet in July) to bring an item before the commission for the commission to recommend to city council they pass the amended version.

Presentation: Mental Health and Immigrant Children; Wilson Cheh, Uplift Family Services

Given how much the horrorshow of our immigration system’s impact on children has been in the news, the necessity of this presentation shouldn’t require too much explanation.

My thoughts: when I worked at Child Advocates — CASA of Silicon Valley, one of the mentor trainers was a nurse who wrote her master’s thesis on the positive impact CASAs can have on the mental health of children in the foster care system. One of the facts she had uncovered in her research that has stuck with me is that, in California, the act of removing a child from their parents results in a 2 year developmental delay. That may be in addition to any other delays caused by the trauma that caused social workers to step-in to remove them; but the removal itself, for any length of time, is in and of itself so severe a trauma a 4-year-old may begin acting like a 2-year-old, losing words, losing motor skills, losing hard-won emotional control. When children are removed from their parents because of how this administration is choosing to enforce federal immigration laws.

New Chair & Vice-Chair Selection Preparation for August

We’ll be having an election for chair and vice chair at the August election. As I’ve been learning as Vice Grand of the Mountain View OddFellows lodge when I stand-in for the Noble Grand (a position equivalent to the Chair of a Commission), Chairs get to be facilitators, time-minders, negotiators, follow-upers. It’s a vital part of the process and a serious responsibility.

Generate Annual Report Outline/Language

I’m excited to hear more about this — annual reports are a big way that commissions whose members rotate in-and-out can create continuity and build power for the communities they serve.

My thoughts: Perhaps it would be a good part of the onboarding process for future commissioners that they get to read a few years’ worth of past annual reports, to give them a sense of the flow of the work (I just read through the past year of minutes before joining the commission, but it’s not quite the same).

Preliminary FY 2018-19 Work Plan Discussion

This one item I’m also excited about! Work plans, agendas, minutes and vote-counts are the prep-work of democracy — like pre-heating the oven, laying out the mixing bowls and spices, reading the recipe twice, and cleaning the counters before baking a cake, they make the policy advising we do work properly. Here is our current work plan (approved by City Council). Below are some wish-list items I have for our 2018-2019 work plan:

  1. Topic: Protect Immigrant Communities
    Goal: Decrease the number of people being deported from San José and increase the real legal security of members of our immigrant communities.
    Details: Work to increase access to civil immigration legal aid in San José, support community social services relating to the needs to impacted communities, and raise community awareness outside of the immigrant community of the damage the current federal immigration system is doing to families and communities in our city.
  2. Topic: Women’s Bill of Rights Improvement and Implementation
    Goal: In the next year, an independent body will have conducted a gender analysis on 3 programs, policies, or departments that were recommended to city council by the commission, as required by the Women’s Bill of Rights.
    Details: Continue to work to ensure the gender analysis required under the Women’s Bill of Rights is funded and implemented independently; continue to work to improve the inclusivity of the language of the bill to ensure it considers the impact of ethnicity in the gender analysis, and that transgender and non-binary residents are counted.
  3. Topic: Law Enforcement and Community Interactions
    Goal: Meaningfully decrease the number of women in commercial sex picked-up in sweeps and increase access to services; ensure the Independent Police Auditor’s Office has more data on the gender and ethnicity of those involved in law enforcement interactions for their May 2019 Annual Report; ensure the San José City Council is informed and engaged on ensuring SJPD serves all residents faithfully and equitably.
    Details: Improve how human trafficking survivors and women in commercial sex are treated by the San José Police Department, in active collaboration with the Neighborhoods’ Commission’s Quality of Life subcommittee; support the Independent Police Auditor’s Office in their work to evaluate and improve SJPD, including seeking the kind of quantifiable data that will help systematically improve the department; monitor and highlight to city council issues around bias in policing in San José.
  4. Topic: Protecting the Human Rights of People Who Are Homeless
    Goal: Change the policies and practices that are preventing homeless people whose stuff is being taken during sweeps from getting it back; running 5 outreach events to residents who are homeless to help them get in contact with their city councilmembers with postcard writing/phone call sessions; advocate for increased access to affordable housing as a part of preserving the human rights of unhoused people.
    Details: Continue to work with the Housing Department on the policies and practices around the treatment of the property of homeless people; work with local service providers and visiting encampments to help elevate the voices of people most hurt by our lack of affordable housing in San José: our neighbors who are homeless; in active collaboration with the Housing and Community Development Commission, regularly advise City Council on how the housing crisis in our city is impacting the human rights of people how are homeless.

Work Plan/Ad hoc Final Reports

I tend toward grim-faced, steely-eyed determination when it comes to human rights issues, but my fellow Commissioners are teaching me the many ways that we can involve the community in the protection of our fundamental rights in a way that’s fun (and I’m talking actual fun, not my idea of fun, which involves rocks and/or committee reports).

Last month, Commissioner Thi Ly ran a freaking amazing Children’s Rights Showcase at the Seven Trees Community Center about a mile and a half from my house. I ran the face-painting table and 10 great organizations provided free services and gifts to the hundred-or-so children who attended with their families.

She’s going to tell the rest of the commission about it and I am so proud to have gotten to help out.

Collaborating with the Neighborhoods Commission

My councilmember hosted a cool event a few weeks ago, where all of the commissioners from the different commissions representing our district got together over snacks to talk about our experiences on the commissions.

One of the issues we all raised was that many of us have been told we’re not allowed to work on issues that may be in the wheelhouse of other commissions. We’ve faced this with working for the human rights of people who are homeless, as the Housing and Community Development Commission is the one supposed to focus on that issue in general (though I have, and will continue, to argue that the commission focused on human rights should have a voice there as well).

One way to not duplicate effort while avoiding stifling siloing is to be in regular, friendly conversation with our fellow commissions; this is another role a good Chair can fulfill.

To experiment and see if this is a good solution to this process problem, I asked us to write a letter to the Neighborhoods Commission on the issues which we’re both working on, to try to see what collaboration we can include in our work plans next year. As you can see in my proposed topics, we have a lot of work we could do together.

That’s it for now! I’ll post my notes after the meeting — hope to see you there!


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