Eighth San José Human Services Commission Meeting

Tonight’s Human Services Commission meeting is the first one where I designed the agenda (privileges of being chair). The agenda is structured around our ad hoc committees, summarized above.* We’re talking about the Women’s Bill of Rights in San José, ending domestic violence, protecting the rights of people with disabilities, reporting on the needs of youth with disabilities who are justice-involved, protecting environmental sustainability rights, and protecting immigrants’ rights. It’s a big agenda, but we’re going to fly through it and if you’re interested in why, if you get excited by discussions of how to structure meetings and civic committee work, check-out the #Metas at the bottom of this post.

First Thing’s First: 

Right now our consent calendar includes approving the minutes from the last meeting. But! The minutes haven’t been posted anywhere. So, I’ll ask to remove it from consent and vote against it, since, you know, I can’t vote for something I didn’t read.

Report from the Chair

I’ll be reporting to the commission on 3 things:

  1. A review of who is on which ad hoc and see who wants to add themselves to some of the work
  2. An update on issues City Council is currently working on that overlap with our areas of expertise (some of which are highlighted here)
  3. A quick proposal of how to structure an ad hoc committee update (focus on asking for specific advice, connections, and feedback on upcoming pieces of the plan)

Monthly Letter to Council

In my Letter of Intent to run for chair, I highlighted 3 structural changes I would make as chair; one of them was sending a monthly letter to council updating them on our work, since I have have heard from staff, city council members, and my fellow commissioners that they don’t often see the recommendations we send. That sort-of defeats the purpose of having volunteer commissioners advising City Council on human rights policy, but rather than drag-on about the communication issues between the City Manager, council staff, commissions, and council members, I figured sending a one-page monthly update would be a nice mix of persistent and helpful.

Ad Hoc: Womens’ Bill of Rights

We’ll be reviewing my work-plan for the Women’s Bill of Rights ad hoc, which is our local implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). As regular readers know, this will focus on moving forward our CEDAW work in four areas:

  1. Ensuring there is an independent gender-based analysis of city departments, programs, and policies.
  2. Ensuring that analysis is fully-funded
  3. Helping city council pass an inclusive version of the bill
  4. Choosing which departments, programs, and policies undergo the gender analysis

I’ll ask my fellow commissioners for help and advice on the following:

  1. Feedback on the plan (timing, groups to do outreach to, etc)
  2. Community groups that might be interested in supporting the language, to help build momentum for passage

Ad Hoc: Ending Domestic Violence

In June of 2017, the Santa Clara County Blue-Ribbon Task Force produced a report on ending domestic violence in our county. Since 1 in 2 Santa Clara County residents is a San José resident, San José has an important role to play here. Our newest commissioner, Chris Demers, is chairing this important ad hoc, bringing experience in DC and internationally doing human rights work. The ad hoc will be producing a report in January on how the city is doing with implementing the recommendations of the report. I volunteered to help with this work and I’m excited to hear what feedback the other commissioners have for it.

Thoughts: This trick with this ad hoc will be getting stakeholder meetings; thankfully, I’m medium-good at getting people to sit-down for meetings, so I will get to use my scheduler-powers for good as a member of this committee.

Ad Hoc: Protecting the Rights of People with Disabilities

Here is the workplan for this ad hoc focusing on physical accessibility of city events and spaces. That is one of the issues I mentioned in my first application to be on the Human Services Commission, so I am thrilled it is the focus of this team’s good work.

Thoughts: Visual evidence might be very valuable for this ad hoc — I wonder if there are some photographers out there interested in making this into an accessibility series like on r/HostileArchitecture.

Ad Hoc: Protecting Environmental Sustainability Rights

A workplan wasn’t submitted for this ad hoc, so I am excited to hear how they are narrowing their scope and finding just the right angle to make some substantive community change here.

Thoughts: This is the topic I know the least about and I am pretty stoked to learn more and see how I can help.

Ad Hoc: Protecting Justice-Impacted Children’s Rights

I threw a report-writing kick-off dinner for this ad hoc, bringing together teachers, social workers, youth with disabilities, and parents over a dinner of salmon teriyaki and stir-fry, trying to dig into what kinds of needs each had seen in their communities and which kinds of interventions might be best. Here’s the workplan.

Thoughts: This is a huge topic impacting vulnerable young people, so a lot of care and compassion will need to go into the work.

Ad Hoc: Protecting Immigrants’Rights

This is my second ad hoc (here’s the workplan) and it involves writing a report on the last 9 months of testimony we’ve heard from staff, community members, service providers and lawyers on how Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)’s behavior is impacting our community. Two of us commissioners are also trained Rapid Responders and last month I attended a federal district court hearing in support of 10 men who ICE had moved in the dead-of-night from their detention facility in the East Bay as far away as Aurora, CO and Tacoma, WA. That case did not go the way we had hoped, but there is nothing to do but keep fighting.

Thoughts: I’m excited to learn from Commissioner Demers on this committee topic and to organize and present some of the powerful stories of ICE’s impact on our community to city council.

HSC 2017-18 Annual Report

The outgoing chair, commissioner Thomas Estrada, and I prepared this summary of the commissioner’s work in 2017-2018. A lot of good work got done and a lot of good work remains to be done.


#Meta on how to structure ad hoc committees

At the August meeting, I proposed that there were four kinds of ad hoc committee products:

  1. reports,
  2. advocacy,
  3. oversight, and
  4. events.

We ended-up with some of each of these; you can divine which by looking at the action verb at the beginning of each ad hoc’s goal, i.e. “Advocate for improving city vetting of external partnerships concerning environmental sustainability rights” vs “Report on how ICE actions have impaired communities and their access to city services.”

We’ll see how it works!

#Meta on why to structure a meeting this way: There are a lot of great articles on how to run effective meeting but they usually boil down to: know your audience, know your resources, know your goals, and know your outcomes. My fellow commissioners are busy professionals generously giving their time to help San José do a better job in serving all residents. Their time is a precious, and in fact our only, resource aside from staff time, and commissioners do the vast majority of their work for the commission outside of the commission’s monthly meeting, so structuring the meeting around how they use their time seemed best. Our goals are to implement our ad hocs, as approved by city council, with our outcome being a more just and inclusive San José. Thus, a standing agenda where every ad hoc chair gets the same amount of time is key.**


*These are draft ad hoc committees pending council approval, but we’ll move forward with them until we hear back.

**Our commission secretary, a member the San José City Manager Dave Sykes’s staff, changed the agenda to remove an item after I approved it, after some discussion with the Clerk’s office, and added an extra 10 minutes to my ad hoc’s time. I’m going to be removing it first thing in the meeting for fairness’s sake. As we work through the agenda-setting process, I’m hoping we’ll smooth out these bumps.

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