Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Invest in Neighborhoods wins NSP contract

The City of Cincinnati has selected Invest in Neighborhoods to disburse Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP) funds for 2009, and is currently working out a contract.

The selection is not without controversy.

In June, several of Invest's board members named Rick Dieringer as the permanent executive director of the non-profit, a move that 10 of the 17 board members didn't agree with.

Seven members were thrown off the board and were replaced at the next meeting, and several others resigned in protest.

A few of the ousted members contacted City council and city manager Milton Dohoney Jr. asking them to consider the turmoil within Invest when awarding the 2009 contract.

Proposals for the new contract were submitted by Invest in Neighborhoods, the Community Building Institute, Madisonville Weed and Seed, Roots, LEVERAG Industries, and Cincinnati CAN DO.

Following a comprehensive review, a selection committee recommended awarding the 2009 NSP contract to Invest in Neighborhoods based on their detailed plan of action, knowledge of the community and community councils, experience with City government, budget, and expertise and ability to secure funding for large community events, such as the Neighborhood Summit.

In a communication to council, Dohoney says that the Community Building Institute and Madisonville Weed and Seed were a close second.

"The Community Building Institute’s proposal responded specifically to the training component of the Neighborhood Support Program with less emphasis on the NSP Grant Administration component," he says. "Additionally, the proposed budget was not as competitive and exceeded the available funds for the program."

Dohoney added that, although Madisonville Weed and Seed had a very thorough response and a competitive budget, the non-profit's experience and mission was too heavily focused in Madisonville.

The selection committee didn't interview Invest in Neighborhoods as part of the bidding process, as they have experience in administering NSP, including this past year.

"Since there is a prior relationship with Invest in Neighborhoods and we are familiar with their previous capacity to administer City funds, the committee believed that an interview wasn't necessary," Dohoney says. "However, due to some
community concerns and board issues that have been reported to the Administration and Council, the Selection Committee recommended that the managing board of IIN be required to attend formal board training."

One ousted board member was not pleased to hear that the City chose Invest, and she let her feelings be known in an e-mail to council.

"This extension to Invest will prolong an organization that does not serve the community well or represent the City in a positive light," she says. "Invest will continue to work in an exclusionary atmosphere and simply extinguish its dissenters (women members). Current leaders may call it reorganization, but I call it solidification of the Rick Derringer coalition."

The former board member says that the City would get more bang for its buck by putting NSP funding into the City's general fund, though such a move is not allowed under the program.

"This City will continue to get less for its investment and discourage future competition as long as it refuses to take a chance on something new," she says. "Sorry, the City has lost a great opportunity on this one."

Dohoney says that formal board training will be part of the contract negotiations, which are expected to conclude by January 1.

The former board member, who has non-profit experience serving at the neighborhood level, says that she's through with it.

"I am glad that it is over for the six of us who, by your own recognition, were inappropriately dismissed from the board of trustees of Invest last June," she says. "We have moved on, but I have no encouragement to support City government. It is people like me, who work hard and put in an honest effort, who get shafted by the process or 'politics as usual' and lip-service to our concerns."

Previous reading on BC:
Kamuf: Look into Invest in Neighborhoods turmoil (11/5/08)
Invest in Neighborhoods under scrutiny, NSP out for bid (9/10/08)
Former Invest in Neighborhoods board member says agency 'hiding more than they're telling' (8/8/08)