NENA no more?

2012-nbnye-ad2-clr copyBY ED FELIEN

“My goal is to cut government in half in 25 years, to get it down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub.” –Grover Norquist
Is that what happened to the Nokomis East Neighborhood Association?  Did some right-wing ideologues drown NENA in the bathtub?
At its Thursday, Oct.23, board meeting, six board members decided to fire the staff.  There was no prior notice sent to all members.  The item was not on the agenda, but a motion was raised at the end of the meeting on a point of personal privilege.
The NENA website announced:  “As of 10 p.m. Oct. 23 there will no longer be any NENA staff. This website will no longer be updated (a staff function) and calls and email to staff will not be answered.
“We apologize for any inconvenience the board’s decision may cause you. If you need to get hold of NENA, please email the board chair, Kent Knopp-Schwyn: [email protected]
“It has been our honor and pleasure to serve the Nokomis East Neighborhoods for the past 15 years.
“Thank you and Farewell! –Doug Walter and Rita Ulrich”
Attempts to reach Kent Knopp-Schwyn have been unsuccessful.  There has been no public explanation of why such a drastic action was taken so abruptly.
NENA has a citywide reputation as a successful and well-run neighborhood organization.  The Minneapolis Monarch Festival and the Night Before New Year’s Eve are widely appreciated community celebrations.
In commenting on the coup in the Nokomis Issues List, Cheryl Luger (in her very personal style of punctuation and capitalization) said, “do you know why the +10 year old annual meeting skipped the gratis fat Lorenzo’s buffet, replacing it with a few cookies? cuz it drew neighbors together for the ‘WRONG’ reasons…food and camaderie.  lord save us from the puritans.  neighborhood participation in community building at these FAMILY- oriented dinners (which also showed appreciation with donated items/prizes  by businesses and community recognition awards) dropped from +150-200 to under 30 or so (I was told) this year.”
At a board meeting a week after the firing of staff, Lisa Dunn reported, “When the meeting started, the board chair, Kent Knopp-Shwynn, announced that the meeting agenda included only those items to move the organization forward. There would be no other discussion. A few moments later City Council Member Andrew Johnson leaned into the table and handed Chairperson Knopp-Shwynn paper to distribute, and Chair Knopp-Shwynn said, ‘No, I made an announcement, we are not talking about that.’  This was very disappointing because ‘that’ was exactly why my husband and I went to the meeting.”
Council Member Andrew Johnson made the following statement to Southside Pride:  “NENA is primarily funded by the city, so we will certainly be reviewing this to make sure such a huge decision was handled properly. But they are also an independent non-profit organization, so at the end of the day, as long as they’re following the law, staff decisions rest with the board. The organization will clearly be facing a big transition in the coming months, and we have already reached out to offer support. I would encourage residents to be involved in helping shape the future of the Nokomis-East Neighborhood Association as it is being rebuilt.”
Most comments on the Nokomis List have been very supportive of the staff and very critical of the firing and deliberate collapse of the organization.
Doug Walter expressed his frustration:  “Yes it is demoralizing to be treated like petty criminals or faceless, laid off employees at some Fortune 500 corporation.
“I keep getting asked why, after almost two weeks, the board’s remaining executives have yet to explain their action to the residents and businesses they are supposed to represent. I can’t answer that beyond speculation at this point.  There were no reasons, logic or proof of our ‘inability to successfully serve the neighborhood,’ discussed that night.  None, even when some board members asked.  One would assume that those reasons were already in place before the motion was presented.”
The older we get the more we appreciate just how fragile the connections are between us and the people we love.  And we never think about the connections between us and our communities.  A death in the family teaches us quickly how vulnerable we are.
NENA will most certainly survive this traumatic shock.  It will most certainly be rebuilt.  There are just too many good people who want that to happen, and, hopefully, next time we won’t take it for granted and let it get drowned in a bathtub.

Adopted by the NENA Board on Nov. 6, 2014
The Nokomis East Neighborhood Association (NENA) is making a change in administrative leadership because, despite significant effort over several months, the board has been unable to rebuild and maintain a positive working relationship with existing staff. The board has regretfully concluded that a change in NENA’s day-to-day management was necessary.
Board members and current staff will be responding to email, phone messages and walk-in traffic, until NENA can hire an interim director to reorganize and manage day-to-day operations. We regret any delays and inconveniences this may cause.
The board will meet next on Nov. 13 and 20, both Thursdays, in the Keewaydin School lunchroom, from 7 to 9 p.m. As usual, the public is invited to attend.

One Comment:

  1. Amazing, just amazing. Those two staff people were the real heart and soul of NENA. What actually made NENA and kept the organization viable and respected throughout Minneapolis. Clearly something is smelly about this thing. Something this momentous certainly should have been noticed and brought before a neighborhood wide meeting.

    It is the reason all neighborhood organizations should have in there by-laws that all such decisions other than day to day operations require a neighborhood wide notice and vote to pass major organizational decisions. Small clicks really can take over and destroy a Neighborhood Organization. Examples are what occurred in Phillips, (a couple of attempts on Ventura Village) Central, and several other Neighborhood organizations. The removal of actual “Citizen Participation”.

    Such a decision without neighborhood wide notice should be grounds and cause for a reorganization meeting and vote to remove the sitting Board and elect a new Board. And to fix their by-laws so this would not happen so easily again. Clearly this on its face was a pre-planned and seemingly underhanded move. And should never have been done to two people who have given so much to the NENA community and to Minneapolis as a whole.

    Jim Graham

Comments are closed