For Austin: Deputy Mayor for Philanthropy and Social Sector services

June 23, 2009 § 20 Comments

David_DavenportFrom David Davenport
President and CEO

Fifteen months ago, I moved to Austin to take over the reigns of Capital Area Food Bank. Topping my list of reasons for making the move from Houston was the quality and capabilities of the staff and the strength of the organization built by my predecessor Judy Carter. Also factoring into the important thought process was my desire to live and work in a city that strives to be the most livable city in country. Any city with such a stated vision is worth a serious look.

Austin’s core values and culture of innovation coupled with a commitment to a high quality of life makes our community unique among Texas cities and cities across our country. But with all our greenness, quirkiness, uniqueness and weirdness we must still face the important and painful reality that the quality of life embraced so strongly here in Austin does not extend to all our city’s residents. Not even close.

austintxrealestate_small

Source: Austin TX Homes

At a candidate forum sponsored by the Austin Area Human Service Association (AAHSA) then Mayoral candidate Lee Leffingwell seemed to “get it”. He made it clear that even in difficult times the city would stay committed to maintaining funding for key human service organizations providing critical programs and services to our neighbors in need. I applaud that stated commitment. I recognize these are challenging times and governmental budgets are tight (like those of organizations like CAFB) but I feel the need to come forward with a bold proposal that I hope our new Mayor will embrace.

Austin needs a Deputy Mayor for Philanthropy and Social Sector services.

This critically important position would strategically coordinate the resources of our great community to achieve an improved quality of life for all our city’s residents. Nearly as important, Austin will once again set the example by being the model for other cities to follow. 

There’s nothing weird about it – it‘s just good business.

Let’s take this important step together as a community. Let’s get to work extending the quality of life that so many of us enjoy to all our residents. Let’s be innovative, gutsy, creative, committed and inclusive. Let’s live our values and make the vision of a livable city for all a reality.

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§ 20 Responses to For Austin: Deputy Mayor for Philanthropy and Social Sector services

  • I’m an outsider to the philanthropy world, but in almost every discussion I’ve heard or meeting I’ve attended, there seems to be a running theme: The people who work day in and day out in the social and nonprofit sectors do not have a shared communication and collaboration tool. They do not have a single office or leader to turn to for direction and dissemination of information. They don’t have someone who will speak up for them and their cause.

    Other organizations have tried to fill this role, but the competition to be “the leader” or “the voice” of the philanthropic community always defeats the effort. To have the city appoint an office to fill this role would push the philanthropic community years into the future. Think of what could be accomplished if there were an effective official in charge of pulling together resources to accomplish our goals.

    The fact is, the problems in Austin are bigger than any single nonprofit or collaboration. CAFB is a great example of a single nonprofit that makes collaboration a part of their mission, but that mentality needs to permeate every agency and nonprofit, and a higher entity – like a Deputy Mayor for Philanthropy and Social Sector Services – can help make sure that happens.

  • Mike says:

    To CAFB:

    I posted two comments that were constructive thoughts about this blog and you redacted both of them. Deleting messages that do not agree with you, is controlled media, controlled information, and is Pravda like from the 20th century Stalinist regime. Blogs and commentaries are public forums and messages should not be deleted unless they break the law. No law violations here.

    To the Blogger David:

    Your blog is not insightful nor bold. It has been a point of disputation for the last 100 years ever since Das Kapital was penned. Same old argument. David ran for state congress also, as a republican, but appears to be a screaming Democrat. Chameleon? Demogogue? No…both!

    • Mike

      For the record, I asked our staff to delete your post as a courtesy to you. Das Kapital was a book written by Karl Marx 142 years ago and the idea of a single staff person working for the Mayor of a city like Austin to coordinate private philanthropy to address key issues is not in the book,

      I did run for state representative for district 127 (Houston) in the GOP primary. I did not run for “state congress” – my reason for running was simple, my state representative was ignoring the issues of children. I wanted to change the debate (and I did). As for the other adjectives you use in your post, well, I will let the readers decide for themselves. Thanks for your thoughts.

      David

  • Mike says:

    David,

    Obviously, I know who penned Das Kapital, and did not need Columbia Encyclopedic references. You have missed the greater point. No argument here that the specifics of your blog did not contain specific Marxian enumerations, but instead, the philosophy or the merging infrastructure of private and public.

    The disputation is always…”but that is not happening, no socialism here.” But it never stops. When does it stop???

    Cali…fornia will most likely end up bankrupt, along with the uncountable towns, counties, and cities in that land mass over the next several months. In this economic crises, many more local, state, and national governments will fall into the abyss over the next months and years. Many in the U.S.

    The madness has to stop. We have to stop asking and mandating our governments to fix things before too many bad things happen. I capitulate, and embrace Keynsian government involvement when the Invisible hand is too invisible. But even there a line in the sand must be drawn. I also capitulate, that non-profits are tested and stretched at this time, and they are so, too important to our infrastructure. No solution from me on that – don’t have one – wished I did.

    But there are no magic bullets to fix everything, despite Pennsylvania Avenue’s claims. The U.S. is up a creek, and it will be hard, but if strict discipline is imposed, we might finally rank a close second to Brokaw’s Greatest Generation.

    Until that time, say our prayers, and brothers and sisters help brothers and sisters.

    • Mike –

      I am suggesting that the social sector is the solution to some of the great challenges our community faces. By facilitating private contributions to non-profit organizations that are making a difference in our community, the government can better focus tax dollars to needed governmental services (and away from duplicating services provided by non-profit organizations). An innovative Mayor (like Lee Leffingwell) will also find a way to fund this position with private dollars and not tax dollars.
      Not sure where the “socialist” thing is coming from but I see this as good business for a community like Austin. I appreciate and honor opposing viewpoints presented in an appropriate fashion.

      David

  • Mike says:

    So the claim is made to fund the position with private dollars. A piece de resistance not included in the original blog entry; conveniently added post facto.

    Well problem solved. Private dollars funding the position, so it is a private position, thus, no government title as Deputy Mayor. Certainly, political bully pulpits can elevate involvement in non profits, and no doubt that these pulpits could be louder. But keep them separate.

    Cali is now going to write IOU’s for all bills owed that are not due mandated by law or their Constitution. A good example how not to confuse and merge private and public enterprises. Lets keep Texas safe from this inerrant direction so we do not have to write IOU’s in the future and file bankruptcy.

  • A Friend says:

    Hi Mike. I think David’s idea for a Deputy Mayor for Philanthropy and Social Sector services is a great idea. But it’s just an idea for now and I’m sure the fine details haven’t been hashed out yet. I have to ask why you are so opposed to this idea? And if the idea comes to frution and is funded by private dollars, how do you know that there would be no government title? You don’t. And who says you can’t fund public initiaties with private dollars without oversight? The City of Austin has in the past solicited private funding for some public initiatives, the Great Streets program is one that comes to mind. Whether or not David’s idea goes anywhere is anyone’s guess right now. But ideas are what we need right now. And David has some good ones. So let’s be positive and try to be “innovative, gutsy, creative, committed and inclusive.” That’s the only way to achieve much-needed change.

  • Mike says:

    Yes, innovative, gutsy, and creative ideas are needed. But this is not one – just another “putting lipstick on the pig”. The same old myopic transmittable disease of ideas of merging private and public. They fail – ie. Amtrak, U.S. post office, TALF – the list goes on.

    Our country is in dire need of innovation, and more so than is known in the “normal” public domain. Cassandra’s have sang for two decades that our U.S debt would catch up with us. They were relegated as the boy who cried wolf. Now China, Russia, India, and Brazil are working behind the scenes to replace the U.S dollar as the world reserve currency. Things are happening in emerging markets to make this happen. It was not possible when they were third world countries. But it is when they are second world, and on the brink of first world status.

    Combine that with the fact that the one primary difference today that makes all the difference – We are now a huge debtor nation – we used to be the creditor nation to the whole world.

    In the early 1800’s, migrations took place to England because that was where the money was. In the early 1900’s, migrations took place to the U.S because that was where the money was. It is now 2000’s, and since migrations happen electronically now, it is occurring to Asia – China, Singapore, Indonesia. That is where the money is.

    When capital moves, economies suffer greatly. Nobody ever says, he lets go to the debtor nations – Nope, follow the money. Great consequences for the U.S.

    So no, merging private and public not a good idea. Too many greater problems to solve. Do not need an end run around the vox populi and the four corners law of state, and U.S constitutions.

    • A Friend says:

      I obviously disagree with your statement “So no, merging private and public not a good idea. Too many greater problems to solve.” What greater problems can there be than our inability to provide food, decent shelter, clothing and medical care to our citizens? I think the basic needs are a fundamental right for everyone, and I believe that we can make great progress towards solving these problems with new, innovative ideas and strong leadership to help bring these ideas to frution.

  • Mike says:

    I agree with , “What greater problems can there be than our inability to provide food, decent shelter, clothing and medical care to our citizens?”

    That is a different debate. Contract law of our Constitutions does not provide that by the state, nor does it provide for merging of private and public enterprises.

    Now if the Constitution is changed, then that is a different story. Will take a war for that to happen.

  • A Friend says:

    Mmmmm…. Nevermind. Can’t argue with a Constitutional law expert.

  • A Friend, Mike is hardly a Constitutional expert.

    Mike, the US Constitution does not prohibit public/private partnerships either nor has the Supreme Court denied the United States from forming public/private partnerships for the greater good. The Constitution didn’t specifically allow for the Space Program, the GI Bill and the multitude of government/private sector partnerships that allowed for victory in WWII – yet here we are.

    Now back to Austin, Texas and a chance for our great city to better facilitate private philanthropic funding for social good. I know to some that may sound like Amtrak – to me it sounds like social sector, private sector and public sector working together to shape a better community.

    Something that works in Austin.

    • A Friend says:

      David, How does one signify snark in a comment on this board? lol Sounds to me like Mike thinks he’s an expert….in everything! That’s why you can’t have a rational discussion with him, he won’t listen to reason and has already made his mind up about this topic. For me, I will continue working towards a better Austin, a better world. Peace.

  • Mike says:

    David and Friend,

    You keep changing the debate. I agree with you David on the partnerships on your last entry.

    You did not propose a partnership. You proposed an actual government position – “Deputy Mayor.” Two different things.

    David – you have added after the fact again, to your blog entry that it is now a partnership. If your complete proposal is a partnership funded by private dollars, then great idea.

    That is not what you proposed. I have a great idea. Make another blog entry and introduce a partnership funded with private dollars. Then I will go to the comment section, and get 50 other people also, and we will all enter what a great idea it is.

  • In response to: “You did not propose a partnership.”

    Philanthropy is private giving; the social sector is made up of private non-profit organizations. This position would strategically coordinate the city, private philanthropy and the social sector to meet critical needs for the benefit of the community.

    That was in my original post. If I were Mayor I’d press to create the position and I would fund it with private dollars. I am not the Mayor and frankly coordination of philanthropy and services would save millions in our community.

    Even if paid for with tax dollars this has solid ROI.

  • Mike says:

    This has not been a semantic argument of saying tomayto or tomauto. Whether you say the former or the latter, I have agreed, and still agree if your version of tomato is on the merits brought forth on the necessary, and beneficial elements of philanthropy and non-profit social giving organizations.

    But this has been a disputation on the merits of your blog proposal as set forth as follows:

    Government position – Deputy Mayor
    Funded by tax dollars.

    Proposal morphed into – Deputy Mayor or partnership funded by either tax dollars or private dollars.

    More than likely, if this proposal is attempted as a government position (Deputy Mayor or whatever name), it may get attention, but will ultimately face the same fate as HB1622.
    Primarily because whether openly, or behind closed doors, the powerful money private business sector leaders will not support it for all the reasons I have posited in previous posts in this commentary.

    Same fate even if funded with private funds. Those same kingmakers will make sure that a government position is not going to happen.

    The best fate for this proposal, is a private position, funded by private dollars, partnered with government, and the only inextricable ties may be grants.

  • Thank you for the opportunity to respond.

    As a caveat, my participation in this conversation is to help foster a solution. After all, time is the new currency, and I would not invest my time when responding if I did not believe I could add value and insight. My intent is in no way political in the pejorative/connotative sense of the word despite covering subjects and concepts that are political, historical [albeit interpretive] and economic in nature. Should I employ denotative political language and rationale, I am writing from Laswell’s definition of the subject, “who gets what, when, where, how and why.” Also, reading over the discussion to date, there are many assumptions held by the respective parties. I humbly ask no assumptions be made on my behalf, as to what one believes to be my political or economic perspective, or with regards to my communication style; should this response warrant clarification, please just ask and I will commit to responding as soon as I can. In this initial response, I will address my direct response to the proposal only because said proposal is the nexus of the Big Issues and challenges and gets to the heart of how we as individuals define things. In subsequent responses, I will attempt to propose an alternative solution. One final note: David and Lisa Goddard clarified points of the proposal on Twitter; when asked if the proposed Deputy Mayor position be vested or honorary, both David and Lisa responded in the former and went further to say the position would be funded through private donation.

    I do not assume or presuppose David’s reasoning and subsequent impetus to write, but if I were standing in David’s shoes (thankfully we wear close to the same size, I think,) as the Capital Area Food Bank CEO, I would survey the landscape and observe that one of my many challenges, in addition to overseeing operations, supply chain management, and legislative advocacy, is to directly “compete” for mindshare, donations, resources, etc. with/against other worthy causes, for-benefits, and non-profits. And while I would concede that no cause is unworthy of social and communitarian investment/action, I believe that nourishing the underprivileged, blossoming population of Central Texas is a top priority. I would reason, that sustained access to food and potable water comes before addressing other issues within the community because air, water and sustenance are the base of the needs hierarchy, thus first and foremost. I would want a designated authority to prioritize the allocation of resources towards the remedy to functional problems that are a direct result of abject poverty. I would want this enjoined and codified into a legal compact to ensure basic needs are met before secondary and tertiary needs are addressed…because without solving primary functional issues, it exacerbates the secondary and tertiary functional issues, thousand-fold. I might then propose that my initiative is precedent to many, if not all, in Central Texas, generally, Austin, specifically.

    David, whereas I agree with the objective and aim that you propose (and it is a noble one,) I disagree with the application, in this case the creation of a Deputy Mayor of Philanthropy and Social Sector Services within city government. My reasoning follows:

    1) Philanthropy, by its very nature, is antithetical to government; philanthropy is defined as a voluntary, private gift to promote human welfare with no expectation of return. By definition, government is not a private legal entity/vehicle, requires involuntary (despite that it is often inherited) participation, and is not designed to promote human welfare, only defend it.

    2)The establishment of a privately funded position within municipal government presents a conflict of interest. While I believe privately funded compensation for the proposed public position would mitigate if not silence opposition to the appropriation of tax dollars, this policy is a slippery slope that gives rise to inequitable access and/or endorsement to and for private donors, at best, and bribery, at worst. And while I believe your heart is in the right place, David, on its face, this is not equitable, nor sustainable. However, in the context of the American political tradition, there is legal precedent for your proposal dating back as early as the 19th century: “many local, state and even federal departments may accept and expend grants and private donations from any source, including federal, state, public and private entities, to assist it to carry out functions.” Personally, (again, my opinion) these policies are fraught with entanglements and further blur the lines between that which is purely private and that which is purely public–a dichotomy at the heart of sovereignty. Additionally, it further promulgates encroaching government presence in the lives, businesses, and interests of private citizens, and though this might be seductive to some, I prefer my time, energy and resources be the vehicle of MY will and as an extension of my values. This is my birth right. Frankly, I take offense to the mere inference of another individual, entity and/or instrument (be them private or public) designating appropriations of resources for which I worked hard.

    3) Over the course of the last 100 years, the municipal reform movement initiated during the progressive era succeeded throughout the US in establishing local government monopoly in the provision of “urban” services (inclusive of social sector services). Competitive markets in services gave way to municipal bureaucracies, departments and service offices. It’s no surprise these reforms have resulted in unresponsive and inefficient service delivery systems–the cost of the personnel and the system far outweighs the cost to actually deliver the service/remedy of the functional problem the monies were allocated to solve in the first place. And despite the platitudes and promises of progressive reformers, the same functional issues remain, no closer to being solved than the day before the reforms were enacted. Civil service reforms and now the advent of public employee unions have exacerbated the situation by vesting public employees with monopoly power. In recent years the monetary costs of municipally-provided services have increased more rapidly than costs in any sector of the private economy (save construction), yet the quality of these services has not improved. The quality of many services, notably education, medical services, policing, etc. has deteriorated. With municipal taxes soaring, the majority of Austinites feel (not without justification) that they are not getting their money’s worth. Much of the same is true througout the US, if not the world. Poor service at high cost is not the only burden; even as we continue to bear the excessive cost of monopoly municipal services, Austin residents at irregular intervals are subjected to sudden service shutdowns and/or arbitrary and capricious policy changes. I gleaned this when reading of City Manager Ott’s budgetary cuts on services that many honorable, hard-working Austinites have come to depend on. Further one finds public employees enjoying monopoly power will occasionally exhibit that power to secure gains for themselves (and without naming names, one only need read headlines over the course of the last 20 years to understand both the theoretical and empirical proof.)

    Before closing, (and please believe me when I write) you (Dave) , as told second-hand having come to understand your story, have defied insanely bad odds. As one man of God to another, though I cannot provide empirical proof for it, you are around for a reason that extends far beyond a servant’s heart and loving devotion to your family, alone. Though I do not pretend to know THAT Will, my intuition tells me something is working on you to achieve this objective as your life’s work. I simply believe that in the proposed application towards said objective, you are misdirected.

    I look forward to your positive response and continued acquaintance.

    Towards creative fidelity,
    Jason Stoddard

    • Jason –

      Thank you for the kind words. I appreciate your thoughtful comments and feedback on my proposal.

      A few key points I wish to make.

      First, the belief that private philanthropy is antithetical to government clearly missed the fact that some of the largest private giving campaigns in our state’s history were done by governmental agencies. Public universities such as Texas A&M and the University of Texas are state agencies and the employees of these institutions are employees of the state of Texas. Collectively these two institutions have recently completed or are in the process of completing private funding campaigns that have/will secure more than $3 billion in tax deductable contributions from foundations, corporations and individuals. School districts around the state have created fundraising entities to raise private dollars in response to increased teacher training and equipment needs that are no longer funded through tax dollars. I currently serve as a key volunteer raising funds for the transplant program at UT Southwestern, a state owned and operated medical school in Dallas. The University of Texas, Texas A&M, UT Southwestern and the many strategic and forward thinking school districts raising private funds around the state tend to be highly effective governmental institutions. Private philanthropy plays an important role in their success.

      Second, I feel the need to clear up some confusion. In briefly describing the role of this position I used the words “strategically coordinate the resources of our great community to achieve an improved quality of life for our entire city’s residents.” I believe that has led you (and other readers I am sure) to assume that government would “allocate” private philanthropic donations to specific organizations. That is not the case. By “strategically coordinating the resources in our community” I intended to communicate my desire to see a centralized location providing information to the community regarding needs and priorities of our city and ways private investment can be used to best impact those needs. Most importantly there would be a link between the philanthropic community, the social sector and government, designed to better coordinate services and reduce duplication. Executed correctly this position should allow for more informed philanthropy, more effective social sector service delivery and a better community.

      I stand firmly on my belief the return on investment is high with this position and in the end it is good business for our community. Let’s set aside the notion that the public sector (government), the private sector (private philanthropy/corporations) and the social sector (non-profit organizations providing services) cannot connect and do better work together. Let’s take a good hard look at what we are able to achieve now and conclude the obvious – we can all do better.

      I propose this minimal investment to achieve great things.

      Jason, thank you again for your feedback and for all your supportive comments. Know that I have great respect for your position on this matter.

      Best,

      David

  • David,

    I should qualify my previous response in writing that my personal experience with public institutions (dating back to grammar school) has not been favorable. Whereas I would like to believe my worldview is not sullied with those experiences, I concede this is impossible.

    I appreciate your thoughtful response as it not only clarifies the vision, it fosters continued conversation. As I alluded in my initial response, I am composing an alternative model/proposal (that after reading your latest entry is not unlike what I believe you are proposing, though it slightly differs in whom authority is vested.)

    I have enjoyed at least some immersion into “fourth sector modeling” and my intent is to codify that experience into a draft proposal, published openly and publicly, herein. I will no doubt ask those in the community that have shared experience in [at least] discussing fourth sector models, LLC3’s and social entrepreneurial foundations to seat themselves at this table, and over time work to warrant an in-person forum. After all, life is meeting, and in turn, all about understanding and being understood. That said, I do not enjoy the standing in the community that you have worked so tirelessly to own; I will defer to your leadership on the matter and commit to “more than show up.”

    In the meantime, please find enclosed a few resources that will get closer to explaining the context of my forthcoming, alternative proposal.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_economy
    http://www.fourthsector.net
    http://www.fourthsector.net/resources
    http://budurl.com/zrqx
    http://budurl.com/8ple
    http://budurl.com/qdj8

    In the meantime, if there is anything I can support or do for you and your interests, do not hesitate to reach out. If we do not correspond before our country’s birthday, I hope it is a safe, happy and memorable holiday.

    Towards creative fidelity,
    Jason Stoddard

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