Thursday, July 9, 2009

Roberts wants politicians on "same field"

Spoke to Jennifer Roberts before she flew to New York today about her vision for a meeting of the political minds to craft a battle plan for the plight of Mecklenburg's human service non-profits.

In a earlier installment, The Cliff reported that several charity chiefs are heartened by a seeming rise in political will to deal with slashed funding for non-profits trying to deliver services at a time when needs are growing and funds are falling.

Roberts, Mecklenburg County Commission chairman, was glad to hear that. She had called a meeting earlier this week to begin the discussion, inviting her fellow commissioners, city council and school board members and the mayors of Mecklenburg's municipalities.

But vacations and other conflicts prevented many representatives from attending. So Roberts called for a follow-up and she's inviting the same politicians.

She doesn't yet know when.

"We're working with the clerks of the school board and city council -- and the mayors -- to try to figure out the best time to get the most participation," Roberts said. "It's really a desire to get everybody to feel like they're a part of the solution and that we all recognize how interconnected we are.

"We all need to move forward on this problem together."

She talked about exploring ways for government to take up some of the slack created by shortfalls, either by collaborating, or using available resources to deliver services that are jeopardized by funding cuts.

She had few specifics -- but that is what "the summit" is for.

Roberts said the battle needs to be comprehensive and strategic, not fragmented by dueling governments.

"I want everyone to own this, to feel like this is our plan for our community -- not communities," she said. "I want everyone on the same field, and as long as we all agree what ballfield we're playing on, then you can get somewhere."

She said a plan needs to be in place by the next budget season.

"I'd love to have something announced in January, but we don't want to move so quick we run over people, or we forget people," she said. "I think we have the opportunity to move fast.

"People (politicians) are lining up a lot faster than they usually do around this crisis."