Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Public Hearing on the Lord's Diner proposed 21st Street satellite set for November 17th




The Wichita City Council will conduct a Public Hearing on the Lord's Diner's proposed 21st satellite.  The Public Hearing will be conducted during the regular City Council meeting, beginning at 9:00am at 455 North Main Street.

At Issue:
Whether or not the the City should sell the old Boys and Girls club building to the Lord's Diner and allow them to establish a satellite feeding center on 21st street.

Proponent's Argument: 
After reviewing data points concerning household incomes, education levels, and free and reduced lunches, the Lord's Diner Board of Directors has concluded that there is an issue with hunger in the immediate area of the old Boys and Girls club. Their proposal is to establish a satellite feeding center at that location. In this proposal, the City would lease them the old Boys and Girls club building for $15,000.00 per year, and at the end of three years, they would have the option to purchase the building for $150,000.00 minus their previous lease payments.

Opposing Argument:
The community has been under a long and intense period of redevelopment. Through Community efforts and in partnership with the City, the 21st area has been turned from one of the most violent and crime ridden areas in the city to one with low crime and new businesses. As a part of these efforts, the City of Wichita developed a much heralded "21st Redevelopment Plan" that specifically talked about using the old Boys and Girls club facility as a hub for a job and skills training program. This proposal represents an abandonment of the 21st redevelopment effort, an abandonment of the promises the City made to the residents and business owners in the area when they developed and publicly released the '21st redevelopment plan', and and a movement that is counter to recent progress by replacing a job training facility with a soup kitchen.

Opportunities for compromise:
The community has been clear that they are not opposed to the Lord's Diner or its mission; they simply want the Lord's Diner to find another building or model. One potential model is for the Lord's Diner to partner with Churches in the area and serve the meals through the existing Churches. This would place multiple smaller satellites throughout the area, closer to the residents who need the assistance. This plan would allow the Lord's Diner to fully satisfy its mission and feed the hungry in the immediate area. AND it would also allow the City to fulfill its promises to the community and to continue working in partnership with the neighborhoods for the economic revitalization of the area. Representatives from the Ministerial League have been open and receptive to the idea and are willing to work with the Lord's Diner to come up with a strategy to make this model work. ALL of the Area's Neighborhood associations are open and receptive to the idea and are ALSO willing to work with the Lord's Diner to come up with a strategy to make this model work.

Obstacles:
The Lord's Diner has thus far been unwilling to compromise or discuss any alternatives. They have thus far indicated that they want to use the model they have proposed and they want to put it on 21st street regardless of the "21st Redevelopment Plan", regardless of the opposition of Neighborhood Associations and community Groups, and without regard for any proposed alternatives. They have the support of a few key City Council members, and they are pushing for a vote.

Our Position:
The Wichita Branch NAACP is committed to finding a "Win-Win" solution. We fully support the alternative model proposed by the Ministerial League, Neighborhood Associations, and Community Groups and we would be willing to recruit and commit volunteers to the effort. We are ready and willing to work with the Lord's Diner, the City, and all groups involved to provide support and resources to the alternative model. We believe that the alternative model would satisfy the spiritual and religious mission of the Diocese and Church communities, it would provide food and assistance to those who need it through Lord's Diner satellite feeding centers, and still allow the community to continue its march toward economic self-sufficiency by placing a job and skills training facility just outside Opportunity Drive as had been promised.

Next steps: 
The Public Hearing will likely be the last opportunity for people to weigh in on the issue. We are asking that all of you who are concerned please email and/or call ALL the members of the City Council AND the Mayor. Let them know that YOU want to see a compromise. Let them know that YOU support the mission of the Lord's Diner and that YOU want to see a Win-Win solution. Let them know that YOU support the alternative model proposed by the Ministerial League and the Community. And last but not least - take the 17th off from work. Plan to be in attendance to voice your support for the compromise proposal.

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