MNA General Meeting Minutes, Nov. 17, 2018

MNA Secretary Meeting/Meeting Minutes

Mueller Neighborhood Association General Meeting

Location: Seton Administrative Building

Date: Saturday, November 17, 2018

Time: 10 a.m. to 11:45 a.m.

  1. Greetings and pleasantries, call meeting to order – Lila Valencia

Welcome new members and visitors.  ~60 in attendance.

  1. October treasurer’s report – Luke Downs

3. MNA Steering Committee elections – Nominations Committee Chair Dennis Mick

Dennis introduced the 13 candidates for the 13 open positions, and they were elected.

  1. Pride Interfaith panel discussion. Some neighbors have raised objections that AISD rents space to a church, Celebration Church, that has express anti-LGBTQAI+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Asexual, Intergender) policies and that holds services at AISD’s Performing Arts Center in Mueller. They approached the MNA Steering Committee about drafting an Inclusion and Diversity Statement (see Item 6 on the agenda below) and the MNA also wanted to continue our tradition of neighborhood conversations with the Pride Interfaith Panel Discussion featuring:
    • Joy Butler, Rainbow Mueller – a neighbor for 8 years, a LGBTQAI+ (people who are not heterosexual and CIS-gender) ally. Involved with inclusion in the United Methodist Church locally and nationally as well as Interfaith.
    • Rabbi Rebecca Reice, Congregation Shir Ami – spiritual leader of Shir Ami and well-recognized Reform Jewish educator.
    • Reverend Bonnie Gale, Unity of Lake Travis – spiritual leader of Unity and a leader of Pride Interfaith Partnership.
    • Rene Slataper, United Church of Christ – seminary student and transgender advocate.
    • Mia Parton, Muslim Community Leader – founder of Queer Women in Leadership.

Q (Joy): When did you become interested in LGBTQAI inclusion and what is the role of faith?

Rene: As a trans man he was frequently excluded and made to feel “different” but faith gave him the courage to be authentic. He has been inspired to activism by the negative results of hate and exclusion – murders of trans women of color, high suicide rates among gay youth, etc.

Rabbi Rebecca Reice: She knew growing up that she felt excluded at times as a Jewish woman.  Her faith home, the synagogue, gave her a sense of a safe place. Watching friends who come out experience rejections by their faiths, she knew that was wrong. The Celebration Church’s stance runs counter to the mission.

Reverend Bonnie:  Grew up in a time when gay, much less any other gender variations, was rarely spoken of and then only to make fun of them. Playground bullying was accepted, and some churches incorporated those philosophies of hate. Bonnie felt that she could pray the gay away and kept trying to work through those feelings well into adulthood. She began to recognize that she was unable to be authentic in that construct and eventually came out to herself and recognized God as one of unconditional love. She now focuses on inclusion in all parts of life.  Had to come out as gay, and then come out as spiritual – the opposite of Rene’s journey.

Mia: Born in Jordan, moved to the U.S. at 16. As a child always felt ‘different’ – attracted to women, which was not spoken of in her culture. Her faith saved her – had grown up with tribe, family and reputation as the touchstones with very defined roles for women, along with punishment for women who didn’t fit the mold. In the U.S., she discovered other faiths and backgrounds, which was enlightening. As she explored her own religious philosophy, it came down to authenticity, respect and living with good intention. She came out at 25, which was a big process, and embraced her own faith values, and inclusion as a fundamental basis of Islam.

Q: People often cite religious texts from their faiths to justify that only straight and CIS-gender is acceptable. How do you reconcile that with your faith?

Mia: She was always told she would be going to hell, but the Quran didn’t say so explicitly – it was how people interpret it.  It is a global religion and people in different regions interpret it differently, and it can be very inclusive in many interpretations. Traditionally scholars were men with their own backgrounds and cultures entering into their interpretations.  Her faith is that Islam is for all cultures at all times.

Bonnie: Religious texts on reflection generally are open to all people in all situations if you approach them with a broad viewpoint. There shouldn’t be a usage of religious texts as a weapon. Faith should mean unconditional love and respect. Anyone who starts a sentence with “The Bible says…” reduces complexity to very constrictive boxes.  Often people who say those things have not studied the original language, the text in its historical context, etc. Jesus never spoke about gay or transgender people, but he embraced people of different social classes, ethnic backgrounds, etc. unconditionally.

Rebecca: An old rabbinic tradition says you can turn the Torah in any way and it can be read in any way. In rabbinical school there is a lot of reading of how Leviticus. Ch 18, v 3, talks about differentiating the ancient Israelite community from their neighbors (Egypt and Canaan). Yet Genesis Ch 1, v 27 talks about God creating humans and the pronoun for the first human is hermaphroditic, and notes that humans are created in the image of God. So the teaching is that everyone is created in the image of God, even if they vote differently from you or love people in a different way than you do – all are holy. The spiritual person seeks out the divine spark in everyone they meet.

Rene: He is currently in seminary and learns things every day that seem self-contradictory.  The right to equality is very clear and making one person equal doesn’t detract from another person. You can interpret scripture in contradictory ways, but a bedrock principle is loving your neighbor and yourself. Making your neighbor equal is pleasing to God.Q: What does being neighborly say about LGBTQIA+ and equality?

Rene: Listen carefully to those who may not have the same rights as you. A human having power over another’s worth is detrimental to the common good.

Rebecca: The Babylonian Talmud talks about how different cultures mint distinct kinds of coins, but God manufactures many kinds of people. The appearance of difference doesn’t equate to different value as a person.

Bonnie: Society has room to accept differences even if you don’t understand all of them. Even within the LGBTQAI+ community, there are differences – but that doesn’t mean you have to be defensive. Come from a position of curiosity and respect.

Mia: Societies that embrace inclusion are ones that thrive across the sweep of history, including the U.S. Being from the Middle East, she was surprised and inspired by the diversity here and gained a much more enlightened view than her traditional childhood experience.  Mentally put yourself in another’s shoes to understand that they may not have been exposed to LGBTQ identity.  Societies that try to silence those diverse voices and suppress their rights will be detrimental long-term because they don’t get the full benefit of all their citizens’ full participation and contributions.

Q:  Any suggestions on how to help our community be more inclusive and welcoming?

Mia: She’s a big fan of Mueller and this panel is a great example of how a community can embrace diversity.  The issues are everywhere regardless of whether they’re acknowledged. The rise of divisiveness can be countered with openness and dialogue, but LGBTQ people experience it on a daily basis – they and their allies should speak up for their rights including marriage equality.  In Texas you can still be fired for being gay.

Bonnie: As a longtime educator she saw a lot of bullying and curriculum to stop bullying teaches students to stand up for each other. As community members we have to speak up when we hear a racist joke or anti-gay slur.  It takes courage but that is what helps drive change.  Our allies need to come out and be willing to speak up and not just nervously giggle.

Rebecca: She often jokes about the benefit of being a millennial rabbi when she solves a tech problem. She has personally never worked in a building with gendered bathrooms. Think about how your forms, your websites, etc. address people. She advises Mueller to think about nationality, transgender, ethnicity, in our statement of diversity. She was approached by Joy for this panel right after the anti-Semitic murders in Pennsylvania and with so many standing up for her and the rest of the Jewish community at this time, she knew she wanted to participate in standing up as a LGBTQAI+ ally.

Rene:  Listening and being open is a key step and this panel and our listening is a great example.  Listen to others’ stories without judgment. Love is a verb; show how you love your neighbor and embody that inclusion with your actions.

Audience questions:

Q:  As a person of faith, it is always encouraging to see people of any faith in dialogue. Did you consider including someone who is not a professed faith member, an atheist?

A: Interfaith by definition is inclusive, and atheists are inspiring because they are constantly questing and asking.

Q: Self-love is part of a spiritual practice. Each of you has talked about self-love as a path to inclusion and faith – thank you.

Joy: Next Tuesday 11/20 at 7:00 at George Washington Carver museum is a remembrance ceremony for trans people.

  1. POA Update – Residential Board Member Joe Freeland – The master board approved a budget for the first time in 2 years and assessments will go up in both row homes and yard homes. The residents had some influence but would like more on the budget process henceforward. The annual meeting was Thursday night and Bill Berman was elected to the POA board. Karen Sharp is Chair of the MNA transitional committee as we progress to the post-Catellus phase.

Q: Did the Landscape Committee’s concerns get addressed?

Residents weren’t shown budget numbers until they arrived and didn’t see the final until after all discussions.  Even the higher assessments don’t cover the budget. We also need to be building reserves to update infrastructure as it ages. Hopefully in the coming year’s budget process we can give this more thoughtful discussion.

  1. Presentation of MNA Statement of Diversity and Inclusion – Lila\

The Mueller pioneers had many values in common but as the community grows, it evolves and changes. We have the opportunity to educate newcomers about our core values.  We need to demonstrate openness and be welcoming to all new neighbors.  MNA is about the people in the community and we work together and focus on collaboration even as we represent diverse backgrounds.  Joy and Jasmin Patel approached the MNA Steering Committee to create a statement of diversity and inclusion and so we have drafted it for the membership review and vote.  A motion to put it up for a vote was made and seconded. There was a motion to include residency status in the statement.  The statement was approved with that amendment. It is a living statement and can be further amended in the future.

  1. PIAC Update – Chairman Michael Jones

This month’s Mueller Commission meeting included an update on the economic health of Mueller – it is doing well. $301M has been invested in infrastructure, and property and sales tax revenues exceed those costs.  The Transition Committee is off to a good start, and the Commission is considering a workgroup to liaise with the Committee and others; a vote is expected in January.  Seeking nominees for two openings in the Commission.  About half of the commission members are from Mueller and others are from surrounding neighborhoods.  Openings of Zach Scott and Tilley are delayed from planned opening by end of 2018 to early in 2019 due to overhead power line issues. The next PIAC meeting is Tuesday January 8.

  1. Zach Scott Street Project Update – Andrew Clements – The MNA had hoped for a compromise with Austin Transportation Department from what the Department had originally proposed, and we got that with an updated plan retaining much of the parking on the north side of Zach Scott and adding a two-way bike lane separated from traffic. There may be additional stop signs as well and potentially more pedestrian crossings. Thanks to the Transportation Committee who work hard to improve neighborhood safety.  Looking at Barbara Jordan and Aldrich next – there have been several accidents.
  2. Audit Committee update – Joan Quenan. The first audit is completed, and we are now in compliance with bylaws. Audited two years (2016-17) in April and May; Luke has kept very orderly books.  We made recommendations about cash handling and inventory tracking that have been implemented.  We set up additional safeguards on the bank account so all activity in the account will be reported to the President as well as the Treasurer, and all expenditures over $50 must be approved by the Steering Committee.  We also set up a savings account to generate some interest income.  Also looked at first 6 months of 2018 to see if recommendations and structures were working, and they were.  Recommend audit twice/year going forward. Per bylaws, the committee is chaired by a Steering Committee member (not President or Treasurer) and includes two others NOT on the Steering Committee – please let Joan know if you’re interested in volunteering.
  3. Mueller Business Spotlight – Lady Quackenbush’s Cakery– Aaron Frausto. Aaron brought treats for members in attendance. Quack’s moved from its original Drag site (1983) to 43rd Street in Hyde Park, but have outgrown that space and have spent ~10 years looking for an expansion site, so Mueller is perfect. Grand opening is today with a petting zoo and cookie decorating table. They use no additives or preservatives, no artificial flavorings and colorings. They’ll be adding sandwiches to the menu, though less deli-style than 43rd and focus on more delicate fare like finger sandwiches. Hours: 7 a.m. – 10 p.m. every day, beer and wine available, picnic baskets that are reusable for park picnics. The new site focuses on sustainability and reusability.

Kerbey Lane – Amanda Kuda.  The kitchen is not yet operational but Amanda brought to-go menus. Hoping to open first week of December. There will be two days of soft opening, RSVP to a taste test and give feedback and allow staff to get hands-on experience in the new store.  MNA members will receive an early invitation to the soft opening.  Several years ago about 50-75 Muellerites had a eat-in at Kerbey Lane wearing Mueller shirts.  The new location is their third-largest, with a heated patio and patio lounge with an indoor-outdoor bar and a more homey feel than many locations. Hours: Sun-Fri 6:30 a.m. to midnight, Saturday 6:30 – 1:00 a.m.

Q: There was an incident where Muslim women were harassed at another Kerbey Lane location and staff didn’t feel trained to address the situation.

Amanda: Yes, that did occur. Kerbey Lane has a very inclusive philosophy and that was a founding principle, embodied in hiring practices.  In that example a guest created conflict and the staff was young and caught off guard. So now we do provide training so staff feel empowered to step in and buffer those situations.

Announcements:  Next meeting is December 15 and is the traditional holiday potluck so bring something to share, with seasonal tunes from the Mueller Community Singers.Dusty Harshman: Two AISD positions are in runoff and voting is December 11.

Taylor Youngblood:  You can recycle political signs at Taylor’s house at 2209 Zach Scott on her porch, or at the city recycling drop-off.  Thanksgiving turkey carcasses and other food items can be composted and Thanksgiving week is a slide day so compost and recycling will be collected on Saturday.  Bulk pickup is week of December 12.

Mary Overton:  We have created a new book club which is inclusive, next book is on Tulia and next book club meeting is Dec. 4.

Adjourn – 11:35.

The newly elected Steering Committee met briefly following the general membership meeting and moved to delay officer voting until members had time to learn more about the roles.  The Steering Committee is December 5 at 7 p.m. and new members are welcome to attend and if we get a majority we can hold officer elections then, or can schedule a separate meeting of the new committee.   Lila will email all members for additional contact info and provide descriptions of roles and logistics.  Newly elected officers and subcommittee chairs will get training and support as they step into roles.