Sunday, October 28, 2012

Re-think Hasty Cast Off of Avella's Scratch Off Proposal

It is understood that St. Senator Avella's proposed scratch off lottery that would fuel community grant funds is a means to support grassroot and nonprofit program objectives where Member Items had done so. It is clear Avella's proposal is in response to Governors Patterson and Cuomo's cessation of State Member Items.

The Member Items gave the nonprofit community a place to request funding on an annual basis, though of a smaller amount than the multi-year contracts, typical of state agency awards. Multi-year contracts closeout losers of the RFP process from agency funding for three to five years or even longer. Further, the award winners have years to develop relationships with agency employees. The sweetheart deals feared from Member Items exists with public agencies.

The Member Items gave unincorporated grassroot groups a chance to get funding for such activities as community gardens, intergenerational programs, special community events, and other small scale civic projects. These awards were contingent on the grassroot groups having a fiscal conduit, usually a community-based nonprofit. Public agencies tend to enter into contracts with either higher education institutions, groups with 501-c-3 determinations, or established businesses. Grassroot groups are ineligible for public agency awards. For these reasons and more, the state legislature had to bring home the groceries to their districts.

The State Senator's proposal will need to go through the usual vetting that occurs in NYS Senate and Assembly committees as well as public hearings. The legislature is in recess now and is due to resume December 2012/January 2013. Questions that need answering are why did so many years go by where Member Items were awarded to political associates and family members without correction? Was it necessary to discontinue Member Items altogether if that was the issue?

I concur that "Flexible funding for a broad range of nonprofits is a good idea." However, transactions done by agency administrators AND politicians require close monitoring. Agency administrators may have biases for or against eligible fund-seeking entities. All humans have flaws.

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