GRANOLAPARK: Dissent

PHOTO: Jennifer Wofford, “the dissenting voice,” speaks to the city council July 6.

GRANOLAPARK • BY GILBERT

Dear Readers,

Do NOT join any Takoma Park citizen’s committees!

Not unless you enjoy high blood pressure.

Committee volunteer Jennifer Wofford described her Grants Review Committee term as “nine months of frustration” to the city council July 6.

Two of that committee’s members recused themselves due to conflict of interest, and of the six remaining Wofford and one other (unnamed) became, she said, “the dissenting voice of the committee.”

Wofford gave a “minority report” during the committee’s full presentation to the council.  She said the “biggest battle,” was over the rejection of grant applications based e-mail correspondence late in the process. The question raised – concerning, she said, one organization’s connection to another – was not a question on the common application, and not put to other grant seekers. This “last minute procedural requirement,” she said “struck me as just deeply wrong.” She said there was a “difficult” hour-long discussion about it at the committee’s final meeting.

She also objected to what she said was an overly-strict standard for conflict of interest. Familiarity with grant applicant groups is not a reason to recuse oneself or resign from the committee. In fact, familiarity with applicants is useful, she said.

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Jennifer Wofford gives the Grants Award Committee “minority report” July 6.

When the committee has no knowledge of the applicants, they rely on city staff guidance, turning it into what she called a “staff-driven process.” The staff, said Wofford, had strong opinions.

That “staff-driven” charge was disputed by Mayor Bruce Williams. He brought it up in later remarks, saying most of the committee members did not agree with that assessment.”

Wofford said the committee would do a better job if there were more people on it, and if more of them were civically involved, more familiar with applicant groups.

A number of people – staff, councilmembers and other committee members among them – agreed the committee should be larger.

When the council discussed grant awards later in the evening, most of the conversation was about conflict of interest and where to draw the line.


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Sara Anne Daines, Housing and Community Development Director, and presumably the staff person who met with the committee, described the group as highly qualified, peopled by folks who write or award grants “on a professional level.”

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Grants Review Committee members Gary Cardillo and Lesley Perry made the presentation to the city council July 6.

The bulk of the committee presentation was given by members Gary Cardillo and Lesley Perry . They described the process, which included assisting some of the less-experienced applicants.

The council told them such hand-holding was far beyond the call of duty and not to do that any more. The Washington, DC region is the non-profit center of the universe, they pointed out. There are non-profit groups set up to help other non-profit groups write grant applications.

Wofford advocated face-to-face meetings with applicants, but the committee majority and the city council didn’t agree. It gives an advantage to the more polished, connected groups, they said.

The city council has the last word on this. In other words, despite their intent to get their pushover, softie selves out of the process, they can ignore the committee and hand out the dough however they want.

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“Pet Programs,” Granolapark’s annual pictorial comment on the city’s grant wards process.

The applicants know this, which is why a number of them were there to say, basically, thank you so SO much, we do such good work and we appreciated you so SO much, have we told you how so SO much? And can we have some more? Thank you so so SO much!

And that’s why Old Town Business Association director Laura Barclay was there, even though both OTBA’s applications were turned down. In her case, Barclay reminded the city of all the local business-supportive festivals and activities they sponsor, most of which do not clear expenses.

Over the past few years – decades, even – the council has handed over grant funds to the OTBA, noting that the business association does what the city wishes it could do but can’t afford the staff to do it.

Here are the awardees. They are divided into three categories

1) Capitol Project Grant Recommendations

Historic Takoma / Takoma Community Radio           $ 11,000
Montgomery Housing Partnership                             $ 11,000

Subtotal $ 22,000

2) Cultural and STEM Grant Recommendations

CHEER – Youth Development Collaborative            $ 11,250
Docs in Progress                                                      $   4,100
Rhizome DC                                                             $ 11,250
Takoma Ensemble                                                    $   7,500
Takoma Langley Crossroads CDA                            $ 10,000

Subtotal $ 44,100

3) Program and Operational Support Grant Recommendations

CHEER – Takoma Park Civic Engagement               $ 15,000
Crossroads Community Food Network                    $ 22,500
Dance Exchange                                                      $ 30,000
EduCare Support Services, Inc.                               $ 23,900
Takoma Park Difference Makers                              $   3,500

Subtotal   $ 94,900

Total Funding Recommendations $161,00

Non-awarded applicants were:

1) Capitol Project Grant Recommendations

Adventist Community Services of Greater Washington  $ 7000
Athena Theater                                                                $ 15,000
Dance Exchange                                                             $ 15,000
Montgomery Housing Partnership                                  $ 6,500
Oold Town Business Association                                    $15,000

2) Cultural and STEM Grants

Adventist Community Services of Greater Washington  $ 15,000
Docs in Progress                                                             $ 7,500
NH Gardens Citizens Asociation                                     $ 3,800
Old Takoma Business Association                                  $ 2,500

3) Operating and Program Support

(none)

– Gilbert

 

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About the Author

Gilbert
Gilbert is the pseudonym of a hard-bitten, hard-drinking, long-time Takoma Park resident who maintains the granolapark blog. Gilbert and William L. Brown — Granola Park's mild-mannered chief of staff, researcher, and drink pourer — have never been seen in the same place at the same time.