GRANOLAPARK: I can haz grant?

grant cat


Dear Readers,

Awww, look at the cute ‘lil small grant applicants!

These are local groups who all want a share of Takoma Park’s budget that is set aside for Good Works. So, they try to seem as Worthy and Adorable as possible – throwing in phrases from the city’s Strategic Plan for traction, like sand under the wheels.

As budget time slithers towards us, a special committee reviews the applications, then gives their recommendations to the council. As you might guess, there isn’t enough money to go around. They had $7500 and 12 applicants. As a committee member said “$7500 goes pretty quick!”

The committee recommended at the Monday, Feb. 26 city council meeting that eight of them get funding, only one of them – The Piney Branch School PTA – at the full request. Their program best met the criteria. Some of the criteria they were looking for were that the projects help a large number of residents, and that the money would be used for start-up costs, not continuing costs of operation.

Man and girls

Projects that help disadvantaged people got the edge, such as the Making A New United People (MANUP) youth program. The Girl Scouts got partial funding for a new community outreach project. Old Town Business Association got funds for another community art project. Last year they put bicycle-themed sculptures around the commercial district. This time the theme will be trees. Though it was a continuing project, it was felt that it was worth the city’s expense for the publicity it generates which brings visibility and customers to local stores.

The council, of course, had to tweak the committee’s recommendations. Some of them had pet projects or constituencies to represent. For instance, councilmember Terry Seamen’s, whose Ward 4 is one of the poorer in the city, wanted full funding for MANUP.

Most of them agreed that the city should try to find more money to add to the small grants fund. The city manager took notes, not even pausing to roll her eyes. She will take these and other council recommendations along with the council’s list of priorities, hike into the desert with an adding machine – emerging with the 2013 Fiscal Year Budget. There would be heralding angels and trumpeting cupids, but those were cut from the FY 2012 budget.

Same old talk

Seems like every year a councilmember or two asks to review budget matters differently. And every time, they get general agreement from the rest of the council. And every time, it’s too late.

This year it was a suggestion from councilmember Tim Male, who wanted to have a “more general budget priority discussion,” as mayor Bruce Williams put it.

Great idea, said the city manager, but she was due to start working on the budget the NEXT DAY. “Further discussion may be helpful,” she said in a remarkably even voice, “though I may have trouble shifting gears.”  The sound of her fingernails scratching into the well-worn grooves under the table could almost be heard.”

A fairly rambling council discussion followed. The nuttiest idea was that the city offer free advertising in the city newsletter to local businesses. As the always-sensible councilmember Fred Schultz explained, the effect of that would be TO KILL THE LOCAL NEWSPAPER, YOU MORONS! He didn’t put it quite like that, but it’s what he meant. [And the local newspaper is THIS one, Dear Readers.]

The mayor, shuddering, cut short more discussion about the city newsletter, saying that he’s been part of at least two newsletter discussions in his tenure as councilmember, and, “they were seared into the brains of everyone involved,” he said.

Grimes goes from grim to grin

Councilmember Seth Grimes, who browbeat city staff during last week’s meeting, was in a more cheerful and agreeable mood this week, even smiling and joking! He thinks we’ll forgive and forget. Not without sending over a crate of vodka, pal.

– Gilbert

About the Author

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.

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