City-Parish President Joey Durel Monday announced a proposed change to the way Lafayette Consolidated Government funds nonprofit agencies in the parish. Heretofore, more than two dozen agencies — social service providers like Big Brothers Big Sisters as well as cultural agencies such as Festival International — shared a roughly $453,000 pot of money, more than 60 percent of which went to social service agencies.
Under the new system, money used to fund the non-governmental agencies through a competitive application process would come from franchise fees paid to LCG by Cox Communications and Lafayette Utilities System’s Fiber service. Currently, those entities generate about $840,000 in franchise fees annually, although Durel says he wants the funding to remain “status quo” — $450,000, as in years past — at the outset.
LCG’s Community Development Department headed by Ben Berthelot will appoint a 5-person panel to award the social service funding, according to Durel’s plan, with a $25,000 cap for each agency receiving funding. The Acadiana Center for the Arts, also using a panel, will award the arts funding. Cultural providers will face a $17,500 cap — a $10,000 cap for operational funding and a $7,500 cap for programming. Because the AcA, which opens its theater expansion this fall and whose operating costs in its city-owned facility downtown will consequently rise considerably, would administer the funding on behalf of LCG, it will not be eligible for funding through this new mechanism. Durel and AcA Executive Director Gerd Wuestemann say a separate budget mechanism for funding the AcA is being ironed out. Also, groups like Festival International and the Mardi Gras associations, which historically have received considerably more than the $17,500 they will be eligible for under the new funding system, will likely get separate line items in the budget the Durel administration will hand to the council at the end of July.
“We’ve had this discussion about nonprofits since I’ve been in office,” Durel said at a Monday press conference at City Hall. “If you remember, my first couple of years in office I zeroed them out. And my biggest issue was always that it was tax dollars that had never been voted on by the people of Lafayette to spend on agencies external to the government.”
There has traditionally been enough support on the council to fund NGOs that the agencies have received the money each year despite Durel’s fiscal misgivings. LCG’s chief executive has since tempered his tone, saying he supports funding for cultural agencies which show a return on the investment. But funding social service agencies in particular has become a bone of contention on the council, with some more fiscally conservative members voting to get LCG out of the business of funding all NGOs.
Durel hopes the new funding mechanism will resolve the issue. “We’ve struggled with it, and we’ve gotten the message from the council and many people in the community that they want to see us continue to fund nonprofits, the external agencies, but each year it seemed to be the same battle. So, we’ve been talking about what can we do to change the process, to start changing the process.”
It’s unclear whether the City-Parish Council will know which agencies have been selected by the two panels to receive funding this year by the time it votes on whether to approve the new funding mechanism as part of the budget process. Social service and arts/culture agencies can pick up applications at City Hall beginning Wednesday, June 9. Those applications must be returned by June 30, at which time the panels at Community Development and the AcA will begin the review process.
MAY 17 Here's a column from James Gill, this time in the Advocate. Gill, who has jumped ship from the Picayune, writes about the absurdity of dueling polls in this post. The numbers are so wildly different, it is obvious that both sides are "cooking the books," he writes. In particular, he looks at Sen. Mary Landrieu, and how her recent actions in DC have been received by those polled. Gill's acerbic, amusing prose is a welcome addition to a paper so conservative as to be occasionally lacking in personality.
MAY 17 Blogger Tom Aswell continues delivering bombshells about the state education department and Gov. Jindal's education "reform" efforts. In this post, he reports that students in the Shreveport area have been signed up for a charter school without their knowledge or consent. Most interesting to Aswell is how this Texas-based charter (with ties to GOP types) got the personal student information it has, if the students didn't give it.
MAY 17 This post by JR Ball in the Baton Rouge Business Report is an interesting tongue-in-cheek look at recent Baton Rouge economic development efforts. Among the items he examines is the idea that gaining a Costco makes BR a "world-class city." (Really? All you need is a different brand of Sam's? MK!) This effort, and other recent ones, are all built on the taxpayer's back, with tax zones, tax incentives and tax rebates, Ball writes.
MAY 17 Blogger CB Forgotston is critical of the legislature's reliance on a revenue-estimating committee's decision to include projected tax amnesty income in this year's forecast. That's a problem, CB posts, because the deadline for these people to pay their taxes is June 30, 2014. So when do you think these people who haven't paid taxes in years are going to pay their taxes? Surely not before June 30, and that means the money won't be there for this year's budget, he argues.
MAY 17 Here's an interesting blog out of California by a Hollywood writer, attorney and academic named Brian Alan Lane. He blogs about higher ed, and was a whistle-blower in a scandal over false credentials. In this post, he takes aim at LSU's new top dog, King Alexander. It's convoluted and a little confusing, but it sure makes Alexander a lot more interesting than he was yesterday.
MAY 17 Blogger Robert Mann writes about the LSU Board's refusal to allow Dr. Fred Cerise to testify before the legislature about Gov. Jindal's plan to close down all the state's charity hospitals and dump the poor on the private system. It's hard to imagine anyone more qualified than Cerise to testify about that, so why would anyone try to prevent him doing so? Mann thinks it is because the powers that be aren't interested in hearing any truth about the plan.
MAY 17 This post on the Louisiana Sinkhole Bugle, a blog that notes developments in the Bayou Corne and Jefferson Island salt domes, talks about a proposed expansion of the salt dome storage under Lake Peigneur in Iberia Parish. Residents are working against it for several reasons, including two biggies: the sinkhole disaster in Bayou Corne and the continuing, unexplained bubbling on the surface of the Lake.
MAY 17 NOLA police arrested more people Thursday accused of either being involved in the Mother's Day shooting or hiding the suspect afterward, this Gambit story reports. The NOLA police chief said he suspects the whole thing was gang-related and throws out a challenge to the gangs: he's got informants now, he says, and he knows a lot more than the gangs want him to know. The people who live in the neighborhoods terrorized by gangs are ready to talk, he says.
Is it a crime for citizens to photograph, video, or take notes of a police officer in the line of duty, or a right protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution? Locally, such activity, as witnessed recently, will at the very least result in a night spent behind bars.
David Calhoun and Elizabeth “EB” Brooks are the first two employees of Lafayette Central Park Inc., the nonprofit charged with turning Lafayette Consolidated Government’s 100-acre Johnston Street Horse Farm property into a passive public park. Calhoun was named executive director, and Brooks is director of planning and design.
Episcopal School of Acadiana’s Dr. Joshua Caffery, chair of the school’s English Department, is headed to Washington, D.C., and the Library of Congress as the latest winner of the Alan Lomax Fellowship in Folklife Studies.