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 23 Here's a story in the Picayune about some statistics that must come as a blow to folks who believe that any private school can do a better job of educating kids than any public school: Danielle Dreilinger reports that only 30 percent of the voucher kids are passing. That's less than half of the state wide average, she says. It's an interesting statistic because most of the schools (if not all) taking voucher kids have never had their students' standardized test scores released to the public before.
MAY 23 Stephen Sabludowsky blogs on Bayou Buzz about auditor requests here. Recently the state GOP started crowing about a request from the Legislative Auditor, claiming they were being targeted because of their anti-tax stance. (Uh, your what?) Denial and hyperbole aside, the state Democratic party blew holes in that theory with an email announcing they'd received the same request, Sabludowsky writes here.
MAY 23 Jim Brown blogs about the senate race in this post. He says that, given Bobby Jindal's "lack of traction" on the national stage, it might make more sense for the governor to consider running against Mary Landrieu for the senate seat. Since Tim Teeple left the Cassidy team, it makes sense he might land on a Jindal for Senate team, Brown opines.
MAY 23 In this Louisiana Voice post, blogger Tom Aswell writes of rumors that his nemesis, state Superintendent of Education John White, may be soon departing Louisiana for a federal post. It's hard to believe, given his performance, Aswell says, but stranger things have happened. An anti-White BESE member says that, if true, White is quitting before he can be fired.
MAY 23 In this post on American Zombie, blogger Jason Berry writes about the Mother's Day shooting. Mayor Landrieu said that "this is not who we are," but the fact is, this is New Orleans, Berry writes. The violence infused in the city is the result of a culture created by "sins of omission or sins of commission," Berry writes. It's not a problem that can be solved by legislating, policing, praying or publicizing, he says: Someone's got to understand what's happening first.
MAY 23 This post in the Westside Journal tells us what Port Allen Mayor Deedy has been up to lately: vetoing ordinances, apparently. This story is most interesting, however, when it delves into a petition that has been circulating around the city lately. It accuses the former mayor of a lot of nasty things; the former mayor says it is full of lies and "broken syntax" which may be a larger offense in his eyes.
MAY 23 This editorial posted in The Advocate is a bit confusing. The writing is poor - definitely not up to the usual editorial writing standard there - and the point is hard to grasp. Apparently, the writer is saying that privatization of state efforts is OK, as long as there is oversight and transparency, but Jindal's not good at that, and the legislature shouldn't over-react. Okey Dokey. Can't they get one of them Pulitzer-winning people to write an editorial?
MAY 23 This post on The Lens gives you links to a new Google Earth tool that allows you to see any spot on earth transform over the past 30 years. Bob Marshall, who covers the coast for the paper, says that in the case of Louisiana's coastline, it's possibly something you don't want to see, because it's not a pretty picture. There are several clips here, showing critical areas erode away. For Marshall, it was vindication for all those times he was met with eye-rolling when he talked about erosion.
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.
There will soon be a whole lot of shakin’ going on at Benny’s Sportshack Supplement Depot, a new concept by Opelousas native Benny Nele. Located at 2002 Johnston St., the supplement shop, smoothie bar and café, featuring hot off the press paninis and wraps, plans to open in late May.