Community group funding took center stage at the Coronado City Council meeting on Tuesday.
These groups included those that oversee the city’s signature programs, such as the annual , the Fourth of July parade and concerts in the park, as well as groups that help promote the city, such as the and . Also represented were those groups that help seniors and students, such as the and (SAFE).
All had requested grants from the city to support their good works. By consent, the council approved grants to organizations that did not ask for more money than they had received last year.
The five organizations that asked for additional amounts sent representatives to plead their cases in person. The Chamber asked for $110,000, an increase of $30,600. The asked for $35,000, an increase of $18,770. The Floral Association asked for $25,000, an increase of $6,790. Coronado SAFE asked for $130,000, an increase of $30,100. And lastly, the Coronado Senior Association asked for $27,618, an increase of $12,318.
With the exception of the Coronado Playhouse, all of the organizations received the extra funds they requested. The Playhouse only received $21,000, an increase of about $5,000.
This largesse came with a stern warning from Councilwoman Carrie Downey, who warned that she would not be as generous next year without some reform in the application process.
“For the city to spend taxpayer dollars on private projects, we have to know what we are funding,” Downey said. “Open your books. How much are you getting from people you’re servicing, before you ask taxpayers for money?”
The councilwoman vowed that next year she would withhold funds from any group that was not transparent.
Many of the groups provided budgets. With the exception of Coronado SAFE, all groups asking for additional funding presented information on income, expenditures and how their work benefited the community.
Some organizations, such as the Senior Association and the Chamber, provided a full accounting of money received and how it was spent. The Chamber not only submitted a budget and full details of its activities, it also supplied its quarterly reports from 2010 and the first three months of 2011.
Tanaka initially opposed Coronado SAFE’s request because they did not offer specifics.
“You haven’t itemized. You haven’t spelled out what you’re planning to do with the funds,” the mayor explained.
While SAFE lacked figures, it didn’t lack community support. More than 14 citizens stood up at the meeting to show their support for the organization. Coronado Unified School District Superintendent Jeff Felix joined SAFE director Andrea Webster at the podium to voice his support for the group and its new expanded mission.
All were impressed with the expanded program and the new dynamism Webster has brought to the program. Felix was particularly impressed with SAFE’s partnership with the Human Relations Commission and its joint efforts to stop bullying.
Carole Tessicini, chairwoman of the Human Relations Commission, came before the council to voice her support for the new SAFE.
Under the direction of Webster, SAFE has transformed itself from a drug intervention program to a full-service family counseling center, not only for substance abuse, but also for anger management, depression, anxiety, inappropriate sexuality and other risky behaviors.
In 2010, it received about $80,000 in donations from the community and provided families in crisis with about $72,000 worth of therapy, Webster said in a phone interview following the council meeting.
In a subsequent email, the director supplied additional numbers about their operating budget, which was $185,000 in 2010. Webster also said SAFE would “finalize our revamped proposal for the city sometime in the very near future.”
For those who came to support SAFE, it wasn’t about dollars and cents.
“There are some things you can’t put a dollar amount on,” SAFE board member Rich Brady said.
The outpouring of community support won Tanaka’s heart. In the end, the mayor joined the other council members in supporting the request. Still, Downey and Councilman Mike Woiwode cautioned that they expected to see results.
Woiwode said, “I’ll be happy to cut SAFE funding next year if they don’t deliver.”