Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Cheater's Wheel

During Metro Council discussion tonight on appropriating $1.187 million to the W.O. Smith School, Council Member Ludye Wallace tried to spin Metro's commitment to the school into an analogous commitment to the Hadley Park Junior Tennis Program. According to Ludye, the Metro Council expressed a $60,000 "commitment" last July to the Tennis Program. He conveyed the wish that the Mayor would consider following through with the $60,000 commitment the same way the $1.187 million commitment is being met.

Outside of being two non-profits focused on youth, the two programs have nothing to do with each other. Hence, Ludye Wallace, who knows parliamentary procedure better than any other council member, was out of order in bringing the tennis program into the debate. That fact alone was cause for turning his microphone off (which did not happen).

But Ludye omitted one very important detail about the Council's 2006 attempt to send $60,000 to the tennis program: they tried to pull money out of a fund that the Mayor had allotted to help poor people without means pay their utility bills. They attempted to cut public services for poor people and then funnel the money to a tennis non-profit, whose Director had been warned for years to stop relying on public funds. Where is the nobility in that?

And they only failed to move the money because the sponsor screwed up last July and confused the non-profit tennis program with a for-profit tennis program with a similar name, which automatically kicked the funds back into the General Fund that is subject to the Mayor's discretion. Who would honestly blame the Mayor if he did not honor their tennis "commitment" under those circumstances?

But Ludye was also not entirely honest about the $60,000 commitment; nor was he honest about the Mayor's support. Five months ago the council approved a resolution sending $18,000 out of discretionary funds to the Hadley Park Junior Tennis Program and the Mayor signed off on it. So, almost a third of the commitment has already been met with the support of the Mayor.

Ludye was cheating on the numbers in his spin. If the tennis program fails to get the remaining $42,000, then the loss can be chalked up to botched original sponsorship, and that balance should go back to support people who cannot afford to heat their homes in the winter.

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