Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Discretionary Funds Gave Wallace a Chance to Provide for Park Youth Summer Programs, But He Did Not Seize It

District 19 Council Member Ludye Wallace squandered ten months of opportunities to use a portion of $48,000+ in discretionary funds to leverage summer programs for the children and adolescents living near Morgan Park. And, since the Morgan Park Community Center is closed and undergoing renovations for the next several months, there are many bored kids around here that could have used that programming to keep themselves occupied rather than getting into mischief as some already have this summer.

Last week Ludye earmarked $22,250 out of his discretionary funds for an unstipulated MDHA project. That was his first request for public use of the funds (gathered from previously uncollected Metro property taxes) in the 10 months since Council Members started making requests. Less than half of his discretionary funds went to public services.

He spent all but approximately $6,000 of the rest on private non-profit earmarks including:
  • $5,000 to Senior Citizens, Inc. for recreational programs and dinner theatre performances (December)
  • $5,000 to Matthew Walker Comprehensive Health Center, Inc. for an electronic records system (February)
  • $5,000 to the Interdenominational Ministers' Fellowship Peniel Initiative for salaries (March)
  • $5,000 to Bethlehem Centers of Nashville for bus maintenance (April)
I am convinced that the remaining $6,000 would also go to a patronizable non-profit if he had the chance, but he acknowledged that Council Members by and large did not manage their request for funds adequately.

I found out yesterday that $20,000 of Ludye Wallace's funds could have provided a "roving park program" that could have kept the kids who frequent the MPCC occupied for the summer. In fact, I am told that Parks officials "beg" Council Members every year for a portion of their discretionary funds for summer programs.

I also found out that earmarking the money for Parks would have been easier than the many hoops that Council Members go through to get non-profits funded. That is contrary to what I have heard Council Members claim in the past: I've heard them say that funding non-profits is easier than funding Metro Departments. However, I am also told that there are greater personal opportunities for quid pro quo when Council Members fund private organizations. The money seems to go where favors flow.

Thanks to Ludye Wallace's total lack of leadership the kids who use Morgan Park are left to pudder and to putter around here on their own with sporadic guidance, unless they have the transportation (which Metro does not provide) to go to either the Cleveland Center or the Looby Center for summer programming.

Being an effective elected community leader means anticipating when certain neighborhood services are going to be interrupted and doing what you can with the resources you are given to fill the breech until those services begin again. If the MPCC had been open, then there might not have been a need for Ludye to use his discretionary funds there. But there is a need and he should have anticipated it.

We have already had fire hydrants opened (which I am told is a felony), signs vandalized, and some folks harrassed in Morgan Park by some of the bad seeds among the teens. The better kids are finding more constructive stuff with which to occupy themselves, but some of the adults here wonder how long that can last. We can all thank Ludye for doing nothing with his funds to support us in the absence of park programs.

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