Thursday, September 09, 2010

Another privatization horror story: subsidized neighborhood organization allows historic building to ruin

Chickens continue to come home to roost from the Metro Council's year-long spending spree on non-profits of several years ago. At the time CMs flipped collected delinquent property taxes into their own windfall slush funds, which they misleadingly called "infrastructure" funds, and earmarked most of the money for private organizations. (I have exhaustively documented their outlays and organized the posts under the label "2006-07 Infrastructure Funds").

One of the patrons who garnered a lion's share from those funds was East Nashville's NEON, which has failed to follow through on a commitment to convert a historic firehouse into a community center and provide after-school and art programs:
Instead, the 80-year-old brick building on Gallatin Avenue has become a makeshift homeless camp inside and out with broken windows, discarded cigarette butts, piles of 40-ounce malt liquor bottles, blankets and garbage littering the property.

The building has sunk into disrepair under the care of North Edgefield Organized Neighbors, a nonprofit organization that has received more than $189,000 in grant funding from Metro since the 2005-06 budget year.

East Nashville community leaders say attempts to reach NEON regarding the firehouse have been unsuccessful, leaving the future of the would-be community center in doubt. The listed phone number for NEON has been disconnected, and the organization's offices on Meridian Street also appear to be inactive.
Not only did NEON benefit from the 06-07 property tax windfall, but they also received $56,666 directly and $28,333 indirectly to be spent on their art program from Metro General Funds with a resolution co-sponsored by former CM Pam Murray and current Vice Mayor Diane Neighbors.

We are continuing to see how the 05-07 free market model of Metro Council patronage of non-profit organizations under the auspices of public "infrastructure" failed us. A historic building in East Nashville is now little beyond blight, and the community there has no programs to show for all of the money Metro mislaid NEON's way.

Time will tell if Mayor Karl Dean's more patrician model of selecting a fewer number of associations to accept General Funds will cure the abuses. I'm skeptical of both old and new attempts to privatize services and programs by paying local non-profits tax dollars that could more effectively be spent on Metro services already provided.

How many more park community center programs could have been developed with the $200,000 wasted on a non-profit?

1 comment:

  1. NEON has direct ties to the Woodbine Community Organization - maybe someone should take a look at their finances as well ....