Maplewood's elected leaders had kind words for the work of the Community Coalition on Race today, but were more critical of the leadership of South Orange Village.
The Coalition, which serves both Maplewood and South Orange and seeks about 40% of its revenues through allocations from the two towns, made a request to the Maplewood Township Committee for $34,200 for 2013. This is the same amount requested and allocated for 2012.
The Coalition is making a request for $18,000 from South Orange Village. (The Coalition requested $22,500 and received $18,000 from South Orange Village in 2012.) South Orange elected officials have not included CCR funding in the 2013 budget, according to Trustee Michael Goldberg. "There will be zero funding of non-profit organizations in the 2013 budget; however, a $15K
service level agreement has been anticipated for YouthNet," according to budget documents.
Funding for the Coalition has been a somewhat contentious topic in recent years, particularly in South Orange, where some residents have said that the non-profit strayed into lobbying.
Maplewood Mayor Vic DeLuca opened the conversation about the discrepancy in funding. "I see South Orange is listed here at $18,000. Is that expected [to be obtained] or is there still some question?"
Coalition Executive Director Nancy Gagnier told DeLuca that the Coalition was at the "same point in the process with them as with you."
Committeeman Jerry Ryan noted that, looking at the layout of the Coalition budget, "every activity is a shared activity for both communities."
"Even though Maplewood is paying more," added DeLuca.
Coalition Chair Fred Profeta — a former Mayor of Maplewood and a founder of the Coalition — pointed out that "South Orange is at least equal in private donations to Maplewood."
"Yes, but that's private funds," rejoined DeLuca.
"We are engaged in a joint effort with a partner that is not funding to the same level that we are," said Ryan. "We are subsidizing South Orange's lack of desire to participate."
Profeta noted, "In the history of the Coalition there was a time when South Orange's contribution was greater than Maplewood's." Profeta said that the differing allocations was an effect of politics. "The decision to fund is essentially a political one. If there are these vicissitudes every year, then we get into these debates and that's not healthy."
Profeta added, "We'd appreciate your advice on this."
Committee members also noted that the Coalition was not asking for the allocation to be tied to specific efforts this year but across all programming and activities.
Profeta explained that this "corresponds to the way the coalition will do work this year." He said that "efforts will commence and then sunset. It will work more like the Green Team, changing from committees to action-oriented tasks."
Township Administrator Joseph Manning supported the change, noting that trying to allocate money for specific activities was "difficult on our side. It works out in the end in terms of the money, but there is a lot of accounting that goes on for a minor amount."
In addition to the funding conversation, Gagnier described the Coalition's accomplishments for 2012 and goals for 2013. She enumerated volunteer efforts, the annual preschool open house, the Conversations on Race series, Martin Luther King day event, Integration through the Arts, the Facts Fears and Myths workshop at Columbia High School, plus marketing, advertising, touring and realtor relations.
Gagnier noted that the Coalition was well-regarded beyond the two towns of Maplewood and South Orange and continued to be contacted by outside groups for assistance. She said that the Coalition would be doing some training for group in Mamaroneck-Larchmont in New York State.
Gagnier noted that the Coalition's goals for 2013 in the area of affirmative community marketing were being impacted by the shift in how people search for communities and homes brought about by technology. Where traditionally the Coalition has done ad placements in newspapers, the group has found that "it's all about online now," said Gagnier.
She noted that prospective residents are less interested in the physical jitney tours that the Coalition provides and want to do virtual tours. Toward that end, the Coalition is putting together a virtual tour. Although the effort has generated much pro bono support in terms of film editing, script writing and local celebrities who are interested in narrating, the initiative is still costly.
Toward the end of the Coalition's presentation, DeLuca made a strong statement in support of the Coalition. The mayor said he wished to make it clear that his questions did not reflect any concern with the Coalition nor "its mission, purpose or achievements."
"I put my own money in, my foundation's money in," said DeLuca. "But there's a payback for someone else too, and they've got to step up."
Ryan worried about what would happen if South Orange came "up with less. Are programs going to suffer? If history tells us anything, there is a hard road to get that money."
Gagnier thanked the Maplewood Township Committee for "that vote of support."
"We continue to hold out hope that we will have the same success there," said Gagnier, referring to the South Orange Village Trustees. Gagnier said, however, that if funding from South Orange fell short "for a year or a few years" the Coalition did have contingency funds that it could use "at least for a time" and would work to increase fundraising.