Political force or cheerleader for the community, the Community Coalition on Race (CCR) has drawn its share of attention this year. On Monday night, South Orange resident Rusty Reeves asked the South Orange Board of Trustees to consider withholding Village funds from the group in future years, due to what he calls the CCR's "increasing politicization."
The CCR is funded by both South Orange and Maplewood. This past winter, the Township of Maplewood committeed to funding the CCR for 2010 at the same rate as 2009: $34,000. However, in June, South Orange leaders decided to decrease the group's . At that time, Trustees Michael Goldberg and Nancy Gould expressed concern about continuing to fund a non-profit that's politically active.
No such concerns were expressed by elected officials at budget hearings in Maplewood earlier this year. At the February 13 Maplewood Township Committee meeting, elected officials had a lengthy discussion about allocations for the four nonprofits to which the Town makes contributions: the Springfield Avenue Partnership, the Maplewood Village Alliance, YouthNet and the Community Coalition on Race. No elected official seriously questioned or considered lowering the Maplewood allocation for the CCR. In fact, at the time, Deputy Mayor Fred Profeta stated that the CCR "reflects the core of what we are."
However, the conversation has been different in South Orange. On Monday night, Reeves described his own experience with the CCR, attending a first meeting several years ago. At that time, he saw the group as a "cheerleader" for the South Orange-Maplewood community.
Recently, however, Reeves has grown concerned about what he perceives as CCR silence on issues ranging from groups of teens in downtown South Orange to the potential NAACP lawsuit against the school district. He noted that the CCR "weighed in" on this spring's "incredibly politically controversial" deleveling proposal. (The CCR's stated position is here.)
As a publicly-funded organization, "they shouldn't have," said Reeves, who observes that CCR activities and public statements, including an editorial in the July 22, 2010 News-Record, have strayed from the mission statement posted on the group's site.
In June, Village President Doug Newman observed that the budgetary impact of withdrawing funding from a small non-profit would be enormous, and that the CCR has defended its advocacy work by contending that it doesn't meet the IRS definition for lobbying.