Submitted by Barry Austin and Joann Burnside
At the City Council meeting on 5 June 2018, we reminded the Mayor & Council that the Operations Plan which they approved for Spreckels Center and Bowling Green gave the Coronado Senior Association (CSA) three years notice – explicitly by way of a schedule for a three-year stepped down elimination of funding – that they needed to revamp their business model to exist without a City subsidy.
Currently, two years or so into this process, CSA has done nothing to become self-sufficient. In fact, the president of CSA, Prudy Stephens, indicated at several meetings of the board of directors that no changes were needed in how CSA operates, contending, “The City will keep funding us like they always have.” [Does she not understand the clear direction from Mayor & Council?] She even complained in writing to members that, “The money which the City gives to the CSA does not fully cover the salaries of Linda and Rick.” [It is not the responsibility of taxpayers to pay CSA employee salaries; the City contracts with CSA to provide programs. In fact, their contract with the City requires CSA to utilize “volunteers necessary to carry out the terms and provisions” of their agreement.]
Three highly-qualified members of their Board of Directors, including the treasurer (one of the writers of this letter), resigned last year in protest of CSA’s refusal to step up to or even acknowledge their responsibilities under their contract with the City.
In view of the Mayor & Council’s recent emphasis on increased fiscal responsibility and accountability, we asked what value taxpayers receive through City funding of an organization that uses the money mostly to set up and take down tables and chairs for very small numbers of members to play table games (bridge, mah jong, etc.), especially since the City already employs workers to perform this task. We asserted that the same amount of money would have far greater impact by using it to offer free classes, workshops, or activities on subjects of interest to the 6,000 or so Coronado seniors, 5,700 of which do NOT belong to CSA.
In addition, we noted a far more disturbing fact about funding for CSA – it will not be subject to the accountability and oversight requirements of the new Community Grants Policy. These requirements formed the basis for the Policy that Mayor & Council adopted just three months ago (20 March 2018). ALL of the other non-profit organizations who will receive Coronado taxpayer funds (Camp Able, Fourth of July Committee, Community Band, Navy League – Sea Cadets, etc.) are subject to the requirements, transparency, and scrutiny of the Policy. But the Coronado Senior Association is not. Improper, discriminatory, and unacceptable we say! What makes this organization so special that it doesn’t have to follow the rules?
We ended our comments to Mayor & Council by imploring them to follow their new Community Grant Program Policy, which was intended to provide for effective management of and accountability for ALL taxpayer funds awarded to non-profit organizations. Simply put, the rules should apply to everyone or to no one.
Mayor Bailey said they would review our request. We eagerly await the results of that review.