City fumbles, then awards original CAPS

StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-115333332512512.jpg’, ‘Photo by Jason Carson Wilson’, ‘Rockford City Council members have been discussing Community Assistance Program funding for a few weeks. Pictured at the July 11 City Council meeting are, clockwise, from bottom right, Ald. Leonard Jacobson (D-6), Ald. Ann Thompson (D-7), Ald. Nancy Johnson (D-8), Ald. Bill Timm (R-9) and Ald. Jeff Holt (D-11).’);
StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-11533341878820.jpg’, ”, ‘Larry Morrissey’);

After much juggling and emotion, by a vote of 11-1, aldermen approved initial Community Assistance Program CAPS funding recommendations during the July 17 Rockford City Council meeting. Those recommendations were referred to as Option A. Of the 39 organizations requesting a total of $812,838, 17 received funding totaling $200,000.

One of the most vocal protesters of proposed cuts, CeaseFire Rockford Violence Prevention Coordinator Ralph Hawthorne, was pleased with the City Council’s final decision. CeaseFire’s requested $50,000 was cut to 5,000 under Option C, and finally received $7,892 under Option A.

“I’m just grateful that the aldermen saw there is a need to look at this process a little closer,” Hawthorne said.

The 11-4 vote came after defeating four other options, including Option C, which featured Ald. Jeff Holt (D-11) and Ald. Linda McNeely’s (D-13) proposed amendments.

Those amendments would have shifted funds from Ceasefire Rockford and other groups to Patriots’ Gateway Teen Reach for $20,514 and Let’s Talk It Out for $18,000. Under the final Option A, neither group received any funding.

Ald. Doug Mark (R-3) said, before any of the votes, he supported Option A because he was satisfied with how the award process was originally planned. Mark was joined by Ald. Patrick Curran (R-2). Curran said the city must extend funds to organizations that focused on the rules.

“I have great difficulty voting for this,” Curran said, referring to Holt and McNeely’s amendments.

After Holt was assured the Request For Proposal stated aldermen had final approval, he stressed the process hadn’t been changed. McNeely initially echoed Holt’s sentiments.

“This is not my first time questioning CAP funding. This is not a new process,” she said.

It’s a process that McNeely decided—on the Council floor—should be changed, and she wondered how the situation progressed to this point.

“We need to reconsider how we address this in the future. I question how organizations learned they’d receive funding before it went through [Planning and Development] committee,” McNeely said.

Though they made the reduction recommendations, McNeely said neither she nor Holt had anything to do with making the reductions. City staff, the Citizen Participation Committee and the Council’s Planning and Development Committee made the actual calculations.

City of Rockford Grant Specialist Dwayne Collins stressed he’d heard no objections from any aldermen about the original proposed awards two weeks ago. Collins also asserted McNeely’s allegation that organizations were promised money ahead of time was erroneous. Hawthorne said he wasn’t informed CeaseFire Rockford was in line for an award, and he learned that from media reports.

Holt said the reason he originally didn’t object was because “the staff did not inform me.”

Planning and Development Committee Chairman, Ald. Victory Bell (D-5) first put Option B up for consideration. After Option B was voted down, Bell brought Option A—the original recommendations—to the floor. Holt moved to amend Option A, which would have transformed it into Option C—restoring Holt and McNeely’s amendments. Holt moved to amend Option C, effectively putting the original recommendations back into play. Aldermen approved amending Option C by a vote of 7-5. The vote to approve an unadulterated Option C wasn’t so clear-cut. Rockford Mayor Larry Morrissey broke a 6-6 tie on Option C with his “No” vote.

Ald. Carl Wasco (D-4) was less than thrilled with the attempts to amend the awards.

“We distorted the system,” Wasco said.

The issue was laid over during the July 10 City Council meeting.

According to the city’s Request For Proposals, only organizations in operation for at least a year are eligible for funding. The Citizen Participation Committee based awards on four criteria, including the project’s impact on the community, overall management capabilities and strength of the organization, project feasibility and cost as well as level of organizational support for the project, the Request For Proposal states.

The committee rated each of the criteria on a scale of 1 to 25. Organizations could earn a maximum of 100 points. But they could have earned 5 points for meeting one of the four “priority rating” criteria—meaning a potential for 20 extra points.

Those requirements include that the project resides within a Community Development Focus Area, yield documented crime reduction, assist in creating an educated workforce and “create vibrant neighborhoods.”

From the July 19-25, 2006, issue

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