When is $1000 more than $1000?

Is this a time for process or progress?

A few days ago, a local nonprofit group was in need of funds and approached the Board of Supervisors. The board voted against providing $1000 to the group, which each year plans an educational trip for African American youth in our community to visit Civil Rights landmarks and Historically Black Colleges and Universities. The vote failed 3-2. The Supervisors who voted against cited process as the reasoning (Thank you Mike Carberry and Rod Sullivan for supporting the request). The deciding negative vote was cast by Supervisor and candidate Lisa Green Douglas, who had been absent when the original vote ended in a 2-2 tie. A friend called to tell me about the decision and I was deeply disturbed.

After hearing the news, I made a few calls  and ultimately I’m glad I could  help find the $1000 and the 2 students who would have been left out of the trip will be able to participate. However, more donations are still needed. Please visit the GoFundMe site for the trip and contribute if you can. I hope they are able to reach their full funding goal and everyone can benefit from the experience.

There had been a long-term effort on the part of the organizers of the trip to raise the funds through different means and with only a couple weeks left they found themselves falling short of their funding goal. So they approached the Supervisors for help.
It’s true that this request fell outside the protocol and the people who voted against the requests were following the letter of the law in their denial. But my argument against denying the request, and the argument I would have made as a sitting Supervisor, is this:

1. $1000 is a small amount of money relative to the county budget and the amounts I understand to be typically requested.
2. The impact it would have made would have been tremendous. Without the funds two students wouldn’t be able to go on the trip.
3. Yes, granting this request could open the process up to a “slippery slope” argument by others in the future or petitioners who had been denied funding in the past, but I would have rather put the onus on myself as a Supervisor to defend why we supported this project rather than defend why we didn’t.

To my mind, leadership sometimes requires flexibility and creativity. I would have done everything I could to find a way to say “yes” rather than say “no” and cite process. I’m not saying one way is absolutely wrong or right, just that I would have approached it differently and wish the dissenting Supervisors had too.

Thanks to Iowa KidsNet for making up the difference utilizing some of their community investment funds to support this program; Iowa KidsNet engages communities through outreach and support to recruit foster and adoptive parents for Iowa’s children.

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