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The Watchdog’s Kibbles and Bits – Box 11

05.08.09

Brick Headed: This week’s Park Ridge Herald-Advocate features a woe-is-us piece on the Brickton Art Center, another one of those private not-for-profit corporations that seems to perpetually live on the taxpayer dole because it just can’t (or won’t) figure out – or sign onto – the concept of “capitalism.” (“Hard times hit Brickton Art Center,” May 7)

According to the H-A story, BAC is in financial trouble because “donors are contributing less, grants have dried up, class attendance is down by about 25 percent, and funding once received from the state has significantly decreased.”  By our count, 3 of those 4 funding sources are handouts rather than real live earnings. And that’s assuming that “class attendance” actually covers its costs.

The people who run BAC are fine folks, and BAC is a nifty kind of place.  But if you’re going to run a “business,” run a BUSINESS.  One that doesn’t rely more on taxpayer welfare than it does on turning out desirable products or services which real live customers are willing to purchase at a price that at least covers the costs of doing…wait for it…BUSINESS!

Otherwise, you’re just running a hobby.  Which is all well and good, so long as the already-strapped taxpayers don’t end up holding the bag as involuntary investors.

Bud No Dud: We’ve taken issue in the past with local commentator Bud Jones when he beefed about spending $130,000 to televise City Council meetings (“Air Bud,” The Watchdog’s Kibbles and Bits – Box 7) – although we now know it can be done for next to nothing by a regular citizen sitting in the front row of the gallery filming with a tiny hand-held camera and then downloading it on YouTube.  

But we’re 100% solid with Bud’s objection to the H-A’s posting a separate story – instead of merely a “Police Blotter” item – on the DUI arrest of Ald. Robert Ryan’s son. (“Objection to story on DUI arrest,” May 7)

We disagree with Ryan on most public issues, but what the H-A did to his son is dirty pool.  Young Mr. Ryan is not a public official, nor is he a “public figure” merely because his father is.  And at age 23, he is legally an adult, not a minor – so his mis-step cannot even reasonably be viewed as some form of failure of parental supervision.

Ryan should be treated the way any other ordinary citizen is treated, not subjected to the glare of a harsh spotlight he has not sought and from which he has not benefitted.

4 comments so far

PD:

First, it appears to me that those who started Brickton never intended it to be a business in the traditional sense – or at least a for profit business. Their website talks about free and outreach and underserved. These are great concepts but there just isn’t any money in it. So I believe they new that they would have to have donors and taxpayer money to survive.

Second, Brickton is but one name on the list, and that is only for local organizations. Do we wack all of them or do we keep supporting some of them? What is the criteria?

Just because those who started Brickton expected to need taxpayer money to survive doesn’t mean the City should give it to them.

As for the other organizations, the City should chop all of them in half this year, and tell them it’s zero next year. Let these organizations figure out other ways to get their money besides putting the arm on the taxpayer via local government.

Hoover:

I do not disagree with anything you said in your post. I was simply responding to the paragraph in the proginal post saying:

“One that doesn’t rely more on taxpayer welfare than it does on turning out desirable products or services which real live customers are willing to purchase at a price that at least covers the costs of doing…wait for it…BUSINESS!”

We can certainly discuss why we can/should cut off funds and there will be varying opinions. But let’s not act like somehow they have blown it or abdicated their responsibilities. The plan was never to run a for profit business that could exist as a stand alone.

If your are serious about non-essentials that need taxpayer support, lets slash the hell out of the park district. They could not exist strictly on fees.

Anon on 05.10.09 9:10 am

Your analysis is completely flawed because you can’t compare a private organization (like BAC) to a public one like the Park District.

Once upon a time the voters approved the creation of the Park District as a tax-supported unit of government. The voters, however, had no say in the creation of BAC or any other of these private organizations that regularly demand taxpayer handouts.

We here at PublicWatchdog support fee structures for non-essential governmental services (like all Park District programs) that not only cover ALL operational costs attributable to those services, but that also reflect the fair market value of those services; i.e., if the market will bear fees 10% or more above the operational costs, that’s what should be charged.

And if you are serious about “slash[ing] the hell” out of the Park District, we encourgage you to lead a citizen referendum petition drive to put an appropriate proposal on the ballot for the next election.



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