Thursday, April 14, 2011

OKC Nonprofit Runs into Funding Speedbump

Note: This is a summary/reaction to a news story posted by an outside news organization.  Follow the links in this post to read the full article.

Remember that new Oklahoma nonprofit that was forming, The Alliance for Economic Development of Oklahoma City?  Well, it looks like they are going to have a harder time getting the money they want.

In an earlier story that was originally published by NewsOk, we learned that this new nonprofit was requesting $424,000 from the city.  It appears, however, that city government officials have some serious questions to ask them.  NewsOk reports that the Oklahoma City Council seems hesitant to provide the requested money because of questions about the group's economic and geographic diversity.  All of the proposed members of the group, including Assistant City Manager Cathy O'Connor, are white.  Pete White, a member of the City Council, bought this issue up in blunt terms, according to the NewsOK report:

“I’m struck by the lack of diversity on this group, both geographic, which doesn’t exist, and ethnic, which doesn’t exist."

Jim Couch, a member of The Alliance's proposed board, agreed with this assessment and promised that this issue would be addressed.  But the ethnic diversity is not the only thing that is causing the Oklahoma City Council concern.  There are also questions about the transparency of the budding organization.  O'Connor recently told the newspaper The Oklahoman that she didn't know if the expenditures of the group would have to be subject to the Oklahoma Open Records Act.  Ward 2 Councilman Ed Shadid specifically bought up this concern, saying that people are concerned that the group is "transforming a city apparatus and it’s at the exclusion of the Open Records Act."

At this point, it remains unclear of whether The Alliance will get the funding it has requested.  O'Connor tried to assure the council that her group would not be circumventing the council, that they would merely implement the decisions the council and other public authorities made.  This didn't seem to make anybody feel any better, however.  Specifically, NewsOK quotes Councilman White as saying that “In the past, my feeling has always been, though these were done through ad hoc committees, the council was always in the driver’s seat. It’s obvious by the makeup of this that we are not in the driver’s seat.”  So until the council votes on funding for the new organization, its future remains very much in the air.

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