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County Council, April 18

Non-profit groups plea for funds
Not enough to satisfy all
Warwick Jones

The public hearings were the only things of interest at last night's Council meeting. The first hearing was on the distribution to Outside Agencies. It took more than 2 hours and saw a procession of applicants making their plea for funding. The allocation to Outside Agencies generates a substantial pilgrimage each year to the Council before it meets to divvy up a pile of funds for noble causes. The monies come from the general fund and from an allocation from the Accommodation tax. The distribution from the latter is confined to entities and activities that are essentially tourist related.

General Fund applicants seek a total $1.6 million from a smaller pool
As happens each year, there will be some disappointed applicants. The General Fund pool the next fiscal year (July 1, 2006 to June 30, 2007) is $329,000, down from $790,000 this year though roughly level with available funds in the preceding two years. Applications for fiscal 2007 totaled $1.6 million.

Accommodation tax pool also down
The pool for the Accommodation tax funding is projected at $329,000 down from this year's $360,000. There is a much smaller pool of applicants but the total applied for amounts to $544,000, 50% more than available

Many applicants
There were about 50 speakers at yesterday's meeting but the number of applicants was probably close to double this number. We confess to not sitting out the whole public hearing. And we won't attempt to judge the merits of some applications. But we raised our eyebrows at the largest amount sought from the General Fund - $250,000 by Mount Pleasant Water Works. Other large amounts sought were $210,000 by Tri County Project Care, $90,000 by Sea Island Humanity, $30,000 by Crimestoppers and $65,000 by the Chronicle Foundation. Requests for Accommodation tax funding were made by the Aquarium, Gibbes Museum, Charleston Stage, South Eastern Wildlife and others.

"Million More Movement" gets our attention
Of all the presentations we heard, that by the Million More Movement was the most interesting. The organization is an outgrowth of the Million Man March and is attempting to reach out to disaffected youth in the poor urban areas of Charleston and North Charleston. Council member Darby observed its activities one evening and on his suggestion, the group was before County Council.

There are two distinctive things about the group - it is Muslim and that it seeks to influence the youth with dialogue and reason, not confrontation. Mr. Dennis Muhammad, who once worked in Charleston Schools is now an insurance representative, sought $2500 from Council. He hoped to raise the number of folk working in the group and sought financial support. We spoke to him after his presentation and he claimed some success in his efforts. His young age, his familiarity with many of the youth through either his residence, or school experience had allowed him to gain the confidence of some of the disaffected. Basically, the youth on the East Side and other distressed areas were good persons, but they needed guidance and help, he said.

We noted that the majority of folk in the Eastside and adjacent communities were Christian and asked whether this had created a problem. He did not necessarily think it had but acknowledged that the religious differences had not helped. He would like to gather together about 50 helpers and for them to be organized into squads of about 10 persons to permeate the areas in the early evening hours.

We don't know how successful Mr. Muhammad will be, but we can only support his efforts. Crime is a problem in the community and too many lives are "lost" in all senses of the world. What he and his workers are attempting to do is noble and not without physical risk. And even if his success is very measured, and he "saves" only a few lives, the effort is very worthwhile particularly considering the meager cost to the County.

CDBG and Home grant recommendations
Also before the Council was the recommendations for the distribution of Community and Development Bloc Grants (CDGB) and Home Funds. These funds are distributed each year by HUD, and are essentially for affordable housing and social programs. The County administers the program for North Charleston but City of Charleston receives funds and administers its program independently.

Viewers can see the allocation by pressingDownload file.

Again, we make little comment on each of the allocations as we are not familiar with the specific programs. But as we have observed with the City of Charleston, we wonder whether there are too may groups and agencies that are doing the same thing and whether some efficiency could be gained by financing fewer entities.

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