Wednesday, March 28, 2012

RIRA Public Purpose Funds Committee Meets Yesterday To Review and Recommend Distribution Of $100,000 To Roosevelt Island Organizations - Meeting Held In Secret and Media Kicked Out

Image Of RIRA Public Purpose Funds Committee Meeting Last Night

The Roosevelt Island Residents Association (RIRA) Public Purpose Funds Committee met last night to review the proposals submitted by Roosevelt Island organizations seeking financial grants and make recommendations to the Roosevelt Island Operating Corp (RIOC) as to how $100,000 in Public Purpose Funds should be allocated to the organizations making requests. As reported in January 20 post:
... The Roosevelt Island Residents Association (RIRA) has been delegated by RIOC to make recommendations to the RIOC Board for the allocation of available Public Purpose Funds.  RIRA created a Public Purpose Funds Committee that will interview and evaluate the applicant organizations and then make recommendations as to how the funds get distributed to the full RIRA Common Council. Upon approval by the RIRA Common Council, the recommendations are forwarded to the RIOC Board for approval....
Below are the organizations requesting Roosevelt Island Operating Corp (RIOC) 2012 Public Purpose Fund Grants and the amounts sought.
Roosevelt Landings Residents Association - $ 2,800.00
Roosevelt Island Disabled Association, Inc. -  $ 10,500.00
R&R Concerts Inc. -  $ 14,400.00
Island Kids, Inc. - $ 16,000.00
Flannigan Chiropractic Offices -  $ 19,200.00
Roosevelt Island Seniors Association, Inc. - $ 20,000.00
Roosevelt Island Community Literary Associates, Inc. -  $ 20,000.00
Life Frames, Inc. - $ 25,000.00
Roosevelt Island Historical Society - $ 26,000.00
Parent-Teacher Association PS IS 217M, Inc. -  $ 26,558.00
Roosevelt Island Visual Art Association, Inc. - $ 28,800.00
Roosevelt Island Day Nursery, Inc. - $ 35,000.00
Roosevelt Island Swimming, Inc. - $ 53,000.00
Total Amount Requested - $ 297,258.00
I attended several of the Public Purpose Committee meetings during the last several weeks in which Roosevelt Island organizations were interviewed about their proposals and like last year was impressed with the diligence, objectivity and hard work demonstrated by the committee members.

As I did last year, I planned to attend the Public Purpose Funds Committee Recommendation meeting and was provided the time and place for last night's meeting. Several hours before the meeting was to take place, I was informed by the Committee Chair:
A couple of committee members have asked not to have media at our meeting tonight. I feel I should honor their wishes.
I replied:
This is a public meeting. 

I am a member of the public and intend to attend. 

I attended last year's meeting and see no reason why I can't attend this year. 

I am sorry if this causes you any additional problems but openness and transparency are important in the public purpose funding process.
Apparently, it was not to be a Public Meeting. I showed up for the meeting and was allowed to stay for the presentation of the Roosevelt Landings Residents Association. When that presentation was completed, I was informed that the Public Purpose Funds Committee intended to hold their recommendation discussion in secret, what they call Executive Session, but was provided a few moments to make my case for staying which was basically my reply above. I  was then asked to leave the room and a vote was taken to determine if the meeting was to be closed to the public.  I was informed that the vote was to keep the meeting secret and left.

I offered the Public Purpose Funds Committee an opportunity to comment but have not heard back yet. When and if they do, I will include their comment as an update.

The Editor of the Main Street WIRE made a brief appearance at the beginning of last night's Public Purpose Funds Committee meeting just prior to the Roosevelt Landings presentation. I had not seen the Main Street WIRE editor at any of the previous Public Purpose Funds meeting in which I attended though he may have attended the others. The Main Street WIRE editor's contribution to last night's Public Purpose meeting was to inform the Committee that he agreed with those on the Committee who wanted the meeting to be held in secret and closed to the public.


Ratso123 said...

A Public Purpose Funds Committee meeting that is private?  A private matter for people holding a public office about a public matter?  Amazing!

Mark Lyon said...

I'm curious.  What does Flannigan Chiropractic Offices plan to do with $19,200.00?  Are they even a nonprofit?

commonsense540 said...


Tram_Rider said...

Not a nonprofit, so the submission was disqualified, as was the Roosevelt Landings Residents Association's.

Frank Farance said...

Years ago, I recall RI Day Nursery making an excellent case that the  PPF meetings should be open to the public and, as RIRA President, I made sure that was so.  It has been very troubling the past year or so that people gravitate towards private meetings or private document distribution, as is the case now for the RIRA agenda package.

Truly, it is not the right of committee members to close such a meeting.  I arrived after the vote so I was unaware people were kicked out.  Had I known about this, I would have voiced my strong desire for openness.

Continually, this closed-ness is rationalized with some hypothetical argument about preventing someone from being offended.

I don't recall there being any actual "secret" info that needed to be withheld from the public.  Although we weren't in agreement on every topic, largely there was consensus on most proposals.  There were different perceptions on some proposals, such as, on the degree of community benefit and portion of on/off-Island participants; another example: how well (or not) organizations did fundraising outside of this PPF process.

Overall, I believe, we did a more consistent job on scoring each of the proposals.

Sadly, because of the new policy on RIRA agenda packages (they are no longer public this RIRA term), the public doesn't get to see the distribution amounts in advance of the meeting and, thus, you won't be able to question/complain-about/support them in the RIRA Public Session.  As it is structured now, there will be no time for the public provide comments to the RIRA Common Council prior to their approval.