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Neighborhood Council Clashes Over Grant Funds

At most recent meeting, council members continued to debate the proper use of neighborhood purposes grants.

The approved allotting more than $14,000 in neighborhood purposes grants at its most recent meeting on Thursday, April 7, but not before tensions rose between board members over how the money was being spent.

Among the groups to receive funding were the Lincoln Heights Youth Association Football and Cheer Team, which received $5,000 for new football helmets; a wrestling coach, who received $5,000 to establish a wrestling team at the school; and UCLA's New Roots group, which received $800 for tree and shrub planting at Franklin High School.

The neighborhood council also voted in favor of spending $3,000 to support a community festival at Franklin High School, which will be held in October, and $500 to support the annual Peace in the Northeast march.

As she had consistently done in previous neighborhood council meetings during which neighborhood purposes grants were considered, member Janet Dodson questioned the propriety of spending such $14,000 on projects that appeared to impact a relatively small portion of the community.

In particular, Dodson expressed concern with funding the wrestling program. She recommended instead that the board allot a smaller amount toward the cause and draft a letter of support to assist the team's coach in future fundraiser efforts.

Member Trisha Gossett also questioned if the funds being handed out by the neighborhood council were benefitting a large enough portion of the community. She noted that board seemed to be spending a disproportionate amount of money on sports teams that cater mostly to males, like football and wrestling.

"I'd like to see some of our funding go toward the arts, or to benefit some of our female students," Gossett said.

Despite the arguments of Gossett and Dodson, the neighborhood council eventually voted in favor of approving the entire requested amount of $5,000.

Thursday's discussion was only the latest in the series of minor clashes among neighborhood council members over how neighborhood purposes grants should be spent.

In recent meetings, Dodson has raised concerns over spending $2,200 to send nine Franklin High School students on a tour of the state house in Sacramento. Dodson also questioned the fairness of spending $1,200 to send one boy and girl to Boys and Girls State seminars.

Both requests were eventually approved, with provisions requested by Dodson that the students return to the neighborhood council to report on what they learned during the trip.

The Department of Neighborhood Empowerment (DONE) established the neighborhood purposes grant in March of 2009 in order to give neighborhood councils flexibility within their budget to fund the efforts of local schools and non-profit organizations.

According to DONE, "A Neighborhood Purposes Grant must provide a demonstrable benefit to the community. [It] should build community through the implementation process and enhance the neighborhood once completed."

Erik Duarte and Luis Antezana, the neighborhood council's two youngest members, both stated that by investing in student programs, they were providing leadership opportunities for young people who may someday come back and make a positive impact on Highland Park.

Both Duarte and Antezana graduated from Franklin High School and played on the school's football team.

Theresa Bonsell, who heads the neighborhood council's outreach subcommittee, said that by supporting community groups and event, the neighborhood council could establish a stronger reputation in Highland Park and hopefully draw more people to attend meetings.

carol van beek April 13, 2011 at 01:58 AM
Two questions that I'd like to have answered: 1) How does giving money to a Lincoln Heights organization benefit the community of Highland Park? 2)How much does a football helmet cost? In other words, how many helmets were purchased for $5000. ?
David Fonseca April 13, 2011 at 06:27 AM
Carol, Numerous HLP students attend Lincoln High, according the boosters club. The helmets are 80 apiece. 80x45=5K
teri bonsell April 15, 2011 at 06:30 AM
just to clarify the organization that were seeking funds are a little league football team. This is not the Lincoln High School Football Team. They are called The Lincoln Heights Youth Association and they are a non-profit orginization.
teri bonsell April 15, 2011 at 06:36 AM
some other info, and boy or girl can sign up to play football,baseball any sport at any rec. center or youth assoc. There are no rules as to where you live. Many of the boys and girls who live in Highland Park play ball in Eagle Rock,San Pasqual and Lincoln Heights. So, in the long run this will benifit the community of Highland Park if indeed any of our boys and girls dicide to sign up there.
Paul Bonsell April 16, 2011 at 01:37 AM
Some board members are wondering if the money is going in the right direction of the community. I am a community activist andvolunteer . I have invested a lot into my community. We've reached out to all the events in which these funds are allocated thooughout the years, and finally we're getting structured to a point that the investment and return is impacting our community by the children and developing their self-esteem, confidence, and finding out that there is someone else who cares in bettering their education and the quality of life in these indivuals. Some of the board members are wondering if funds were allocating into the development of our youth is wothwhile. They wonder if the funds are helping our community. When you're involved with these young minds witnessing their growth and devlopment and unlimited possibilties. The investment is wothwhiled. We finally found funds available that will make a impact in our community.

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