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.