Columbus Council postponed voting Tuesday on almost $700,000 in funding for social service crime prevention programs offered by 10 local organizations.
Councilor Gary Allen made the motion to postpone the vote to give Crime Prevention Director Seth Brown time to make sure that the people involved with the programs have not made substantial political contributions to city elected officials. Going forward, Allen said he would like that information included on grant application forms.
Allen said the change would increase transparency in government.
“The citizens would feel more comfortable with the process of vetting the many applications you get,” Allen told Brown.
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Council voted unanimously to postpone the vote and directed Brown to determine whether any members of the 10 organizations have given more than $250 to any city elected official over the last two years. Council asked Brown to gather that information over the next week and return to council’s meeting next Tuesday with the information.
After Council’s vote, Brown said he “didn’t have a problem” with council’s decision, but said it will be difficult to contact all the people on all the boards before next Tuesday, considering that many people travel for the Thanksgiving holidays.
“The council is just looking for more transparency and we don’t have a problem with that,” Brown said. “We’re big believers in transparency.”
Brown presented the 10 requests to Council for programming that is aimed at reducing crime and recidivism, assisting young people and at-risk families and fighting illiteracy.
The $693,500 requested would be funded out of the crime prevention budget, already approved by Council in June. One of the programs Brown presented was the Boxwood Recreation Center, a facility that was closed down back when the city closed many smaller facilities in favor of fewer larger rec “super centers.” It was renovated and reopened last year.
Brown said the Boxwood revival has been very successful and has attracted programs from outside, such as a youth soccer/mentoring/tutoring program started by St. Thomas Episcopal Church at Boxwood.
“Boxwood has had a tremendous impact on the area,” Brown said.
Mayor Pro Tem Evelyn Turner Pugh voiced support for programs like Boxwood, saying they’re an investment in the community.
“You can pay now or you can pay later,” Turner Pugh said. “You can have more police officers on the street or you can have programs like this.”
Other programs that council delayed funding for were:
Education is the Answer Inc. is based in the Edgewood area, where Edgewood School recently closed. It sought $45,000 for its effort “to mentor juveniles from ages 13-19 in middle and high school to reduce truancy, drug use, pregnancy and delinquency among juveniles,” according to Brown’s proposal.
The SAMARC Foundation sought $80,000 for its program that seeks to increase academic scores, leadership skills among juveniles and lower recidivism rates among juveniles.
Columbus Technical College non-violent felon employment program sought $80,000, “to employ non-violent felons and reduce the rate of recidivism.”
Family Center of Columbus F.A.S.T. program sought $87,000, "for treatment of at-risk youth and families, to reduce the dropouts rate, juvenile crime rates and delinquency.”
Adult Drug Court sought $75,000, for “the reduction of recidivism and continued drug use among adult offenders.”
Mental Health Court sought $75,000, for “reduction of recidivism and continued drug use among adult offenders.”
Chattahoochee Valley Jail Ministry, Inc. sought $41,500, for “quality programming as well as mentoring for inmates within the Muscogee County Jail.”
Literacy Alliance of Columbus sought $105,000, for “an effort to increase literacy rates of Muscogee County residents to reduce crime and lower recidivism rates among adults.”
Neighborhood Focused on African American Youth, Inc. sought $55,000, “to provide quality after school programming and tutoring for juveniles during the school year.”