ENCINITAS — City Council made few changes in the staff recommendations as it unanimously appropriated funds for the city of Encinitas and Mizel Family Foundation Community Grant Program on July 13.
However, only three council members voted to allocate funds as Councilwoman Kristin Gaspar and Deputy Mayor Jerome Stocks both recused themselves from the proceedings due to existing relationships with some of the groups requesting money.
Gaspar told the audience she was using an “abundance of caution” in not participating in the allocation process because she has served on several of the boards represented seeking funds.
“I hold volunteer service dear to my heart, but it would not be advisable for me (to participate in the vote),” she said before leaving the room.
Stocks, who is an insurance broker to many of those who are in some way involved in the various organizations seeking grants from the city, said he felt compelled to recuse himself from the vote.
“I cannot vote on an issue where there is a party from whom I derive financial benefit,” he said.
Dody Crawford, an arts commissioner, served as chair of the evaluation panel along with four others representing the city’s five volunteer commissions. The city’s general fund contributed $64,000, with a matching grant from the Mizel Family Foundation.
The panel initially recommended the council allocate $121,000. A high number of organizations sought funding this year according to arts administrator Jim Gilliam.
“We had 51 groups apply,” he told the council, although that number is down from a record-setting 59 in 2009. Of the 51 groups, 22 civic and 19 arts groups participated, but not all of them received high enough marks to receive funding to the dismay of some council members.
Councilwoman Maggie Houlihan said her recommendations to change the methodology of scoring applicants from last year were ignored. She specifically called out the San Dieguito Heritage Museum and the Encinitas Friends of the Library. Both groups are heavily subsidized by the city she said. For instance, the museum only pays $1 to rent prime city-owned property on Quail Gardens Drive.
“I don’t appreciate being put in this position,” Houlihan said. “There are no other groups that get those kinds of subsidies.”
“I can’t remember what I had for breakfast this morning,” Mayor Jim Bond said, referring to Houlihan’s recommendations to change the system last year. He suggested the discussion be put on a future agenda.
Several groups were present to ask the council to increase their funding grants. Wendy Morris of the Assistance League of San Dieguito asked that the group’s funds be increased from $4,000 to $5,000 in order to provide clothing for low-income elementary school children.
“We spend $70 per child,” she said.
Paula Kirpliani, from the Leucadia Town Council, said the panel’s decision not to fund any of the grant request for the recent Sumer Fun on the 101 event came as a surprise.
“There was absolutely no reason given as to why,” she said. “Just a number, it was very disappointing.” Kirpliani said even a modest grant of $500 would pay for three live bands.
Councilwoman Teresa Barth suggested the Encinitas Friends of the Library allocation of $3,000 to purchase DVDs be zeroed out. But Bond disagreed.
“We spent a lot of money on that library,” he said. “If we don’t support it this way then we’ll support it some other way.”
Each vote required a unanimous vote since only three council members were present. “I think Jim (Gilliam) and the group have done a good job of allocating it and I’m not for taking money away,” Bond said.
The council made modest adjustments to the allocation amounts of some organizations and managed to spend the entire grant amount.