Controversy Surrounds Tourist Fund Restrictions Removing Neighborhoods

By Eric L. Wesson Sr.
CALL Staff Writer

On Wednesday, March 25, the City Council’s Finance, Governance and Ethics committee passed an ordinance out of committee to the full Council that will affect the way neighborhoods receive funding for their annual block parties, crime prevention events and entertainment.
Ordinance 150191 centers around the Neighborhood Tourist Development Fund (NTDF) which funds many neighborhood block parties and Night Out Against Crime and the St. Patrick Day parade, among other events.
The NTDF will now come under the City Manager’s office. For quite some time the NTDF has met in neighborhoods via community centers such as Southeast Community center and Brush Creek Community center. Now those meetings will be held at City Hall, which creates parking problems as well as location issues for citizens to present at the NTDF meetings.
Members who sit on NTDF tell THE CALL that the committee had no discussion on the change or input on the change in the structure.
“Some of us could have come down and testified before the Finance Committee and presented a different side to the Council,” a Committee member stated.
They were told in January that when they meet in April there would be a new procedure in which funds will be distributed.
Apparently no one on the committee, who are appointed to represent the neighborhoods because they are appointed by both In-District and At-Large City Councilmembers, knew of the changes that were voted out of committee Wednesday.
Members contend that under the new leadership of NTDF there has not been very much transparency on the committee.
THE CALL obtained a copy of the email in which Denise Dillard called her actions of not informing the committee about what was going on as a, “new girl oopsy”. Some members questioned whether her inactions were done intentionally because of the transparency issues that the committee has had.
Members of the committee contend that leadership never wanted to give grants to the neighborhoods and instead led the charge for the committee to be changed and come under the City Manager’s office and increase the amount of money used to promote the City.
The ordinance will remove virtually all aspects of neighborhoods grants unless the neighborhood event will attract people who are not within the neighborhood as a target.
• Agencies awarded $20,000 or less, don’t have to get the audit done
• Section 2-937 (1) the word “neighborhood” was removed to read “not-for-profit organization”.
• NTDF is now under the City Managers umbrella
At question is how the legislative intent of the State statute which governs the NTDF is clearly being understood.
According to State Rep. Brandon Ellington, the proceeds of the funds, which come primarily from a percentage of a sales tax  from purchases made at restaurants, must be used in a sense that will attract people from outside of the neighborhood to the particular neighborhood hosting the event.

 

 

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