Not needlessly dogmatic
As a member of the Montpelier City Council I was surprised by the interpretation of our Jan. 8 meeting that John Odum gave in his commentary “Let the band play on” published Jan. 14. I do not speak for the council as a whole, but I’d like to add my understanding of what happened and why.
The issue of the grant award to the Capital City Band came up as part of the presentation and acceptance of the full slate of 39 tax-funded awards proposed by the Montpelier Community Foundation. After two of the board members of the MCF presented their awards and the City Council accepted them, Ms. Carolyn Silsby asked for an explanation of why the band was awarded $1,000 rather than the $1,500 requested.
Mr. Odum wrote that the reason given for this reduction was “essentially ‘just because.’” The reason I took away from the board members’ presentation was that the MCF board separates applications between the arts fund, limited to $1,000, and the general fund, which supports public welfare organizations. The MCF board related the time that it spent talking about how to deal with the band’s application in particular and the criteria that the board uses to evaluate all of the applications it receives for public funding.
The council did indeed spend 20 minutes talking about a $500 adjustment before passing a $7.4 million budget on an immediate and unanimous vote. The occasion of the MCF board presenting its awards provided a good opportunity to talk about how the structure is and isn’t working. The council is interested in listening to Ms. Silsby and the MCF board members, but by our own rules we are limited to approving or rejecting the awards; the council cannot edit it. And even if we could, the council should not alter specific awards during a meeting when the other 21 organizations that did not get their full awards were not present.
I think the current Montpelier City Council is very pragmatic, and part of that has been delegating important work to our amazingly capable volunteers and then providing appropriate direction and oversight to those boards. The creation of the Montpelier Community Fund two years ago provided a way for the city to better anticipate our outside expenditures and an alternative funding process for nonprofit community organizations. It certainly isn’t perfect, but neither is it petty or needlessly dogmatic.
The writer is a city councilor.
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