The Unified Government Commission tonight discussed changing its process for distributing $500,000 in community charitable grants from the Hollywood Casino at Kansas Speedway.
There was a consensus at the 5 p.m. commission discussion to change from an independent committee that screened and made recommendations for the charitable grants, to grants given out by each individual commissioner. A straw poll was taken at the 5 p.m. meeting that showed six votes in favor of moving forward with developing a proposal that would outline the details of this idea.
Under that method, each commissioner and the mayor would have about $45,000 to distribute. There also seemed to be a consensus to continue spending the money on healthy lifestyle projects.
One of the reasons the new plan was advanced during a discussion last year was that some of the commission districts were not receiving an equal amount of funding from the casino grants. Many of the grants were located in a few districts.
Discussing the proposed changes, Commissioner Ann Murguia said it was a good idea to reach out to the small struggling groups in the community and make a difference. She said there are a number of small groups here that can make a difference with a small amount of money.
Mayor Mark Holland said he favored the older way of having an independent committee evaluate the grant applications, but added that he would accept whatever the commission decided.
Commissioner Hal Walker expressed his opinion that he would favor an independent committee to screen the grants and make the decisions.
Commissioner Murguia stated that if the older selection method continued, there would still be problems with it that need to be worked on.
Commissioner Jane Philbrook was concerned about who would do the vetting of the projects, and who would evaluate whether the organizations that received money had reached their goals. Would the administration have to do this, she wondered. Later in the meeting, it was stated that the commissioners would track the projects.
Commissioner Mike Kane was in favor of the change, as his district largely had been left out of the casino charitable grant money. He said if this change is made, he would like to see that some of the grant money goes to the school district.
The rules of the past charitable distributions did not allow any funds to go to school districts, since in past years it was stated that the public districts already received some funds from the casino. However, in Kane’s opinion, the schools need the money.
Commissioner Tarence Maddox brought up a discussion from a few years ago where commissioners thought small grants would not make much of a difference in the community. Some commissioners then had been interested in funding a larger project that would be very visible in the community.