Foundations Say No Thanks to Collins’ $100K
by Geoff Kelly - posted 5:34 pm, December 21, 2010
The Oishei Foundation has withdrawn its offer to match $100,000 from Erie County Executive Chris Collins with $400,000 in private funds, which would have been used to help restore funding to cultural organizations that Collins struck from his proposed budget this year.
Frustrated by the haymaking by politicians on both sides of the aisle, the leadership of the Oishei Foundation decided Monday night that they’d be better off leaving Collins’ money on the table and distributing their funds as they see fit, in coordination with other private entities.
Rescinding the offer frees the Legislature’s Democrats to try to force Collins to honor their restoration of funding for the public library system and the cultural organizations, most likely in the courts.
The Republicans of the Erie County Legislature just released this statement:
The Republican Caucus was disappointed in learning that Robert Gioia and the Oishei Foundation have withdrawn its offer to support cultural organizations through a public-private partnership with Erie County. The announcement came one day after the Legislature’s Community Enrichment Committee met and criticized the foundation’s generous offer and how it was made. The Caucus thanks Mr. Gioia for his offer to help County cultural organizations and for his continued support for the region. This public-private partnership was an exemplary plan, one that the Republican Caucus strongly supported.
That’s somewhat disingenuous: The Oishei Foundation will continue to support cultural institutions in Erie County. They’ll bring as much, or more, money to the culturals as they’ve promised to do. They apparently just don’t want to be party to the maneuvering of both parties. Collins’ grudgingly given $100,000—two months after Gioia first suggested the deal—didn’t seem worth the hassle.
In part, the Republicans supported Gioia’s offer because it gave them political cover: Coupled with the deal they’d struck with Collins to restore $3 million of the $4 million the county executive wanted to cut from the library system, the Oishei deal allowed Republicans to say to constituents that they’d saved endangered culturals for a year without jumping across the aisle to join Democrats in overriding Collins’ vetoes of the alterations the Dems had made to his proposed budget.
That cover is gone now, and the ball is back in county government’s court: Will Republicans support any public funding to cultural organizations this year? Will Democrats find a way to force Collins to respect the legislature’s will?
Here is Oishei’s statement:
M E M O R A N D U M
To: Chris Collins, Erie County Executive
Barbara Miller-Williams, Chair, Erie County Legislature
Clotilde Dedecker, Convener, Fund for the Arts
From: Jim Wadsworth, Chair, The John R. Oishei Foundation
Robert Gioia, President, The John R. Oishei Foundation
Re: Offer of Cooperative Assistance to Cultural Organizations
Date: December 21, 2010
Because of the astounding amount of responses, misunderstanding, and apparent “unintended consequences” related to the Oishei Foundation’s offer to raise $400,000 to match a county contribution of $100,000, we have decided to revise our strategy and work directly with the cultural organizations through the Fund for the Arts. Whatever funds we are able to raise will be provided to them through the process established by the Fund for the Arts.
It is our strong hope that efforts to provide support to the critical ‘second-tier’ cultural organizations, as well as the Library, will continue in earnest by those legislators who believe in their importance. If the legislature or the executive wishes to participate in the Fund for the Arts with a financial contribution to the Fund, it will be welcome; however, it will only be accepted without any conditions beyond a requirement to report on how it was distributed.
The Fund for the Arts was begun in response to a similar legislative budgetary disaster in 2005, when many of the same organizations were similarly caught in a political struggle. Since it was begun, nine foundations – all with differing funding processes and philosophies – have managed to agree to distribute over $1 million in pooled funds to these groups for general operating support and for technical assistance and training programs. We will continue to work toward strengthening the arts and cultural sector.
The Oishei Foundation has been a major contributor to the Fund for the Arts, and in addition to that effort, has made major contributions to such organizations as the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Roycroft Campus, Darwin Martin House, Buffalo Philharmonic, and many others. We will continue to do so. However, we have concluded that working with the leadership of the legislature and the administration of the county on this effort is doing more harm than good in a number of ways.
We are announcing this action to the public via press release today.