I don't want to repeat the points made by the heirs in their response to Mayor Landrieu's press release but there are some things I want to comment on myself.
We also began to bring transparency to the operations of the Edward Wisner Donation Advisory Committee.I disagree. In fact, I believe it is less transparent than when it operated under the previous administration in many ways. Yes, the public is now allowed to attend the committee meetings (the heirs object to this) but there are still unfulfilled public records requests, even attempts to block prr's, and as the heirs pointed out the mayor created an entirely separate bureaucratic entity, operating under his thumb, independent of the existing committee.
On top of this, there is still no clue as to how much money is in the city's Wisner account. There is a line item list of $3,003,650 in expenditures but there has to be at least twice that amount currently in the account unless it's been spent without public disclosure.
...and discloses how every penny of money received from the Wisner Donation is spent.As I stated, we still don't know what the balance is in regards to the city's take. The administration has yet to provide a balanced spread sheet.
I've been told that the Nagin administration provided detailed financial reports produced from the city's accounting software and the numbers were always balanced. After Mayor Landrieu took over, the financial reports delivered to the Edward Wisner Donation Advisory Committee shifted to Excel spreadsheets that simply don't balance. Hence, the Edward Wisner Donation Advisory Committee simply doesn't have a clear picture as to how much money the City has taken in from the Trust or how much it has spent.
By increasing awareness of and access to funding, the City has been able to invest over $3 million with over 80 local nonprofit organizations and public agencies that meet the mission and intent of Edward Wisner's donation. From enrichment programming for at-risk youth to critical social services for those most in need, we are investing in high quality programs and services that address the city's greatest needs.I've been told that the Mayor doled out 300k to film director, Spike Lee's, advertising/production company for the "Flip the Script" campaign. What actually happened was 300k was distributed from the Wisner donation to the Urban League in the Fall 2012 grant period. Immediately after that, the Urban League paid Spike Lee 300k to launch a New Orleans PR campaign called "Flip the Script" that was designed to stop violent crime in the City.
This amount is listed as a "Strategic Investment" in the line item expenditure document along with a $515,000 donation to the "Mayor's Cultural Fund" with those recipients listed on the attached worksheet.
These "Strategic Investment" grants are a new creation by the Landrieu administration as well as the "Discretionary Grants". They were never presented to the Edward Wisner Donation Advisory Committee for approval.
What did the "Flip the Script" campaign do?
I think I saw a billboard with Spike Lee's face on it near Claiborne and Washington that had some aloof message saying, "Stop shooting people", that was up for about 2 weeks. I haven't seen anything since then.
Apparently that campaign has morphed into "NOLAFORLIFE". So if you Google "Flip the Script New Orleans"...it pulls up a new entity called "NOLAFORLIFE". I'm not sure what Spike Lee's involvement is with NOLAFORLIFE.
Their website states that NOLAFORLIFE (all capital letters) is now awarding 500k in grants to "23 local organizations to deliver high-quality social services to young men most at risk of killing or being killed."
That list can be accessed here: NOLAFORLIFE...benefactors
I''m still not sure where the money went or how it is serving those in need although I've heard the entity is throwing a series of social gatherings around the city. I would love to see an ROI analysis on this entity.
More importantly, I would love to see a balance sheet on the Wisner funds that have been distributed into the City's coffers. No one has seen that lately. Even after public records requests...nada....no dice.
Having spoken to the people involved with the donation for the past decade or more, they estimate that there should be at least 4 million in the fund that hasn't been distributed since 2010, possibly much more.
That's a lot of money and there is no accounting for it as of right now.
Another interesting point is that the donation recipients are usually announced on April 1st for the Spring period (there are 2 annual grant periods: Spring/Fall). So far, there has been no public word from the Mayor's office as to who the recipients are for this Spring's grants. Many of the former recipients have made inquiries to the Mayor's office and the Edward Wisner Donation Advisory Committee regarding who received this session's grants but the Mayor's office has provided no answers as of yet...at least none that I am aware of.
From a speculative point, it makes me wonder if the Mayor's office is reconsidering their decision to bypass the Edward Wisner Donation Advisory Committee in how the City spends its portion of the donation. I wonder if the mayor is now concerned that the pending litigation may result in a court decision that shows the mayor has misappropriated funds that were previously distributed.