Thursday, April 25, 2013

Some comments on the Mayor's statement regarding the Wisner Donation

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" 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 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 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.  


Anonymous said...

One minor correction: Flip the script has billboards all over town. They don't have Lee's face on it, but they do have newspaper headlines with words bolded out to "flip the script" (like, "Young black male found guilty of murder, no hope for parole" with "Young black male found hope" highlighted.

Are they effective? Doubtful, but they definitely exist.

Jason Brad Berry said...

Fkup the script has billboards all over town or NOLAFORLIFE? Flip..I'm on phone.

Was the whole thing just a billboard campaign?

Anonymous said...

This is turning into another Ray Nagin steal the money operation. Public audits should be conducted by the state & city OIG's office immediately.

Jason Brad Berry said...

No, it's not Nagin level kickback scheme but it's really horrible admin. and backroom political dealing. I think a lot of this money is simply being used to butter up voting blocs. That's purely my opinion.

Anonymous said...

In your own words - "In fact, I believe it is less transparent than when it operated under the previous administration in many ways."

A career politician with designs on higher office using quasi-public fund "to butter up voting blocs?" No way!!

New Orleans gets what they deserve.

Anonymous said...

Hey, Anon?

"New Orleans gets what they deserve" strikes me as ugly.

Do you think that the vast majority of the people in the "targeted voting blocs" wants to see public money used "to butter them up"?

Really? You don't think most of the "targets" might have other more productive ways they might spend that kind of money if they had it?

See, I think those "targets" might know enough about their own communities to know where much smaller amounts might go a long, long way.

Most of the "targets" are people like Zombie's friend, the talented young film making kid who was shot.

You don't think people like that good young man would have the wisdom to do smaller, maybe harder, practical things on a consistant basis?

Funny, from here I can see many of these "targets" just getting on with doing that work, with very little funding or support. Where are you, that you can't see that?

You ever lived on a budget?

Ever had someone try to give you a gift to make you like them, to "butter you up," when if they really saw you as a person they might have seen how off-putting that approach is?

A fancy dinner when you might not have enough to repair your glasses doesn't feel like friendship or love.

Probably you'd prefer the company of the friend who can't take you out for dinner and who can't help you fix your glasses... but who will walk your dog for you so you can work the extra shift that will let you fix your own glasses.

People like people who are able to see their needs and their potential, and who give out of what they have to help another to survive and thrive.

No one is impressed by billboards.

That kind of bullshit is just enervating.

What most of us want is paid work that lets us contribute to the best of our abilities, to pay our bills, and to have both time and money to give to our families and friendships.

Most people can walk around a neighborhood and see that one motion sensor light here, a cleaned up vacant lot there, a bench to rest on midway from the grocery store to the building where the old people live, etc. would really help to fix things.

The communities targeted for "buttering up" aren't going to be impressed with the foolish use of money.

Try talking to some of these "targeted" people and see if you can make them trust you enough to tell you what they really think.

They don't trust you or talk to you?

They won't speak ill of the "community leaders" they privately dislike when talking to you?

Maybe you are the problem.

Maybe if you posessed some different personal opinions and qualities, you could inspire everyone who actually dilikes this kind of waste to work together to change the arrangements of the "voting blocs."

As long as you'd rather dismiss an entire city and all the members of "targeted blocs," you're unlikely to inspire anyone, or to live up to your own potential to lead positive social change.

You seem unhappy. And from here it looks like you're getting what you deserve.

Anonymous said...

If the City is not responding to a public records request, they are supposed to within 3 working day, then you can always take the City to court. If you win, the City will be required to pay you a fine and pay for all of your attorney's fee (meaning you might be able to find a lawyer to do it without put up any money up front).

Also, Nola For Life is the Mayor's big stop the murder campaign. There are a number of different pieces to it, one of which is Flip the Scrip.

Anonymous said...

Rumor around City Hall is that Michael Sherman has been asked by the Mayor to leave his post for the City. Wonder if it has anything to do with your coverage.

Jason Brad Berry said...

I've heard rumblings about that but for sure one of the heirs is calling for his resignation:

Jason Brad Berry said...

Just to be clear, when I said "voting blocs" I was not implying race. Race certainly factors into the equation and to a large extent but that wasn't a "code word" for African-American voting blocs.

I'm simply stating that I believe the Wisner money is being doled out to specific people that influence large amounts of votes in city and possibly state or even national elections.

Anonymous said...

Sherman was removed as the mayor's legislative affairs aide to the City Council because he infuriated nearly all the members and many times destroyed the chances Mitch had getting his votes. So Mitch shipped The Child Sherman off to do governmental affairs with the legislature. Imagine the giant pile of crap Sherman made out of that with his little nasal verbal jabs to keep the adults in line. Anyone can stand there while a kid punches at them and then after the repetition has grown tedious even for The Child Sherman the adults talk. Naturally, the entitlement machine that is Jones Walker will take this little bitch in. Maybe when The Child Sherman grows up he will be in the league with the likes of those Hatchet Men at Adams and Reese.

Ray Palmer said...

A buddy of mine was at the Mayor's kickoff of the NOLA for Life project at the Joy Theatre with Spike Lee and all the local politicians. Here are a couple of photos from the event. It was announced at the beginning that Lee and his company geneously donated their work. How can that be if he was paid all that money from the Wisner Trust? Some donation! The Mayor and his crony Sherman keep harping on transparency. Maybe they should start by telling the truth!