Mayor: Councilman ‘clueless’ on nonprofits’ woes
By Mike Danahey email@example.com March 21, 2013 12:36PM
Updated: April 23, 2013 2:08PM
ELGIN — Mayor David Kaptain says Councilman John Prigge is “clueless” about the plight of charitable organizations in town.
Kaptain made the comment Wednesday night after Prigge said some local nonprofits have been “shielded and protected” in recent years during recession-related cuts in city funding, while residents have been asked to pay more.
Kaptain pointedly told Prigge that nonprofits also have been struggling to make ends meet during the same period as the federal and state government have cut back funding on and/or been late with payments promised them. The city should do what it can to help, the mayor said.
“If you don’t think (the nonprofits) have felt pain, you are totally clueless as to what goes on,” Kaptain told Prigge, to a smattering of applause from audience members.
Prigge said he didn’t think that it was the city’s place to try to make up any gaps left by other levels of government and mentioned recently public safety vehicle purchases as a possible use for the money.
Prigge’s comments came before his casting the lone “no” vote on doling out money set aside from the city’s share of Grand Victoria Casino money to assist local agencies.
This year, 35 groups applied for grants, compared with 21 in 2012. The combined amounts sought totaled more than $802,000 — including almost $118,000 for the Ride in Kane program — compared to total requests of about $339,000 in 2012.
Set to receive shares of the money are the Oak Crest senior residence; the local Golden Diners program, Ecker Center for Mental Health, Food For Greater Elgin food bank, Boys & Girls Club of Elgin, Neighborhood Housing Services, the YWCA Literacy Connection program, United Way of Elgin, Centro de Informacion and Ride In Kane.
The council chose to move forward using $250,000 already set aside from casino money to fund all but Ride In Kane, with $118,000 given to that program coming from contingency funds set aside from casino money.
Councilwoman Anna Moeller said that in the future she would like to see that an alternate source of money for the Ride In Kane program be found in the city’s budget.
The $250,000 grant program was started in 2012 and replaced individual line-item funding that had been given to certain agencies in prior years.
Prigge said Wednesday that he didn’t think the city should distribute “taxpayer money” to the organizations that could otherwise go to paying for police or fire vehicles.
Moeller said the money came from gambling receipts, not Elgin taxpayers, and that demand for nonprofit services from Elgin residents has increased during the economic downturn.
Councilman John Steffen reminded Prigge that some groups have had funding cut since the program was redesigned last year, while most have not received the full amounts they requested.
Councilman Rich Dunne noted that the city has already budgeted to replace four of five vehicles in its ambulance fleet and to replace 23 police squad cars out of about 100 of its vehicles this year.
Dunne also said he spoke to local cab and ambulance companies, whose owners told him the Ride In Kane services were best provided by the government and not the private sector.
According to Ride In Kane officials, at least 1,500 Elgin residents use the program. The public/private partnership is between various government bodies and four community service agencies, the Pace suburban bus agency, and the county’s division of transportation.
For a nominal feel, it provides rides to qualifying seniors, persons with disabilities and low-income county residents. About 56 percent of the trips are work-related.