By Elisha Dorfsmith
With Council Member Mark Woodson absent from Monday’s special budget retreat, the majority of the Flagstaff Council directed staff to continue funding most City funded charities at the current level.
The decision came after nearly five hours of presentations from local non-profits and public comment. As Council discussed how to move forward, the argument was made by several members that all of the non-profits provide “essential services” to the community.
“Even Sister Cities?” Asked Council Member Jeff Oravits, reminding Council that a representative from Sister Cities gave a presentation earlier in the evening saying the City donates money to a local organization that no longer exists.
All members of the Council admitted that sending money to a defunct organization was not wise and agreed to cut those funds. The majority of Council also agreed to cut city funding for grad night and the Route 66 car show.
During the evening, Council Member Coral Evans had to recuse herself twice due to a conflict of interest with United Way and the Sunnyside Neighborhood Association.
The Arizona Daily Sun recently reported that Vice Mayor Coral Evans receives $40,000 as executive director of the Sunnyside Neighborhood Association. A portion of that money comes from the general fund of United Way. The City of Flagstaff currently donates about $300,000 to the general fund of United Way.
Interestingly, Evans was in the end allowed to direct staff to continue funding non-profits at their current level…including United Way and the Sunnyside Neighborhood Association.
During the meeting, United Way and other non-profit organizations argued that charity is the wrong word to use when referring to their groups and that essential services are not charity. Mayor Nabours explained that every organization there was organized as a 501C3 charity and as charities they should not shy away from the term.