Considering all the problems in the world, the country, and the state, if Naperville’s biggest problem is artwork on the Century Walk, then we must be in pretty good shape as a city. The Naperville city council meeting July 20th lasted for 69 minutes with 30% of the time focused on financial support by the city for the Century Walk.
Mayor Chirico brought up the topic during the “New Business’ portion of the meeting. He wants a 3-year financial commitment for Century Walk to be included as a ‘city obligation’ as is Naper Settlement, DuPage Children’s Museum, and the Naperville Municipal Band.
Currently Century Walk receives $50,000 yearly from the City as an obligation to maintain public art. The mayor wants to add another $100,000 taking the total up to $150,000. Bottom line is that there are too many unanswered questions remaining, including one huge question, which will be addressed in Watchdog’s August 8th posting.
The mayor asked for a show of hands to support the request to bring the topic to the next city council meeting. The “vote” was 5 to 3 with councilman White being absent. The five included Chirico along with council members Gustin, Hinterlong, Leong, and Taylor. The three not supporting the request were council members Holzhauer, Kelly, and Sullivan. If one of the five would not have supported the mayor’s request, the “vote” would have tied at four apiece meaning the requirement was not met and would not pass.
For almost 20 years Naperville’s Brand Bobosky has been nearly synonymous with Century Walk, currently as its President. Newly elected councilwoman Jennifer Bruzan Taylor received support from Bobosky for her election to the council, which she won by the narrow margin of only 57 votes. Taylor’s website shows Bobosky stating, “we support Jennifer Bruzan Taylor for Naperville city council because we know she will represent all the citizens of Naperville, not just special interest groups”. That begs two questions, 1) is Taylor representing all the citizens, and 2) is the Century Walk, not a special interest group?
Could that be a conflict of interest on Taylor’s part? Should she have mentioned it prior to the ‘show of hands’? Should Taylor address the ‘conflict of interest’ during the discussion of Century Walk at the next council meeting? Just as Century Walk is looking for a financial commitment from the city council, could Century Walk also be looking for a favorable vote from Taylor.
Brand and MaryAnn Bobosky have made many positive contributions to Naperville. They are active in the community and meet their responsibility of civic engagement by voting and supporting candidates they believe are good for Naperville. They also endorsed me as a candidate for mayor, so by the WD standard, I too would be in conflict by voting on this matter. That said, the same can be said for every candidate who is either supported or opposed by any special interest group. For example; lets say a anti-development special interest group supports a candidate and the special interest group works for a likeminded candidate. They make financial contributions to him/her, host events, walk neighborhoods… The candidate is elected and the vote on the proposed development comes up, should the candidate recuse him/herself due to conflict of interest? Obviously the answer is no. This scenario happens often in local elections. Candidates are supported when their positions align with the voter or special interest group. So please explain why is it a conflict of interest when an elected official votes in line with their campaign positions?
The Bobosky’s have been recognized as valued community contributors for decades. Which makes it all the more shocking that Brand decided to enrich himself personally through Century Walk. Frankly, it’s outrageous. While the amounts vary slightly, the foundation’s tax returns from 2012 -2019 indicate that in that Mr. Bobosky in recent years annually received approximately $42,000 in salary and rental income from the foundation. This in an organization that has annual revenues (almost completely from the city) of $150,000-$200,00. 2019 seems to have been “a bargain” at only $22,000. But then again, an additional $7,000 went to a sister-in-law of a director.
Per Charitynavigator.org, Century Walk’s high expense ratio causes it to score a 10/100 on Charity Navigator’s Encompass Rating platform. In contrast, Naperville Community Television Channel 17 scores a 100. This is not the Naperville I know and love.
Many of the not for profits that are receiving public money from the city have a paid Executive Director and they pay rent as well. In the case of the Municipal Band, they don’t pay rent because the city built and maintains a band shell, but NCTV and the Children’s Museum, both have a paid ED and pay rent and all are city obligations. In my view, reimbursing a voluntary position for costs does rise to the level of enriching oneself. That said, this obligation will be restricted to capital investment on public property.
Virtually none of the other seca applicants are scored by that website and how in the world could a random website credibly evaluate thousands of charities without doing any kind of direct due diligence on the entities being scored? They can’t. Like using Zillow to determine your house value only worse in this case because here the baseless scores are being used to discredit a valued community partner.
Interesting. Naperville Community Television Channel 17 scored 100. Looks like they got that one right. I guess it depends if one is a fan of Century Walk, then a 10 out of 100 looks pretty good. If not a fan, then 10 looks bleak.
I wonder how many non-profits pay around 30% of total revenue to their head in salary and rent. I’ll go out on a limb (not) and say exactly zero. If the mayor and council members want to try to justify this, fine. But, it’s really tough to defend the indefensible. Nobody is getting this magnitude of their foundation’s revenue as personal income.
It’s difficult to disagree with this comment, hence I won’t.
First, many of the non-profits that get money from the city through SECA are not rated because they are small. So small in fact that the only real opportunity they have to get any funding is from SECA since they lack the resources of large organizations that allow them to hold fund raising events. These small organizations rarely have any paid staff, depending entirely on volunteers and also rely on these volunteers to provide any storage or office space they may need at no charge as well. So the argument about these organizations are not rated is a red herring argument that only serve to distract from the issues raised.
Second, the City Band, DuPage Children’s Museum, etc are all part of the City Obligations fund none of which are subjected to the restriction place on the SECA Commission by city council prohibiting giving grant money for employee compensation. So any grant request by the Century Walk that indicated a portion of the grant funds would be used to cover this expense, by city council mandate, has to be denied. This is simply another example of a red herring argument.
Finally, Century Walk is not the only organization to suddenly see a lose in SECA funding. This does not mean anyone on the SECA Commission has it in for Century Walk or Mr. Bobosky. It is simply a reflects on the economic realities of having only a small portion of SECA’s $1.9 million budget available for grants and the purchasing power of these funds being steadily eroded away by inflation. This is the very concern I expressed to City Council encouraging them to not vote for Kevin Coyne’s ordinance striping the SECA fund of it annual CPI adjustment to keep up with inflation. No one on City Council has put forth any ordinance in the last five years to raise SECA funding so it has been frozen at $1.9 million while inflation marches on. At this rate it will not be much longer before SECA is forced to shift from it present position of only granting 80% funding of requests to 50%.
P.S. Century Walk is not only a large enough organization to have the resources needed to raise funds from sources other then SECA, but has consistently demonstrated it is capable of raising the majority of the funds it needs from other sources. In fact the over 50 piece of art funded almost entirely through these other funding sources clearly demonstrates Century Walk does not need SECA funding to do it work. This can not be said for the major it of organization that see their grant requests denied, forcing them to not move forward with their propose project at a lost to our community. Giving large amounts of SECA funding to organization that have access to other funding sources is not in keeping with the Spirit that lead to creation of the SECA fund and commission.
Well said. I concur, Mr. Haselhorst.
I cannot express how flabbergasted I am to be AGREEING with Mr. Haselhorst’s position on the matter. I am now preparing for a report of the temperature in Satan’s domain to drop below zero.