By Paul Gable
I was saddened last week to read that SLED is investigating Citizens Against Spouse Abuse for misappropriation of funds.
My first thought was ‘there goes another point of light, extinguished through the selfishness of public policy.’
On second thought, I realized this has nothing to do with public policy, because in today’s political environment, there is no public policy. There is government policy, business policy, even wine policy but the public doesn’t deserve a policy.
President George H.W. Bush warned this was coming in his inaugural address nearly 24 years ago:
“The old solution, the old way, was to think that public money alone could end these problems. But we have learned that is not so. And in any case, our funds are low. We have a deficit to bring down. We have more will than wallet; but will is what we need. We will make the hard choices, looking at what we have and perhaps allocating it differently, making our decisions based on honest need and prudent safety.”
“I have spoken of a thousand points of light, of all the community organizations that are spread like stars throughout the Nation, doing good. We will work hand in hand, encouraging, sometimes leading, sometimes being led, rewarding.”
From what I learned over the weekend, $29,600 from a federal grant designated for the purchase of two vans for the organization was used by CASA, essentially, to keep the doors open and the lights turned on. The intent was certainly not to deceive, but immediate, pressing cash flow problems led to the problem.
That explanation doesn’t make the technically wrongful use of the money right, but it does make it understandable. After all, what good are two vans for the transport of victims of domestic abuse if there is nowhere to transport them to?
Now there isn’t. Two shelters for battered women and their children are gone. The CASA shelter in Georgetown County closed last week and the one in Myrtle Beach will be shuttered today – out of business due to lack of funds.
Hey, times are hard, we have a deep recession going on. We have to better prioritize the use of our even more limited public funds.
From what we can determine, CASA receives approximately $20,000 per year from the City of Myrtle Beach general fund. Horry County provided approximately $25,000 per year through Fiscal Year 2009, then, cut funds to supplementary agencies like CASA to zero beginning in FY 2010.
In the current fiscal year, CASA received a total of $5,000 from the recreation funds of four Horry County council members. Georgetown city and county are providing zero at this time.
Since cutting funds to supplementary agencies like CASA in FY 2010, Horry County has dedicated millage of approximately $1 million per year to regional transit authority COAST (government policy). It has done even better, $1.8 million per year, for the Myrtle Beach Regional Economic Development Corporation (business policy).
Now, COAST had its own problems with the misuse of public funds seven years ago when it was known as LYMO. It wasn’t about keeping the lights on at LYMO, it was about $800 per night suites at the Waldorf-Astoria hotel in Manhattan and $125 ink pens, among other extravagances.
The economic development corporation received approximately $400,000 per year from Horry County until last year when it was determined a 450 percent increase was needed in its funding from the county’s general fund.
Economic development provided roughly zero new jobs when it was getting $400,000 per year. In the last year, under its latest reorganization and increased funding, it has produced, so far, 10 new jobs. County Chairman Tom Rice inflates that number somewhat when he goes around campaigning for Congress.
Coastal Uncorked receives over $400,000 per year in public funds from the City of Myrtle Beach and the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce (wine policy). However, it is important for the Card Room crowd at the Dunes Club to have a public funded wine tasting event where they can relax after making all those ‘important’ decisions that affect the rest of us.
There are other examples. For the last two years, there has been a one percent sales tax in Myrtle Beach to fund tourism advertising. This allowed the large hotel and golf operations to reduce their marketing budgets by over 90 percent. Why spend your own money when the city and Chamber will spend tax dollars for you (government and business policy)?
It’s a shame those hotel and golf owners didn’t see fit to give just a little of that savings (is 1% too much) to help keep CASA going.
The Bike Rally events, that Rice wanted to shut down, step forward every year to help CASA raise money. That’s an example of today’s public policy where the public has to help the public because no agencies funded with public money will.
In the end, two shelters are closed, CASA’s ‘point of light’ is extinguished and CASA will be remembered for being investigated by SLED, not for all the good work it has done.
A new CASA or some similar organization may rise to attempt to help victims of domestic abuse, but it can’t expect any help from public agencies. Their budgets are too tight funding government, business and wine policy!