Thursday, September 17, 2015

Is the Taxpayer Well Drying Up for BC Workshops?

Omar Hakeem, BC Workshops Director
BC(building community)Workshops was riding high in October 2014. They had just signed a sweetheart lease with the City of Brownsville for office space at 609 E. 11th St.  They would "pay" $9,600 annually, but notice the love from the city:

COMPENSATION: The City of Brownsville agrees to pay bcWORKSHOP $9,600 annually for planning, architectural services and community capacity building including gallery exhibits, curated panel or speaker series and coordination of pubic use of the common meeting space. Any services or benefit over and beyond the $9,600 will be treated as pro bono services to the COB. Payments will be made quarterly to bcWORKSHOP in equal portions. The annual work plan shall be determined prior to the beginning of the COB fiscal year and agreed upon by the COB Planning and Zoning Director and bcWORKSHOP. Any new work arising during the year will be agreed to by the COB and bcWORKSHOP prior to the beginning of any project.

So, the city charges $800 per month or $9,600 per year for a lease that includes utilities, internet, maintenance and taxes, then reimburses bcWorkshops $9,600.

That sounds like FREE!

bcWorkshops became the Brownsville's darling because they worked on cycling related projects.  They were given $208,000 by the BCIC to connect the Belden and Battlefield Bike Trails.  In Brownsville, the bicycle and its roadways became as sacred as the cow in India.  bcWorkshops had learned to suck the orifices found beneath the adult cow.  At one BCIC meeting in 2014 bcWorkshops had at least 10 requests for funding, including an event featuring kayak races with kites in tow on a resaca.  They were throwing everything at the BCIC's 4B udder.

Fast forward to the 9/17/15 BCIC meeting. bcWorkshops is asking for $5,000 to fund a project called Activing Vacancy Arts Incubator. Board member C. Frank Wood alertly notices that the request includes $1,500 for "design" to be performed by bcWorkshops. In other words, bcWorkshops wants to use tax dollars to pay themselves, a "no no." Board member Elizabeth Hollmann also observes that the United Way request includes $1,800 to be paid to bcWorkshops for design. Another board member recalls a certain kite and kayak fiasco. bcWorkshops request is pulled.

bcWorkshops Request is Number 8

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