Community members weigh in on county grants

Community members weigh in on county grants
Supervisor Dave Roberts welcomes members of the Third District Community Enhancement Review Panel on June 8 at the Cardiff-by-the-Sea Library. The 10-member panel includes representatives from throughout the Third District. Beth Levine of Del Mar and Alice Buck of University City appear to the Supervisor’s left. To his right is Roberta Walker, grants administrator. Photo courtesy of Supervisor Dave Roberts

ENCINITAS — A panel of a dozen residents and stakeholders gathered with District 3 Supervisor Dave Roberts Wednesday morning at the Cardiff Library in what has become an annual tradition.

Huddled around a conference room table, the group listened as Roberta Walker, Roberts’ policy advisor and grant specialist, read a description of a community organization’s proposal for dollars from the county’s community enhancement grant program.

“I think it deserves the entire request,” one person said. “The whole city’s engaged in this event.”

“Maybe give it $3,000,” another said. “We have a lot more to go.”

This was the back and forth as the people, who were selected to represent their cities by the city’s elected representatives and mayors, made their way down a list of 488 proposals that represented more than $13 million in requests.

Roberts implemented this annual gathering after being elected to bring transparency to the community enhancement grant program, which annually delivers millions to deserving causes and groups throughout the county’s five districts.

Each of the supervisors receives the same amount from the pool of money, which comes from the county’s transient occupancy tax, and the supervisors primarily reward the money to groups that promote economic development and tourism or improve the quality of life of residents.

Roberts said he is the only supervisor to decide his grant recommendations in this fashion.

“Four years ago, I heard complaints that this was not an open or transparent process,” Roberts said. “I have prided myself on listening to the community and their needs and making the best recommendations.”

Robert’s pot of funds this year was $979,000, which includes unspent money from last year’s round of grants. The panel’s job is to recommend amounts to give each of the organizations.

Most of the fund requests are for far more than they are likely to receive, so the group’s job is to make decisions based on which proposals will have the greatest impact on the community.

Walker said that groups typically receive between 30 percent and 50 percent of their requested amounts. In some cases, the request fits better with one of the other county grant programs, such as the neighborhood reinvestment grant, the county’s “brick and mortar” program.

Roberts will take the recommendations to the full board along with those from the other supervisors, and they will vote on the overall grant program for the year.

Maureen “Mo” Muir was selected by Encinitas Mayor Kristin Gaspar to represent the city on the panel. She said she feels the group is a good idea because each person can provide the perspective of their respective community that Roberts’ office might not have.

“I think the supervisor can’t be everywhere in the county,” Muir said. “I think each of those people appointed is connected within the community and involved in different community service organizations, so when some of these requests are made, we know about the groups and the programs they provide.”

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