Letters to the Editor
... input from forum participants


Response to Nov 8th letter re: City Council funding of non-profit organizations

Dec. 13th

Dear Editor,

As usual I haven taken time to read your newsletter because I find it informative and well worth the time spent. I am writing today in response to the letter to the editor you published from a Mr. & Mrs. D. Vitkoff of Marina Del Rey who questioned the funding of a non-profit agency by the Los Angeles City Council. Although it was signed by Mr. & Mrs. D. Vitkoff, the letter was written in the first person, the writer never really identified herself or himself, so I shall respond to the letter as though both Mr. & Mrs. Vitkoff were both in the council chambers, and both authored the letter.

This vagueness of authorship however, is indicative of the tone of the letter which is replete with misinformation and disinformation. Although the letter begins with complimentary statements about your newsletter, the veneer of civility soon vanishes behind allegations of impropriety and unethical behavior that includes the Board of Directors of Barrio Action Youth and Family Center of El Sereno, myself and the Los Angeles City Council itself.

At one point in the letter, the Vitkoffs wrote the statement, I (sic) didn't know that City Council was in the business of funding non-profit organizations (NPOS)." It seems to me that before making such a statement, the Vitkoffs would have performed some basic inquiries in order to ensure themselves that they had all the facts about the matter about which they speak. The fact is that the City Council is in the business of servicing the needs of all the people of Los Angeles City. It does this in different ways. One of these ways is for the City to provide direct services through the various City Departments. Another way is for the City to contract out to the Boards of Directors of non-profit organizations and/or to private sector companies. By utilizing different types of funding resources, the City administers scores of social service contracts and awards capital improvement grants to dozens and dozens of private non-profit organizations throughout the City. The City Council has been doing this for decades! The Barrio Action Youth and Family Center is only one of numerous non-profit organizations that have received funding from Los Angeles City in an open and public competitive forum. It is clear that the Vitkoffs do not have a clue, intentionally or unintentionally, about this funding process; nor do they know what the Barrio Action Youth and Family Center is and what services the agency has actually provided for decades in El Sereno and the many communities around the agency. Perhaps they don't know about our services because we do not have an office in Marina del Rey.

Yes, the City Council is in the business of funding non-profits. These non-profits compete on an equal playing field for funds. They work diligently in proving themselves as viable options for paid services for the poor and the working poor. At the end of the day, these non-profits are the only hope that many families have to support them and see them through very trying and difficult times.

For the Vitkoff's information, the Barrio Action Youth and Family Center has been supporting, nurturing, educating, and most of all, empowering youth and their families since it's inception over twenty five years ago when Sister Emmanuel Barragan, a nun with the Blessed Virgin Mary Order, founded the agency. Our mission has not changed from that time to this day. Barrio Action is fortunate to have staff and volunteers who through the decades have come from different backgrounds, are community residents from El Sereno and vicinity who work with our families to help them break the cycle of poverty and social deprivation. The staff and volunteers are highly respected for their hard fought gains and tireless work in the community. One of the reasons they are so respected is that they have never found it necessary to vilify and/or belittle other agencies in order to build a self-serving platform from which to brag and toot their own horn about the work they do. The staff and volunteers of Barrio Action are respected for their dedication to the people they serve and they are known for the fruit of their work. They don't need to use self-aggrandizement statements in misguided attempts to create a public name for themselves.

By their letter, the Vitkoffs exposed a great deal of resentment and bitterness on their part over what they mistakenly concluded was a gift of $2,000,000.00 by the City Council to me. This conclusion is particularly insidious because the Vitkoffs, implied, if not directly stated, that this award was given to me by the City Council as a pay off for my work as a City Commissioner.

The truth is that the City Council did not award this grant to me, or because of me. As with other awards and grants given to dozens of other non-profit agencies such as the Barrio Action Youth and Family Center the funds were awarded to the Board of Directors of the Barrio Action for use in improving services to the community. The working for this grant, which incidentally is matching funds from other sources outside the City, was in the making for many years; long before I was even hired by the Board of Directors. I picked up and continued to work to build the agency as directed by the Board where others before me had done. These funds will remain with the agency to be administered for the good of the community by the Board of Directors, long after I have left the agency and/or am no longer a Commissioner. The Vitkoffs insinuated that the City Council acted unethically in awarding this grant and suggested that the Council's action should be reported to the Ethics Committee (sic). The Vitkoffs total lack of comprehension of the workings of City funding, and their misinterpretation of what happened concerning this award, prompted them to make statements that not only do a disservice to the entire City and are entirely incorrect.

As for myself, my accountability as to how I spend my time as Executive Director of Barrio Action is to the Board of Directors. As Executive Director of Barrio Action I will continue to do my best to promote and advance the work of the agency in the community. I will also continue to spend my own time promoting and advancing the work of BONC because I believe that Neighborhood Councils will be the vehicle to self determination and empowerment of people at all levels in the community. This work includes helping certify Neighborhood Councils that the Commission determines are worth certifying and denying those that are not worth certifying.

Tammy Membrano
Barrio Action Youth and Family Center