By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
A new development late today, related to allegations made last night by the 34th District Democrats, who passed a motion asking for city and state investigations into a purported youth-arts publication that they alleged was instead political-attack literature – funded by a $1,000 city grant.
The city says that today it asked for, and got, the money back.
Here’s our story, as it developed late last night and into the morning, including a scanned copy of the “2011 Youth Arts Compendium” publication, created with a grant received by West Seattle-based Unified Outreach, whose director David Toledo is campaign manager for King County Council candidate Diana Toledo, who was promoted in several of the publication’s articles.
Answering our request for comment right after the 34th DDs’ vote, Unified Outreach sent a statement saying in part “… We at Unified Outreach are confused by the allegations. As all stories were written by youth with no intentional biases or promotion of one candidate over another. There was NO input from ANY campaigns or political figures and no copies of the paper were released prior to printing..”
This morning, we sent several questions to the city Department of Neighborhoods, which issued the Small Sparks grant to Unified Outreach.
We asked for clarification of city rules regarding political content in work produced with grant money – pointing out that we found rules saying political groups cannot receive grants, but, we asked, if a publication or artwork was found to have political content, is that a violation of any kind?
The reply from Department of Neighborhoods spokesperson Lois Maag says:
Much of the Youth Arts Compendium publication is clearly not in compliance with either what was proposed in Unified Outreach’s application or what is contained in their Letter of Agreement with the City. Today we requested that United Outreach return the $1000 to the City. Their representative met with our staff, signed receipt of our letter referencing the issue, and issued a check to the City.
Maag says that politics isn’t entirely off-limits for city grants, but explains, “When it comes to political or issues-oriented activities, we only fund those applications that ensure all “sides” are represented. For example, a candidates’ forum would have to include/invite all candidates, just not those from one political party. This practice would be reiterated in our conversations with the awardee, as well as included in the Letter of Agreement.”
We had also asked DON for a copy of the application – characterized by Unified Outreach in their response last night as “… the Department of Neighborhoods asked to partner with us …” – and they shared it, along with the letter of agreement; see them both here. To our question about what kind of vetting is given to city grant applicants/recipients, before and after the project for which money is granted, Maag replied, “Even though the funding amounts are small for Small Sparks awards, our staff reviews every application, talks with the applicant to discuss the project, and develops the contract/letter of agreement with the awardee. By going through this process, our staff has a level of trust that awardees will follow through with the activity outlined in the signed agreement with the City. In addition, as part of the Letter of Agreement, we ask for a final report when the project is completed.”
Her final comment: “This situation with Unified Outreach is a rare occurrence in the Neighborhood Matching Fund.”