You have to admire Bill Mooney’s Westchester County Association. When the public-policy organization was stripped of its $124,424 in county funding — for taking on the Board of Legislators and Spano administration for assorted pay grabs and fiscal missteps — it did not whine, it did not pout, it did not grovel for a do-over. In fact, as Jonathan Bandler’s article makes plain, the WCA essentially told the county, “Thanks, but no thanks, we don’t want the money; in fact we’re better off without it!” The WCA’s decision came after an unconvincing Deputy County Administrator Executive Larry Schwartz said the money had been cut “inadvertently” and that talks were under way to restore funding.
It was a good call by the WCA. Indeed, the group is more valuable to county taxpayers as an independent watchdog, public-policy maven and critic. There is no real independence when the government — public enemy # 1 in the eyes of some taxpayers — is such a generous benefactor. Under such circumstances, an organization can discharge its watchdog or business advocacy duties — Mooney certainly has pulled no punches. But the cash represents an untenable entanglement. In this case, the WCA’s members should certainly be inclined to make up the lost revenue. Doubtless, the WCA has saved everyone some money.
But just as the WCA engaged in some soul searching about its finances (Mooney said of the county funds, “It raised the whole philosophical point that it’s probably not the best idea for us to be accepting money from the government if we’re an advocacy group”), the county should be compelled to do the same. How it is that it funded an organization for a decade, but only questioned that commitment when the MCA spoke out? Are there other funding arrangements based on a recipient’s agreeing not to be so, well, uppity? How many thousands of dollars are being appropriated on the basis of a group’s loyalty quotient? How much belligerence is allowed before a nonprofit loses its county support? Are any special allowances made when the complaining recipient only criticizes the administration, and not the legislators? How about vice versa? These questions should be addressed now, before the next budget battle . . . since nobody uttered a peep about the WCA funding — it was for international business consulting — until after the group started gnawing on the hands of the administration and the Board of Legislators.
“I can’t read anybody else’s mind. It would be foolhardy to try,” Mooney told Bandler. “Someone asked me if I was angry (that the funds were cut). It was more like bewildered. Why all of a sudden was it being questioned now, if it was there for nine or 10 years and no one had a problem with it?”