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Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Local Government Jeopardizes Local Private Fundraising Effort

On April 29th I wrote the following article calling out legislators for authoring a bill to fund what was reported to be a future park that had secured it's funding goals:

The park is the future Madison Place Playground that is to be built at the Bielenberg Sports Center in Woodbury.

However, I must issue this correction because of Clinton Gridley, the City Administrator for Woodbury. He told me in a April 24th letter the fund raiser was short $130,000 and just three sentences later (below) stated they were getting "a minimum of $200,000 over a three year period"

This is my response to him and the city council of Woodbury is below. I wish the Madison Claire Foundation the best; however I still maintain that charity like this is not a core function of government and should best be kept in the private sector.

-Matt Behning

Hello, Mr. Gridley

Thank you for writing to clarify the fundraising progress of the very honorable and worthy cause of the Madison Place Playground. I am disappointed you assume the $200,000 is coming in to the Bielenberg Sports Center (BSC) Madison Place Play Ground. Let's hope it's not a failure like your assumption that MN United Soccer and the Restaurant that were supposed to be at the BSC. 

Let's recap for the audience: I wrote to the city council asking, in short, what the fundraising status of the project was because the fund raiser herself did not respond to my request. You responded: 

In addition to saying they were $130,000 short you stated in your April 24th letter to me: 
" While the Madison Claire Foundation would likely accept state funding if it were offered, it is focusing its efforts on privately raising the funds to construct the playground. The group has generated significant momentum coming of its partnership with Special Olympics and the first annual Woodbury Polar Plunge held at Carver Lake. This event raised more money and had more participants than any other first year Polar Plunge in Minnesota and the Special Olympics' commitment to the Madison's Place project is a minimum of $200,000 over a three-year period. "

I may have went to public school, but I can do basic math:
Short Fall of $130,000 + $200,000 over three years from polar plunge = +$70,000 over goal

I confirmed my calculations with data from their website and reviewing their entire timeline of their facebook page. Until March 21st 2015 they had never posted their funding total and it was claimed to be  $679,758 (a $150,000 short) at that time. There were no posts until ten days later on March 31 when they stated they were at that time $130,000 short... a $20,000 jump that coincides with the news reports of their goal to raise $20,000 with the polar plunge. Also coincided with the history of the Madison Claire foundation to acknowledge every donation of $1,000 or more on their facebook page (smart because it motivates)... the fact they didn't recognize anyone for this $20,000 jump in ten days indicated it was likely previously recognized funds likely obtained from the February polar plunge donors.

No fundraiser or city for that matter should take any donor or business deal at their word until the money is in the bank. 

Now you tell me that you and the Madison Claire Foundation are counting the assumed $200,000?! First of all, if the Madison Claire foundation did have a solid agreement to obtain $200,000 you'd think it would be on their website or facebook page like the other big donors like the $50,000 from the Major League Baseball last fall etc. 

Second, you of all people should know better than to assume any business or charitable organization is going to follow through on their promises... in writing or not. Two examples are in the very same $22 million dollar Bielenberg Sports Center. 
1.) The Minnesota United Soccer Team backed out leaving you holding the bag for what should be the 5,600SF locker room area
2.) The restaurant space in the building was also supposed be all but guaranteed also but it also fell through and now tax payers are funding a law suit thanks to bad assumptions like this:

IMO, Mr Gridley you are the worst City Administrator to hold the position based on the these two business mistakes you're to blame for. You have cost Woodbury tax payers tens of thousands of dollars with your foolish assumptions and lack of bullet proof contracts to allow both the restaurant and soccer team to slip away. Now to add to your list of failures is jeopardizing the private fund raising effort of the Madison Claire Foundation by not only allowing controversial public funding to pollute what would most likely be a successful private fund raising campaign; but also by again assuming promised funds are going to come through.

I wrote my article entertaining the assumption one could count the $200,000 and convinced Senator Housley to remove her name from the $189,000 bill. She said she talked to you before removing her name... Either you didn't convince her or perhaps my point about state tax dollars should not be used to hijack private fund raising efforts struck a common sense cord... good intentions or not. It's a slippery slope, not to mention one that is ripe to ruin the hard work of private fundraising efforts. Who's going to donate to Madison Claire Foundation if they hear about this bill? 

I'm ashamed that I have to write a correction story because of what appears to be a repeated trend of assumptions. I hope the best for the Madison Claire Foundation. The fact they haven't mentioned the bill and also lobbied to have it supported is another indication they may not be proud of the potential ill gotten gains (when it comes to private fundraising efforts).

-Matt Behning