Saturday, June 26, 2010

SALC: Show us the money


Due to their latest proposal to alter the Tucson City Charter, I have written several articles about the Southern Arizona Leadership Council (SALC) recently (1, 2, 3, 4).

Consequently, I have become a student of SALC's website and related media coverage of SALC.

From a public relations standpoint, SALC's website is gorgeous-- very professional with well-executed corporate photography, a warm-and-fuzzy mission statement, and links to their initiatives. Unfortunately, it is sorely out date and lacks real content, current news, and details regarding where their money comes from and how it is spent.

For a group that has sooooooo much corporate money behind it, one item that is strangely absent from their website is their balance sheet. The only mention of funding is on the FAQ page...

Where does SALC get its money?
SALC is funded solely through membership dues. Additional contributions from members and others help to finance projects undertaken by the group.


The 2008 "annual report" is the most recent one on their website, and it is just a PR piece-- not really an annual report, which would include an audited financial statement. There are no dollar signs in that document. And, besides, where is the 2009 annual report? 2010 is half over!

Um, guys, how do you spell "efficiency and transparency"? SALC has been using the let's-bring-efficiency-to-government-because-business-knows-best mantra to support their push for changes to the TucsonCity Charter. Ironically, until just a few days ago, their website listed 2008 accomplishments under their "Recent Successes" tab, which has now been fixed. The most recent news item on their website is dated November 12, 2009.

I don't often quote Jesus, but "let he who is without sin [read inefficiency] cast the first stone."

I, for one, would like to see how much money SALC brings in, where it comes from, and how their funds are distributed across their different initiatives. For such a high-profile group, their website should provide more real information about their initiatives.

For example, their Tucson Values Teachers initiative sounds highly worthwhile on the surface. One of their goals is "to attract, retain and support the very best teachers for Tucson’s children." I am all for that. I followed the link (with the help of Google, since the link on SALC's page was broken) to the Tucson Values Teachers (TVT) website.

Under the "Business" tab, TVT gives suggestions on how business can get involved in improving education. Cool. Below is the list. (I added the numbers; otherwise the text is verbatim from TVT.)

HERE ARE OTHER SUGGESTIONS - FOR BUSINESSES AND THE COMMUNITY - ON HOW TO GET STEP UP, AND JOIN TEAM TVT:

1. The next time you're at the grocery store, buy an extra notebook, a pack of pencils or a box of crayons for a classroom.

2. Instead of another mug, give a teacher a gift card to an office supply store.

3. Help out on a class field trip.

4. Help elect legislative leaders that support a robust educational system.

5. Join the fight to secure higher pay for K-12 teachers.

6. Read to a child after school.

7. Donate to TVT at TucsonValuesTeachers.org.

8. Give a teacher a summer job.

9. Offer underpaid teachers a discount on services or products at your business.

10. Invite a TVT representative to speak at your association's next meeting.

11. Stay in the loop - sign up for our e-mail list at TucsonValuesTeachers.org

12. Volunteer to be part of the TVT Speaker's Bureau and spread the word on how we can better value our K-12 teachers.

13. Tell a teacher how much you appreciate what they do.


Don't get me wrong, these are all great suggestions, but let's consider the source. SALC membership includes some of the richest people in Southern Arizona, and their suggestions on how businesses can help schools include ideas like buying an extra notebook, a pack of pencils or a box of crayons for a classroom or giving a gift card to a teacher. Give me a break. These guys have the money to build a frickin' school, and they are suggesting that businesses buy a notebook?! Most of these suggestions are the ones that desperate school teachers give to parents and grandparents-- not to corporate giants. (Come on, open up those coin purses.)

Considering that their membership includes starve-the-beast Republicans like Bruce Ash, Jim Click, and John Munger, I was shocked to see #4 Help elect legislative leaders that support a robust educational system and #5 Join the fight to secure higher pay for K-12 teachers on their list of suggestions on how business can improve education.

Where was SALC when the Republican governor and legislature decimated K-12 and university budgets and forced the lay-off of hundreds of teachers? Where were they when adult education was eliminated? Oddly silent, I believe. SALC says they want to improve our region's economic climate. Arizona will continue to slide into the abyss as long as we underfund and undervalue education.

On the TVT page, I also was surprised to see this group of weathly corporatists (who keep their organization's financing and expenditures secret) ask for donations (#7).

Donations for what?

Where does the money go?

October 2010 Update: If you want to see one way the big business members of SALC spend their money, check out the SALC-backed Prop 401 campaign finance reports.

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