Friday, October 30, 2009

Peace Center at Eagle Creek Park

In 1997, the City of Indianapolis allowed the Peace Learning Center, Inc. to set up shop in Eagle Creek Park, the municipal park located on the northwest side of Indianapolis. Recently, I spent some more time reading up about the Peace Center.

According to the organization's website:
Peace Learning Center (PLC) is an Indianapolis-based community educational institution promoting healthy learning, workplace and community environments. PLC establishes safe and common ways to address differences and promotes processes to help build community and healthy communication for youth, parents and professionals. Started in 1997 in Eagle Creek Park, PLC has reached more than 120,000 people locally and internationally.

Our youth programs have been recognized by the Indianapolis Crime Prevention Task Force report as "a local 'best practice' that has demonstrated the effectiveness of teaching young adults and at-risk youth creative ways of resolving conflicts, personal responsibility, and character building." The task force recommends an expansion of PLC middle and high school programs, as well as more work in juvenile justice. After an extensive three-year research project, Indiana University’s Center for Urban and Multicultural Education has found that Peace Learning Center’s curriculum and programs are “researched-based best practices that are proven effective” (Crayton and Helfenbein, 2008).
Like many non-profits corporations that receive our tax money, the Peace Center is heavily laden in administrative costs. On its 2008 tax return, it showed revenue of just more than $1.525,699. Salaries and benefits for the Peace Center amounted to $506,678, including the director, Tim Nation, whose salaries and benefits total in excess of $80,000. The organization has accumulated assets of $592,972. Travel expenses in 2008 are listed at a whopping $65,835, while seminar costs are listed at $7,733.

Republican Councilor Ben Hunter is listed as a board member of the Peace Center. In a letter to the editor, Nation brags about the support of Mayor Greg Ballard and Parks Director Stuart Lowry.

One has to wonder the wisdom of giving private non-profit corporations like the Peace Center grants so that they can pay themselves nice salaries while doing more expensively a mission that the Parks Department could be doing itself for much less.

9 comments:

Had Enough Indy? said...

Amen. Unfortunately, the Parks Department mission is in the process of being minimized beyond recognition. The height of disconnect is thier parks van that brings parks to the kids insteading of providing a thriving park system for the entire community.

Brice said...

One should be careful about trying to define what a 'nice salary' is. That is a slippery slope. I very much agree that questioning the wisdom of this policy is needed, but there are stronger and more appropriate arguments than that.

Paul K. Ogden said...

Brice,

I'm sorry, but when the private sector takes over a job from the public sector, it is perfectly appropriate to examine their salaries are and make comparision to the public sector salaries of those who would otherwise be doing the job.

Some of these people in these non-profits are taking government grants and paying themselves and others at the non-profit comfy six figure salaries. Very little of the taxpayer money filters down to serve the mission.

While Nation's salary is not as high as some of the other non-profit execs, it is still higher than probably anyone at the parks department, except maybe Lowry.
In addition, it looks like several others are employed at nice salaries. Then you have nearly half a million stashed awasy and several tens of thousands of dollars spent on travel.

If non-profits don't want to have their operations looked at then they need to stop taking taxpayer money.

Brice said...

Paul, thanks for your response. Like I said, I agree with what you have said. Comparing salaries between private and public sectors is fine and acceptable and it should be done. Those are my tax dollars too. My concern was that (and maybe I am just splitting hairs) the adjective used to describe the salary seemed a little too close to a class warfare cheap shot. I know that this was not anywhere near your intention but if I thought it, it is not a stretch to think others might as well.

Paul K. Ogden said...

Gotcha, Brice. I agree with class warfare, until the people involved are receiving taxpayer money. Even with CEO execs of totally private companies I think we have a right to complain about them receiving huge bonuses and salary while they're driving their companies into the ground. CEO pay unfortunately is pretty isolated from the marketplace. They really need to tweak the rules so that CEOs aren't siting on each other's boards approving more and more pay for mediocre work.

Paul K. Ogden said...

Brice,

I didn't mean I agree with class warfare...I meant I agree with your comment on the subject. If someone goes out and works hard, more power to him or her if that person becomes fabulously wealthy. Unfortunately there are a lot of people out there making money not off capitalism, but off of being isolated from the normal marketplace that rewards success and punishes failure.

Indy Student said...

The overall problem with these not-for-profits is so much is eaten in overhead that little gets to their supposed mission. $80,000 isn't a lot in the grand scheme of things, but when your place of employment does very little in the first place, it's a great chunk of change.

Downtown Indy said...

That's small potatoes...

IBJ Article on Simon siphoning the city coffers

Simon family's interests helped Indianapolis thrive, but taxpayers paid the price
The Simon family's role in building the city has come at a steep price for taxpayers. Simon and its business interests in the last 20 years have collected local government incentives worth more than $400 million, an IBJ tally of those deals shows.

Concerned Taxpayer said...

Ironically, Mr. Benjamin Hunter is on the Board of Directors for the Peace Learning Center.