Will Taxpayers Foot The Bill For Another Holness Pet Project?

Dale Holness & Speakers at the 2014 Orange Economy Symposium
Dale Holness & Speakers at the 2014 Orange Economy Symposium

Broward taxpayers may be on the hook for another expensive pet project promoting controversial Broward County Commissioner Dale Holness. At Tuesday’s meeting, Commissioners will be asked to approve agenda item 20 regarding a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). The Broward County Cultural Division claims $30,000 in public funds will be spent “to support a symposium exploring Latin America and Caribbean’s impact on the arts economy of South Florida.”

The NEA will award $15,000 with the County promising to match that amount. The Cultural Division states it applied for the grant to “support a symposium in the Spring of 2016, entitled ‘A Creative and Cultural Industries Symposium-The Future of the Latin American, Caribbean & South Florida Economies-The Orange Economy: An Infinite Opportunity.'” While it’s doubtful many South Floridians will attend this symposium, it appears County bureaucrats see this an an “infinite opportunity” to spend taxpayer dollars.

This exact same symposium was held in 2014. In an August 2014 blog post, Earl Bosworth, Director of the Broward County Cultural Division, admitted the symposium was poorly attended. Entitled “The Proof Is In The Pudding,” Bosworth crowed, “Panels and symposiums don’t normally draw large crowds, at least not like live music and marching bands do.”

“So, when members of a select panel spoke recently at the NSU’s Museum of Art │Fort Lauderdale during a very unique symposium hosted by Broward Cultural Division,” Bosworth said. “It was successful within itself that a crowd of more than 100 attendees arrived, including many from Broward’s Latin American and Caribbean communities.” Let that sink in.

One hundred people showed up. 100.

Bosworth wrote attendees included diplomatic personnel from St Lucia, Jamaica, Peru, and even one of Broward’s own: County Commissioner Dale Holness. He wrote Holness is a, “huge proponent for diversity and supporting the minority Latin American and Caribbean demographic in Broward County.

According to Bosworth’s post, Holness opened the symposium with “remarks that cited Broward County’s creative sector’s growth in the last six years at 57 percent, during a period of national depression. He also brought to light the demographics of Broward County which show a Hispanic population of 26.5 percent, Black and African-American population of 27.9 percent, and a white population of 41.9 percent – making it a Minority-Majority County. These demographics signify the importance of recognizing, measuring, and supporting the arts and cultural wealth that lies here.”

Bosworth sounds more like Holness PR guy than an employee of Broward County.

Not surprisingly, the 2016 symposium will take place just as Holness is running for re-election to the County Commission.

As REDBROWARD has reported, Holness is skilled at acquiring funding for his pet projects. In April 2013, Holness convinced his fellow Commissioners to give $15,000 in taxpayer dollars to the Community Access Center, Inc (CAC) “in support of Haitian Cultural Heritage Month, May 2013″. The taxpayers provided $1,700 worth of mailing and web site design services. REDBROWARD revealed Holness and his supporters sat on the board for the CAC. Commissioner Stacy Ritter even called this request “pork.”

Last September, the Children’s Services Council (CSC) gave $40,000 to CAC claiming the Holness group was a “television station.” REDBROWARD exposed the CSC Board minutes:

HUF is recommended for funding under this procurement based on their strong proposal and their
extensive experience with the Council’s EITC and VITA initiatives. However, the Committee expressed
concerns about the need for targeted outreach efforts to reach the Creole speaking population, which is
the focus of the work of CAC. While HUF included funding for a subcontract with HandsOn Broward
within their proposal, a similar subcontract with CAC would strengthen the overall proposal and ensure a
culturally diverse outreach and service continuum. Therefore, subject to contract and subcontract
negotiations, it is recommended that HUF include both HandsOnBroward and CAC as subcontracted
partners at an amount not to exceed $40,000 within the total award of $295,000.

Broward taxpayers keep paying for Holness projects. When will our elected leaders demand to see results from these events?