It’s an interesting turn of events when you see the Fort Bend County Commissioner’s Court do an amazing thing right out in the open, but that is what happened this week when they voted 3 to 2 to take $20,000 in federal grant money and reallocate it from one charitable organization to another.
Voting, this time, against County Judge Bob Hebert.
What could be behind this, I had to ask myself. So I perused the rest of the article found here in the Chronicle’s Fort Bend County blog and thought I had an answer, but question marks still kept appearing.
The 20 grand in question was targeted to benefit the Fred and Mabel Parks Youth Ranch, Inc. a facility currently under construction in rural Fairchilds. This is a facility meant to house abused troubled and homeless children in Fort Bend County. A homeless shelter for children does not exist in Fort Bend County. Well not one for those who are not charged with a crime, anyway. The facility was funded by the Fred and Mabel Parks Foundation and the Mamie George Foundation. Management of the construction of the facility was donated by Asset Plus Companies.
This endeavor, it seems is a multi-million dollar undertaking.
An undertaking that has as one of its board members the very same County Judge Hebert who voted in favor of sending the 20 large to this charity. His charity.
Instead, Commissioners Morrison, Prestage and Meyer voted to divert that money away from Hebert’s project and direct it toward the Fort Bend County Women’s Shelter, an organization that houses and shelters abused women and their small children. This organization, by the way, was the beneficiary of $60,842 from the same federal emergency shelter grant, bringing their total up to $80,642, or 94.8% of the total federal grant.
Hebert said that the vote was “political.” From the Chron:
“I can’t sit there and vote to withhold money from a charitable organization whose only mission is to help homeless children. I think it’s a terrible precedent that members of the court made a determination on what charities are worthy of receiving federal money.”
In seeming answer to Hebert’s charges of politicization of charities, the article then concentrated on community opposition to the youth ranch and specifically how neighbors have been negatively impacted by the ranch’s construction.
So what is it? Was the vote to divert funds to the Women’s Shelter a vote in support of Fairchilds residents who opposed the project? Was it a vote to overturn what seemed to be an obvious conflict of interest on the part of Bob Hebert? Or was it simply a choice of which charity needed the funds more, a well-funded youth ranch or the women’s shelter, which gets its funding from donations and proceeds from the sale of used goods in their thrift store?
Whichever it was, one or all, I really don’t care.
It took a little digging but I discovered that the Fred and Mabel Parks Youth Ranch will be run by the Arrow Child and Family Ministries, or Arrow Ministries for short. This is a Christian organization that endeavors to create “communities of children and families who have experienced healed hearts and changed lives enjoying a whole and meaningful life through faith in Jesus Christ.”
I also discovered that Arrow Ministries is in some way associated with the Michael Reagan Center for Advocacy and Research. The self-same ultra rightwing organization that conducts robotic telephone push polls all over the country pushing their conservative agenda.
So you see, I really don’t care what or why the 3 commissioners voted the way that they did. I simply do not want my federal taxpayer dollars, and that is what this federal grant is, to be used to support a sectarian cause. It is in absolute violation of the Establishment Clause to the US Constitution.
And I really don’t want a cent of my taxpayer dollars to benefit an ultra-rightwing political organization.
There are lots of private foundations to support sectarian and rightwing causes. Let them handle all of that and let’s let the federal taxpayer money benefit non-sectarian apolitical causes.
This is America, after all. Not a sectarian state like the Islamic Republic of Iran.