Critics say corporate non-profit donors have come to collect

COLUMBIA, 6/10/12 (Beat Byte) -- The sudden appearance of two prominent Columbia non-profits defending the Blight Decree/EEZ at City Council meetings has raised hackles about a quiet alliance between non-profit boards and establishment power players.

The two are often hard to tell apart.
Food Bank director Peggy Kirkpatrick and Heart of Missouri United Way director Tim Rich have twice urged the City Council to "take action" on job creation, carefully couching their support for the EEZ tax incentive proposal in terms of "helping the poor and unemployed."
"Time to publicly call "bull sh--" on this bull sh--," wrote Tracy Greever-Rice, Ph.D., in a Columbia Heart Beat editorial challenging the alliance. "It is despicable that the same smallish group that controls the Chamber of Commerce, the United Way, REDI, and non-profit boards across CoMo is talking out one side of its mouth about eliminating poverty, while chewing up low-income neighborhoods with the other side. These groups recently joined hands in support of the EEZ...."
After the Heart Beat mistakenly named Central Missouri Community Action (CMCA) as a non-profit publicly supporting the Blight Decree/EEZ, CMCA director Darin Preis responded. Though Preis said he "personally supports" the idea, "CMCA's board has taken no action on the topic of the EEZ. REDI presented to CMCA's board and CiViC has been invited to present. We certainly have not 'joined hands' with other groups to do anything regarding the EEZ."
REDI is the EEZ/Blight Decree's chief proponent while CiViC -- Citizens Involved and Invested in Columbia -- opposes the measure.
CMCA's board is unique among local non-profits, Preis also explained.
"By mandate, our board consists of one-third representatives of the low income community, one-third elected officials, and the remaining third represent the private sector, small businesses, and expertise we need to inform our work," he said.
By contrast, other local non-profits stack their boards with prominent members of the business and development communities, creating significant overlap with the pro-business Chamber of Commerce and REDI lobbies. Sixteen of 37 United Way board members, for instance, represent private businesses, primarily in banking and insurance.
One hundred percent of non-profit Phoenix Program's board represent businesses, 80% of whom invest in REDI.
The Food Bank's corporate partners and board members include potential EEZ beneficiary Kraft Foods and John Strotbeck, a Kraft plant manager and member of the Blight Board. The non-profit's largest donors include mega-developers Jeff Smith and the Robert Lemone Trust.

NEXT: CMCA considers endorsing the Blight Decree