Tuesday, August 21, 2007

$10,000 DCED Grant Funds Ice Hockey For Parkland Elitists

Last week, I told you about Allentown's Wall2Wall urban youth organizers, a group that dedicates itself to the Queen City's greatest asset - its kids. Over two years, this grass roots group has mentored over five hundred children in the area with the Lehigh Valley's highest poverty level.

It has done so with very little help and without forming a fancy 501(c)(3) nonprofit corportation. It's only getting around to that now. Kids always come first.

Today's story is about another Lehigh Valley youth sports group. This one's in the burbs, and is located in one of the Lehigh Valley's more affluent areas - the Parkland School District. It has already formed a fancy nonprofit - The Parkland Trojan Ice Hockey Club.

I called Parkland today to learn a little about this club. Before learning I was a blogger, school officials told me there is a JV and varsity program, and the hockey program is available for all grades. The school district pays insurance, advertises games, gives the kids some recognition and even provides transportation. But it's still not cheap. I was told I'd need at least $850, just for the ice time. Skates and helmets cost another $400. A varsity skater can expect to spend around $2,000 every year.

Let's face it. You don't see many poor kids at an ice hockey rink. It's not for the peasants.

Well-to-do Parkland parents got that way because they know how to get money. Amazingly, Parkland applied for and got a $10,000 state DCED grant, with a little help from state rep. Jenn Mann, before the club even bothered to form its nonprofit. Why Jenn Mann took it upon herself to get this $10,000 grant for an ice hockey club completely outside her own very impoverished Allentown district is beyond me, but that's what happened. The school district passed this dough right to the club.

I saw the grant application, which claims the money would give the "club the ability to include more students from lower economic backgrounds, and help subsidize the program for the benefit of all the students." That's a great idea, but unfortunately, that's not what happened.

In fact, nothing happened at all, according to former club prez Richard A. Plinke. After he was no longer involved in the ice hockey program, he received a nasty letter from the DCED Office of Audits and Compliance, asking to explain what had happened to the money. Plinke advised that "[t]he grant was not used because the on-ice staff did not develop a plan for using the money to fulfill the grant's objectives."

In a nice way, Plinke makes clear that no effort had been made to include poorer students. Why should they? It might ruin their exclusive little club. But once the state started nosing around, how was that money used?

That's the $10,000 question. According to one anonymous source, the grant funded a party at the end of the 2006 season, in which coaches entertained players by drinking several pitchers of beer in front of them. It also funded ice time for an independent team made up of players from all over the area, including New Jersey. In effect, a Pennsylvania DCED grant funded Jersey hockey players. Finally, the state grant was used to form the nonprofit.

Include poorer kids? Forget it. The state told me it has now received all necessary reports and considers the matter closed. The last thing it wants to do is admit it's an open cash faucet for the right people.

School district officials were very nice to me, but tell me I have to make an appointment to come and see them in person and present my questions, preferably in writing. No one from the school would agree to being quoted, and they pretty much dismissed my concerns as the sour grapes of disgruntled parents.

I don't think so. An affluent group obviously used its influence with the state to get $10,000 for more toys based on the canard that it was looking out for the little guy. And a wealthy school district helps finance this group of elitists. An Allentown resident who did something like that would be prosecuted for welfare fraud, but Parkland last March celebrated a championship.

Whoopee! Those kids are learning real valuable lessons.
Clarification: Contrary to the impression left by the Parkland School District web page,my astute readers inform me that a small portion of Allentown is, in fact, located in the Parkland School District. I verified this through Lehigh County assessment records.

24 comments:

A.J. Cordi said...

"Old Time Hockey!"

LehighValleyHousewife said...

Incredible!

Anonymous said...

Next thing yo know these affluent areas will be building skateparks with public money an allowing children from other affluent areas (including New Jersey) to use these publicly-funded facilities.

I don't understand Bernie, are you mad because Parkland got state money or just the mere fact that Parkland knew how to get he money and Allentown didn't?

Chris Casey said...

Nice piece, BO, Upper Macungie is in the Parkland S.D. and we peasants are looking forward to our ever increasing property taxes to build the new Jaindlville high school in the next decade. Maybe they will build a Hockey rink in it?!
They have too much money

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anon 9:16,

It disturbs me that a state rep would manage to find $10k for a project totally outside her district, and that this money is diverted from its original purpose. The money was intented to help people from lower economic backrounds, but was instead blown on a bunch of elitisits. That's what bothers me. Is that so hard to figure out?

Naz. skatepark is available to everyone, and that's what Nazareth claimed when it sought the money for that project. The $10k in Parkland ended up funding, among other things, rich snots from Jersey.

Anonymous said...

Bernie:

As disturbing as this situation is it should be noted that a good chunk of the West End of the City of Allentown is part of the Parkland School District. This area is part of Jenn Mann's District.

This is a total misuse of funds even if the money was spent in the manner is was originally intended. On top of it the lack of accountability is disturbing.

I am certain that if this money was given to the ASD for books (which are nonexistent in many grades at many schools) it would have been used for its intended purpose.

Anonymous said...

Anon 10:59... that is a small part of Jenn's district. It is also the richest and most affluent part of her district. Where is the $10,000 for Allen High School Band who has to be beg their aumni for money and instruments so they can have a decent band. See the Morning Call article from a few weeks ago. Bernie's point is it is all about priorities.

Sorry to steal your thunder Bernie... Anon 10:59 pissed me off.

Anonymous said...

Anon 11:10

How did I piss you off? Did you read the rest of my post?

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anon 10:59,

That would explain why Mann would find money for Parkland. But I don't know that you're right.

According to the Parkland School District website, "The 72 square miles of the Parkland School District encompass three townships - North Whitehall, South Whitehall and Upper Macungie - with a total population of 46,000. The district's wide socio-economic range results from its bordering the city of Allentown on the southeast and extending to farmlands at the western and northern extremities."

If PSD does include some of Mann's district, I'll clarify my post to show that. But right now it really does not appear that way to me, at least according to the PSD webpage. If it does include part of Allentown, I stand corrected.

And we agree that it does seem to reflect a mixed up sense of priorities. Giving money for hockey in the face of all the other problems facing A-town is so wrong. And the kicker is that the money was not used for kids of lesser economic backgrounds.

The other anon probably missed part of your comment. Take care.

Anonymous said...

Anon 10:59... I did not read the last paragraph. I am sorry. Makes all the difference.

Anon 11:10

Anonymous said...

The is no question part of Allentown is in PSD. I drive through it everyday and it pisses me off. Any area in the city of Allentown west of Cedar Crest Blvd is in Parkland. A small area consisting of a few blocks (within City limits) around S. College Dr. is also PSD. These areas are home to thousands and thousands of city residents.

PSD doesn't include the fact that some of Allentown is in there district because of image. the funny thing is that the Allentown portion of PSD is not only the most affluent section of Allentown it also one of the most affluent sections of PSD. The Estates at Trexler Park are all $1.5 to $2 million plus homes.

To confirm search any property in the 400 - 800 block of N 38th St, N 40th St N 41st St or 3600 -4000 block of W Allen, W Chew or W Washington. Many other streets apply but this is enough to prove the point. You will notice taxes are paid to the city of Allentown and the PSD.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anon 12:57, I just checked assessment records for a property at The Estates at Trexler Park. The property is located in Allkentown, and the school district is listed as Parkland. I thank you for pointing this out and will clarify my post.

Anonymous said...

Blogger 12:57 made my point much better than I could. Bernie don't get me wrong Jenn is usually one of the good guys, but she is very wrong here.

J. Spike said...

Now coach?

Anonymous said...

This may be a good thing at the end of the day.

Believe it or not that section of Jen's district, Allentown in the Parkland School District, is not that small. Then when you consider the voter turnout is those areas vs. the areas of center city she represents these areas probably represents a pretty good chunk of her constituency.

I wouldn't doubt if Jenn Mann hears a lot of complaints from these people that she's sending all the money downtown to "those people". This $10,000 grand certainly won't hurt when trying to retain their support while she now has a valid excuse to never allocate money for such a cause again.

From this point forward Jenn Mann now has a valid excuse not to support such causes. She can simply say "based on my experience, I have found that money used to support causes that there is not a dire need is usually not spent very as efficiently as others, no matter how noble the idea."

Now, at the end of the day, Jenn Mann can remain in office and continue to do good things for Allentown and its people while denying welfare to the wealthy by simply labeling her decisions as a matter of efficiency and responsibility, not as a matter of "good or bad."

This doesn't make it right but it is what it is.

Anonymous said...

One thing that seems to be overlooked is that Parkland (the hockey club) APPLIED for a grant and Jen approved it. Bernie makes this out to look like both Allentown and Parkland applied for the same grant and Jen awarded to to Parkland. I may be wrong, but does not seem to be the case. Why is Parkland insulted for applying for grant money? Last I checked, most of Parkland is middle class...not exactly the OC lifestyle depicted in this post. Maybe Bernie should chastise Allentown for not finding and applying for this grant first.

Anonymous said...

Surprize Surprize Surprize

Parkland School District with yet another Sports Team just what we needed

And Jenn Mann snubbing Allentown - what else is new

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anon 5:03,

I am not chastising Jen Mann for getting a $10k grant for Parkland's hockey club. Nor am I chastising Parkland's hockey club for applying for a grant. I am questioning whether the intended purpose of that grant was ever fulfilled. It appears not. And the demographics of the Parkland SD are available for the world to see at the LVPC website. Suffice it to say that, copared to Allentown, Parkland's residents are doing very well.

alexis de tocqueville said...

I like when parochial schools have carnivals and car washes and golf tournaments to fund what they need in the athletic department.

Government schools regularly flaunt their waste, and this is just the latest example. Shame on Jenn Mann and anyone who wastes school tax dollars on non-educational endeavors.

This state routinely lands in the bottom 10% in SAT scores. I know there are mitigating circumstances, and that SATs aren't the ultimate measure for schools, but our kids are down there with Mississippi and Arkansas and Louisiana. Embarrassing; yet we refuse to be shamed and proudly boast our sports successes. What a misguided system. And I'm a sports nut, who knows you can't score a ball game without basic skills.

Cygnus said...

This is merely the tip (like the 1/8 inch top) of the WAM grant iceberg.

You think the Parkland grant is embarassing and a waste of money? You should see the comprehensive list.

Oh wait. You can't. They don't publish it.

Further, even if DCED is angry with them, who cares. They won't penalize the school district.

Bernie O'Hare said...

My dear Cygnus, I have only just discovered that the state DCED does publish a list of its grants, and I'm going to have fun with that.

Anonymous said...

Bernie don't chastise Jenn Mann, I will. Bad Jenn, very bad. That should get all the young goo-goo Dems and editors panties in a bunch. I guess it is hard to tell who the good guys are without a program.

Jeff Pooley said...

Great sleuthing here Bernie. This is exactly what a blog, at its best, should focus on.

Anonymous said...

Agreed, this would not get in the paper. A Blog is the place to find some stories that never get printed. This isn't to bang Jen, but everyone knows the press picks and choses stories they do on public figures. The MC adores Jen and she would have to screw up big time before it would be reported. What she did was legal and up to the reader as to whether or not appropriate. It also shows how the uppercrust use $$$ ment for one thing to buy gold crappers for their mansions.