|Ken Kraft holds binder with $753,000 in hotel tax applications|
Earlier this year, DCED Director Diane Donaher, with no authority from Council took it upon herself to suspend a longstanding practice under which tourism grants were solicited by her department, rated and then presented to Council for a final vote as part of the budget. It's unclear whether she even had authority from Executive John Brown, who claimed there was a failure in communication.
She had told organizations like State Theatre and Kreidersville Covered Bridge not to bother submitting applications. Then she announced to a stunned Council on October 14 that she herself, instead of the people's elected representatives, would take control over the nearly $500,000 in hotel taxes used for this program.
Donaher explained that she was considering giving all or a large portion of it to the Northampton County Historical Society, and let it decide how the money should be spent. "We're looking at changing the process," she said.
Council was outraged, and Executive John Brown reversed her a few days later. But thanks to the delay imposed unilaterally by Donaher, none of them will be seeing any grant money this year.
Before Council's Finance Committee met on November 19, Donaher dropped off a thick binder for each Council member, full of grant applications for $753,000 from a total of $496,000. None of the applications has been rated or vetted, as has been done in past years.
The implicit message, at least to Ken Kraft was "Do it yourself!"
"I'd like to throw it at her," Kraft said of the binder. "She's not doing her job with her bloated staff. They want us to sit here and do their job. This is nonsense. This is passive aggressive."
Brown tried defending Donaher, claiming there was "no intent to remove hotel taxes from your purview." But he admitted, We missed the mark. I own that. I take full responsibility."
"I don't think it's doable," said Hayden Phillips as he looked through the thick binder. He suggested that the awards be postponed until January, to give Council time to review them. In the meantime, Brown assured Council that the DCED would rate the applications, as has been done in previous years.