The Coastal Post - January, 1998

Marin Community Foundation Says Money Windfall A Non-Story

By Karen Nakamura

During the past year, the state's Attorney General, Dan Lundgren, according to the Independent Journal, announced the Marin Community Foundation, distributor of the lucrative Buck funds, was required to spend windfall profits within the year. The windfall was estimated to be in the neighborhood of $100 million.

There was an immediate flurry of activity. Then nothing. The Foundation stated there was no way it could disperse that much money so rapidly and do a good job. Many in Marin feared another white elephant like the Buck Center for the Aging, an increasingly quagmired boondoggle whose Board was warned the land was on a slide area long before the berm started pushing Partridge Knolls downhill. (See CP/Reutinger series).

However, the Buck Center is not the Marin Community Foundation. I talked to Sid Hartman, spokesman for the Foundation, and he was somewhat surprised by my question. According to him, "It's a non-story, really We haven't heard a word. The Attorney General's office hasn't sent us any proposal to that effect. And no papers have been filed that we know of.

"We're mystified why the AG's office is saying there's a windfall when there isn't. We don't understand how they could have come to that conclusion. Yes, the fund has expanded tremendously over the years. It started out at $11 million, and is much higher now. But we're only allowed, according to court order, to distribute 5% of the principal a year.

"So in the normal process, any extra monies we receive from investments are worked into the distribution process. Also, we're trying to preserve purchasing power. That's only prudent."

"So why," I asked, "did the IJ give the issue so much coverage?"

"I don't know. You'll have to ask them. Or call the AG's office. Maybe they can help you."

Did the Marin Community Foundation receive a windfall in some form for $100 million? Or $20 million? The Foundation says that other than the remarkable growth of its stock, there's been no windfall.. The Marin community can rest assured that every penny is being carefully considered. But by whom? The board and the supervisors and everyone who's been able to get a word in edgewise.

On the frontlines, many real needs aren't being met, no matter how much has been or will be distributed. Several community activists expressed how they thought any kind of extra funds could be spent in their community.

Grants for day care and expanding affordable child care facilities would help working parents. Many agencies working with the elderly feel a fund is needed to pay, at least, some of the prescription costs for those being drained by high costs. Expansion of in-home care grants would help many disabled and elderly maintain independence without becoming insolvent.

Of course, each sector has its own needs. A permanent solution to the homeless problem has yet to be found, but rent grants could certainly be increased to cover the need. Even $20 million could go far if applied directly to the above problems.

Long-time Marin City activist Karen Ashby thought her community could make use of human development entities.

"We need an onslaught of motivational people to get people going, to make them believe in themselves and raise their consciousness. Get organizations in who help people to do more and be more. For instance, to educate them to where grants are available for schooling and show them what skills they have or can get and how to go about developing skills to make their lives better. Instead, it seems people are trying to get rid of the poor, to sweep them under the carpet.

"If the difference between wealth and poverty is money, then we need to share how we become prosperous with those who don't know. We have to want for others what we want for ourselves. When the rich realize their prosperity depends on the rest of us being prosperous, things will straighten out fast."

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