By: Tony Best -- Carib News
The seeming lack of an acceptable level of transparency and accountability in the way the West Indian American Carnival Association handles New York state funds that are used to help stage the country’s largest cultural festival is proving to be a major concern of elected officials in Brooklyn.
And their worry is being expressed at a crucial time for WIADCA, the long-standing organizer of the West Indian carnival, as it tries to end the crisis which has crippled the body for almost three months and which some had hoped would have been ended with substantial reforms, a new structure and a newly elected board of directors.
New York State Assemblyman Nick Perry, a Democrat of Brooklyn and the lower chamber’s Deputy Majority leader in Albany said after a recent meeting with some of his lawmaking colleagues and a WIADCA delegation that the issue of accountability and transparency remained unresolved and must be addressed by the Association before it can garner the full backing of elected representatives who are interested in seeing a highly successful carnival on Eastern Parkway on Labor Day this year.
Asked if he was satisfied that WIADCA had presented the elected representatives at the state and local levels with an acceptable system, Perry, one of the longest serving lawmakers in the state capital, answered with an emphatic no.
“I am not satisfied and I believe my colleagues share that sentiment,” Perry told the Carib News in an exclusive interview two days after last Friday’s meeting. “We intend to pursue that in an appropriate way and in a manner that would not convey any suggestions that the political leaders want to take over the carnival. We want to be very careful that people don’t conjure up that kind of sentiment from our efforts to get information that can help us get information in fulfilling our responsibility as leaders in the community.”
But the dissatisfaction with WIADCA’s state of affairs didn’t end there.
Perry who has helped to direct state funds to the Association that helped it stage a festival that attracts about two million revelers, spectators and vendors to Eastern Parkway also expressed his disappointment at the results of the recent board election which saw Thomas Bailey emerge as the Association’s new President and most of the members of the previous board retaining positions on the executive. Bailey replaced Yolanda Lezama Clarke.
“Personally I am not satisfied and I don’t know that my colleagues are,” said Perry. “The West Indian American Day Carnival association is an independent corporation with its own rules and bylaws. They certainly have a right to conduct their business as long as it is within New York State laws and is in compliance with laws pertaining to not-for-profit organizations within the state of New York. We are very careful about how we extend ourselves into matters of their (WIADCA’s) own operation. However, as the organization has been a major recipient of state and city funding, certainly in many cases we (elected officials) have been the sponsors of those funds so accountability is one of the requirements if it is to receive state funding. That’s taxpayer’s money. We have a responsibility to make sure that wherever there is a question or concern that the answers are provided. We have to make sure that the information is provided.”
We have some major problems in these arenas. Allow I to throw a few things into the mix. While accountability and transparency are necessary elements in this ewquation, once met or attended to, or while being attended to, we need assertive board members and defendants of our culture and communities to demand our share of the outcomes of these festivals, initiated and carried out by us. We contribute, through these events, a significant amount of resources to these economies and receive little or nothing in return for our efforts, which are marginalized and trivialized. It always appears like they are doing us a favour when the corollary is closer to the truth. Both the New York and Toronto events are excellent examples of this. In these cases, we bring substantial resources into the economies, and still remain the poorest and most underprivileged of all. Thanks for your patience. If you wish to contend this, please first look at audit reports for these areas in particular, and other constituencies in general. Blessed Trinbago Love. Ras Rico I PANNIST
Good point Ras Rico.