“I’d like for Uptown Partnership to work, but that’s going to be hard,” says Gahagan. “Hillcrest earns the most revenues and has the most need for parking. Besides the 15 spaces on Normal Street, which took ten years to get, there have been studies — that’s all.”
Carol Schultz, Uptown Partnership’s executive director, defended her organization in a March 28 email and rebuffed the claim that Uptown residents are dissatisfied with the parking organization. “Many residents and business people in Uptown support Uptown Partnership and work with our organization to develop and carry out projects,” wrote Schultz. “In a harsh economic climate, such as the one we currently are experiencing, some find it easier to criticize an organization that is investing funds in the community than to roll up their sleeves and do the hard work of making those investments count for the benefit of the community.”
Schultz agreed that there had been an imbalance in the allocation of parking funds among the four communities but said the problem had been addressed. “When calculating the budget for the current fiscal year, Uptown Partnership looked at historic revenues and expenditures by neighborhood and rectified any imbalances. Therefore, the [fiscal year] 2009–10 budget includes $488,200 for Bankers Hill/Park West projects to compensate for the past shortfall and $0 for Mission Hills to compensate for a past windfall. Going forward, each neighborhood will be allocated a percentage of the available funds that corresponds to the percentage of meter revenues it generates.”
Schultz said that Uptown Partnership’s Planning and Projects Committee is not recommending construction of a roundabout and associated installations at either Sixth and Grape or Sixth and Juniper, and she said the proposals won’t be included in the coming fiscal-year budget, though even if they were, Schultz added, “A director who lives in proximity to an improvement funded by Uptown Partnership does not have a financial interest merely because of where he or she lives.”
Asked to respond to concerns expressed in all communities in the parking district that Uptown Partnership is spending too much on overhead, Schultz said that salaries are not a part of overhead. She emailed a definition of overhead from businessdictionary.com and followed it by listing the various items that qualify as overhead at Uptown Partnership: “Overhead, or, indirect costs, at Uptown Partnership comprise the following categories: rent, utilities, office equipment, insurance, office supplies, credit card service charges, printing, postage and shipping, and the like.”
Staff, according to Schultz, is an “integral part of a good or service, and they work on projects and community services on a daily basis. Therefore, their compensation counts as direct labor not overhead. For the current fiscal year, Uptown Partnership’s overhead is 15 percent of its total income.”
And as for the many studies that Tim Gahagan referred to: “Uptown Partnership,” Schultz said, “contracts for professional services when the work required to analyze data and develop a work plan for a project is beyond the scope of the staff’s expertise, for example, if traffic engineering expertise is required.”
The parking agency has reached out to the Uptown neighborhoods, Schultz said. She gave two examples, both of which had been recommended by councilmembers Faulconer and Gloria in their May 2009 letter.
The first example was the decision to increase the number of directors on the partnership’s board from 9 to 12; new directors included an Uptown Planner board member and appointments made by Faulconer and Gloria. The other example was the formation of the Hillcrest Parking Committee, an advisory group that oversees parking projects in Hillcrest and offers recommendations for new proposals to Uptown Partnership’s board of directors.
Added Schultz: “Staff and directors from Uptown Partnership regularly attend meetings of the Hillcrest Town Council and Hillcrest Business Association to provide updates and solicit feedback on issues.”
Some feedback was provided by the Hillcrest Town Council on May 11, when community members voted 18–0 to recommend that parking meters be removed from Hillcrest.
More feedback will come next Wednesday, when the city council’s Public Safety and Neighborhood Services Committee, chaired by Marti Emerald, will vote on whether to send Uptown Partnership’s fiscal year 2011 budget and contract on to the full city council. The city council is expected to hear the issue by the end of June.