Last week's Highland Heights City Council prompted this perplexing question: When is a charity not a charity?
CELL PHONES FOR CANCER
It’s an unfortunate fact of life that many charity scams seem to involve one particular disease: cancer.
We’ve all seen the cans and mason jars sitting on café counters, asking for donations to help defray the cost of someone’s cancer treatment. Sometimes those charitable solicitations are real and true – and unfortunately, sometimes they are not.
This week, the Plain Dealer reported one such phony scheme perpetrated by a woman in Goshen, N.Y. who admitted “fak(ing) cancer to con donors out of money and services for her wedding and Caribbean honeymoon.”
Such stories make me wary whenever any unfamiliar “cancer charity" comes calling ... my CHINO (CHarity In Name Only) radar kicks in.
Flash forward to the April 24 Highland Heights Council meeting. Item #1 on the agenda: “Motion authorizing a contract with Cell Phones for Cancer, LLC (CPFC) for an electronic waste collection…”
The motion (which passed unanimously) authorizes CPFC to come to the city park in June to collect “electronic waste,” i.e. cellphones, fans, small electric appliances, computers, monitors and similar electronic items, for recycling.
“Cell Phones for Cancer” – that sounds like a cancer charity right?
The “LLC” is the tipoff – the initials stand for “limited liability company.”
According to Judy Dearden of the Highland Heights Green Task Force, who put the deal together, Cell Phones for Cancer is not a non-profit charitable group that raises money to fight cancer.
It’s a for-profit business that operates a commercial recycling business under a charity-sounding name.
Citing to the company's website, Dearden explained, "It started because of cancer in the (owner's) family. It's the name of the company."
Dearden also said that although Cell Phones for Cancer LLC doesn’t donate its profits to cancer charities, event sponsors are free to do so ... and, by the way, the company might charge a fee before accepting some electronic items from residents.
Why did the Green Task Force decide to sponsor CPFC? Dearden told Council that that her group is committed to “helping the community live a more environmentally friendly lifestyle” and that the purpose of the event was “to recapture electronic waste going into landfills.”
Those are wonderful and worthy intentions.
Cell Phones for Cancer LLC will be at the Community Park on Sunday June 10, from 9 to 3.
Other options for environmentally conscious residents include: 1) Best Buy accepts and recycles old television sets and other electronics – for free; 2) still-useable, small appliances can be donated at the Salvation Army store on Mayfield Road; and 3) the next county-sponsored “Computer Roundup” is just months away – a non-profit agency will refurbish and/or recycle the cellphones, computers and other electronic equipment dropped off at the city’s Service Department during the roundup.
The budget didn’t lie. Finance Director Anthony Ianiro will retire in July.
COMMUNITY GARDEN UPDATE
Progressive Insurance has offered to donate manpower and materials to help make community gardens at the new municipal center green space a reality this year.
That was great news for Noreen Paradise of the Highland Heights Garden Club, who has been working to get the project off the ground for the last 3 years.
At the April 17 Committee of the Whole (COW) meeting, Mayor Scott Coleman (who has never expressed much public enthusiasm for the project) reported that his right-hand man, Service Director Thom Evans, suggested moving the gardens away from the new municipal green space to a more hidden area – behind the woods, next to the Community Center parking lot.
“We don’t have time to do that this year,” the mayor declared – although he suggested that the relocation might happen in the future.
The mayor also announced, “Since I work for Progressive, I will remove myself from the conversation."
That made me wonder: Does the mayor really think that his employer’s charitable donation creates a conflict of interest – or is he simply using Progressive’s involvement as an excuse to distance himself from the project?
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT REPORT
Also at the April 17 COW meeting was Dennis Burnside of Mohr Partners, who summarized the results of his company’s economic development analysis for the city.
Not surprisingly, Burnside’s top recommendation was that the city should hire a full-time – or at least a part-time – economic development director.
Ironically, the city used to have a part-time economic development director, but the position was eliminated shortly after Mayor Scott Coleman took office.
Also on Mohr’s list of recommendations: improving the city’s website; enhancing communication with brokers and other business location professionals; and enhancing the city’s “front door skills,” i.e. the way it interacts with the public.
What happens next? Mr. Burnside will give a presentation to the city’s Economic Development Committee at a public meeting, on Monday April 30 at 7:30 pm. at City Hall.
BASS ENERGY SETTLEMENT
I haven’t seen the agenda yet, but I understand that Council will hold a special meeting on May 1 to hear a first reading of a resolution authorizing payment of $600,000 to (finally) settle the Bass Energy lawsuit.
While that figure is not peanuts, it probably represents the “nuisance” value of the suit. It also equates to 8.5 percent of the $7 million in damages that Bass Energy originally sought.