By: Tony Best
If conventional wisdom: “the show must go on,” regardless of troubles remains a fact of life, then the 2012 West Indian American carnival may take place on the Labor Day week-end without New York State funds.
For according to State officials in Albany and Brooklyn and Thomas Bailey, newly elected President of the West Indian American Day Carnival Association, the prospects of the injecting large sums of badly needed funds to help finance the carnival celebrations are dim.
“It’s unfortunate but from all indications New York State is highly unlikely to contribute financially to the staging of the carnival celebrations this year. That’s not good news at all because the carnival injects hundreds of millions of dollars into our economy,” said New York State Senator Kevin Parker, a Democrat of Brooklyn whose district is home to a large Caribbean immigrant community. “Applications for the funds from the state weren’t made in March by WIADCA as required because the Carnival Association may have to find money from other sources. It can take several months, sometimes a year between the application for funds and the disbursement of money and WIADCA did take that step. It’s unfortunate. We are committed to the Carnival but due to the changes at the Association, the steps weren’t taken on time.
“The West Indian carnival is important to the state of New York and it needs all the financial help it can get help but there is a need for greater transparency and accountability, a problem which WIADCA must resolve,” added the state senator during a Carib News editorial board meeting in Manhattan. “We were hoping that WIADCA would be able to stage the carnival this year but begin the process quite early for next year’s funding cycle.”
Thomas Bailey, WIADCA’s leader, acknowledged the lateness of the hour, so to speak but said that although the door to Albany’s finances wasn’t entirely closed, as things stood now, financing from the state, which was used in prior years to help stage the Kiddies carnival, the remain in school initiative, Panorama, the Labor Day breakfast and the parade of costume bands along Eastern Parkway, there was a real possibility the organization wouldn’t receive financial assistance from the state.
“What we are basically doing to circumvent that situation, we are attempting to make other arrangements to finance the venture,” was the way he put it to the Carib News on Monday. “There are avenues open but if they don’t materialize the show has to go on. Arrangements are being made to do that. Efforts have been made to procure assistance from the City, yes.”
According to elected officials in Albany state funds running into hundreds of thousands of dollars in recent years were provided to WIADCA for the week-end of celebrations but comprehensive audited reports on how the money was spent have so far not been presented to Albany.
And the absence of such reports from WIADCA could prove to be a major hurdle to future funding, complain officials.
The state financial help, Bailey explained, “varied from time to time, and there was no specific amount that was set aside.” He pointed out that when David Paterson was the state’s Governor “he had promised $500,000 or something like that but whether or not it materialized, there was some controversy and I am not too sure” that the amount was received by WIADCA.
Interestingly, Bailey, who took over the presidency a few months ago blamed his organization’s inefficiency for the failure to meet the deadline to apply for state funds.
“This year because of the lack of our being efficient we didn’t do the filing on time, because of the situation with the organization,” was the way Bailey put it. “So, we are being told that it is possible we wouldn’t be getting anything. We met with a representative from the Governor’s office last week to discuss that issue but no promises were made and they (said) they will look into it. No assurances were given. We are making contingency plans,” just in case much needed state funds weren’t provided.
The Association was thrown into turmoil when Yolanda Lezama-Clarke, the long-time president abruptly resigned and several members of the board of directors also quit. Ken Faustin, a vice president took over the leadership but he too stepped down within weeks. Bailey, who was the organization’s corporate secretary, took over along with several members of the old board.
However, Bailey was quick to give an assurance that despite the challenges confronting WIADCA, the carnival would take place on the Labor Day week-end in all of its splendor.
“WIADCA over the years has planned four nights of activities and one day on the road and this year is nothing different,” he insisted. “The Panorama is going to be held at the Brooklyn museum.”
Like State Senator Parker, U.S. Congresswoman Yvette Clarke expressed her concerns about the Association’s preparations for this year’s carnival and the financial problems it might be facing.
“I was asked to help the Association raise funds for the celebrations which are vital to the City in general and the Caribbean immigrant community in particular,” the federal law maker said. “I remain committed to the carnival and stand ready to assist in every way that I can. But I asked for information about the organization since the recent changes, who was in charge and about this year’s plans but I haven’t received the information. I am very concerned at this very late stage.”
At the editorial board meeting, Parker articulated similar concerns to the journalists and community leaders, saying that most elected officials in central Brooklyn as well as their constituents shared the worries about this year’s carnival but remain ready to assist.
“We stand ready to assist in whatever way we can,” he insisted.