NAACP asked hard questions of the West End TIF board. They told us it was ‘disruptive.’

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This year the Louisville Branch is celebrating its 110th Anniversary of being an affiliate of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. The mission and vision of the NAACP is to work to ensure the political, social and economic equality of all persons and to eliminate racial hatred and racial discrimination. The Louisville Branch NAACP is the oldest civil rights organization in the city of Louisville and Commonwealth of Kentucky.

The West End Opportunity Partnership is a public corporation established by the 2021 Kentucky General Assembly to operate with 21 voting members who manage financial resources for a newly created West Louisville Tax Incremental Financing district.

The legislation that created WEOP stated the Governor shall appoint one member of the Louisville NAACP to the WEOP Board. The NAACP gladly complied and gave the Governor the name of the organization’s representative who earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Economics from the University of Louisville, a Master of Science in Economics from the University of Kentucky and a master’s degree in Public Administration from the University of Kentucky. In addition, the representative serves as a Faculty Affiliate at the Bloomberg Center for Cities at Harvard University.

Two times in 2022, the Interim CEO of WEOP asked the president of the NAACP not to reappoint its chosen representative to the WEOP board. When asked why, the NAACP was told “she was disruptive.” The NAACP then spoke with other board members and reviewed minutes to determine their representative was not disruptive but did ask hard and challenging questions.

Once the second request was made, the president of the NAACP proposed that the leadership of both organizations meet to discuss and make every effort to resolve any problems. WEOP never responded.

In September 2023, WEOP adopted amendments to its bylaws requiring the NAACP and six other organizations to submit two names instead of one to be appointed to the WEOP Board. WEOP would review both names and make the final decision on which one would serve. The NAACP objected to this change and voted to send one name.

The Interim CEO of WEOP at some point went to a State Senator, without the approval or knowledge of her board of directors; and requested that the statue creating WEOP be amended to codify the changes in WEOP’s revised by-laws. The legislation, Senate Bill 259, not only included the changes in the bylaws but added that if an organization did not comply, it would be expelled from the board.

After both houses passed SB 259 and then overrode the governor’s veto, the legislation becomes law effective July 15.

Faced with expulsion from the WEOP Board, the NAACP had three options:
• Submit one name and be expelled
• Voluntarily withdraw from the WEOP Board rather than be expelled

Why the NAACP did not submit two names to WEOP

First, under the national Constitution and Bylaws for Units of the NAACP, one of the duties of the local branch President is, “To appoint the Chair and members of all Committees…” If the Louisville NAACP had submitted two names to WEOP, it would have been in conflict with our Constitution and Bylaws.

Second, the NAACP is a unique advocacy and social justice organization. The commitment to our independence and ability to speak and advocate for the communities we represent is as strong today as it was when the Louisville Branch NAACP was chartered in 1914. We initiate our policies and determine our representatives who are reflective of those policies.

Therefore, we withdrew from the WEOP Board of Directors.

Although the NAACP will no longer sit on the WEOP Board of Directors, we will continue to be true to our mission and advocate for our communities by asking of the WEOP Board and leadership the hard and challenging questions including the following:
• How can an Interim CEO negate a resolution passed by the WEOP Board to form a search committee to seek a permanent CEO?
• With WEOP having received ten million dollars from the state, ten million from the city and ten million from private sector investors, when will a budget be introduced and approved?
• Without a budget, how did WEOP expend over $738,977, including some $446,833 in salaries and $60,316 in legal fees?
• Why has WEOP yet to adopt a procurement policy consistent with Kentucky’s Model Procurement Code?
• Has WEOP provided its required biennial reports to the Interim Joint Committee on Appropriations and Revenue?
• In the three years of the Partnership’s existence, what tangible benefits have accrued for the nine statutory neighbor hoods WEOP was created to serve?

Raoul Cunningham is president of the Louisville Branch of the NAACP.…Read more by Raoul Cunningham

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