21 Dec 2006 Project 21 Press Release: Black Activists Criticize Use of Taxpayer Funds to Buy New NAACP Headquarters
Members of the black leadership network Project 21 are critical of the District of Columbia City Council’s vote to give the NAACP $3.5 million in taxpayer money to relocate the NAACP’s headquarters from Baltimore to the nation’s capitol. The NAACP is not a revenue-generating industry and does not pay the full range of DC taxes due to its nonprofit status, Project 21 members say, and also point out that the economic revitalization cited by proponents may actually hurt poor black Washingtonians.
“Given the District’s precarious financial state and its trouble with education and transportation budgets, it’s outrageous to use taxpayer money to subsidize the NAACP’s relocation,” said Project 21 Fellow Deneen Moore. “Instead, the NAACP should rely on the support of its donors to pay for its expansion and relocation.”
The NAACP moved to Baltimore in 1986 when it could no longer afford New York City office space. If approved by its board of directors in February, the group will move from its current 50,000 square-foot building to a more than 200,000 square-foot campus in the economically-depressed Anacostia neighborhood. Anacostia Gateway LLC is prepared to sell the group a 63,000 square-foot building for $25 million, $3.5 million of which would be paid for with District taxpayer funds.
The D.C. government is already facing a projected budget shortfall of over $300 million over the next two years. In particular, the D.C. school budget is facing an estimated $40 million shortfall. The regional Metro transportation system is seeking $116 million in funds and is suggesting raising customer fares up to $2.10 per ride to meet that need. The D.C. government is also paying the majority of the new Washington Nationals baseball stadium, estimated to cost $667 million.
“The District’s dollars could be put to better use if they were spent subsidizing people’s train tickets,” said Project 21 Chairman Mychal Massie. “As they are already helping Major League Baseball build a gold-plated stadium just across the river, the DC government now wants to use taxpayer dollars to help the NAACP expand its offices and give Julian Bond an unrivaled view of the U.S. Capitol. While the group will not create many new jobs or even pay taxes, the logic is that it will help revitalize the Anacostia neighborhood. This creates a problem. Like Bill Clinton’s celebrated move to Harlem, the arrival of the NAACP could hurt the very people it is charged with helping. Poor black Anacostia residents risk being priced out of one of the few neighborhoods they can still afford.”
Project 21 member Kevin Martin is similarly skeptical about the proposed NAACP move and mission: “I am not surprised to hear that the NAACP is deserting Baltimore for Washington. For all of its attention-grabbing rhetoric, I never saw the NAACP concern itself with the issues facing its neighbors during the three years I was a resident of Baltimore – despite the lack of quality education opportunities, drug abuse, economic blight, exploding murder and crime rates and record-high sexually-transmitted diseases affecting black residents. With the incoming left-of-center leadership in Congress, however, it is fitting that they are relocating their business of the politics of division to the nation’s capital.”
Project 21, a nonprofit and nonpartisan organization, has been a leading voice of the African-American community since 1992. For more information, contact David Almasi at (202) 507-6398 x11 or [email protected], or visit Project 21’s website at http://www.project21.org/P21Index.html.