Sustainable Redwood City is not the same nonprofit organization it used to be.
In fact, it's not a nonprofit organization anymore at all.
However, that doesn't mean they aren't still going strong, aiming to spread awareness about issues that affect people who live and work in Redwood City and inspire the kind of change that will keep the city moving forward and improving, so it's around for years to come.
Lou Covey, Patch blogger and Sustainable Redwood City (SRC) member shared the news this week that the organization has decided to take a huge step, and de-incorporate.
"So, we are no longer a 501(c)4 organization," he said. "That means, we can no longer accept or raise money."
While some might think that being unable to collect any money at all anymore sounds like a death sentence to a nonprofit, Covey said, it's actually great news, and, he thinks, a really smart move.
He explained, the shift will allow the organization to really free itself from the burdens of fundraising, complying with tax laws, and doing all the cumbersome administration and legal work that goes along with being a tax-exempt, incorporated nonprofit.
He added, he thinks it is the way a lot of nonprofits will decide to go in the 21st century, calling it, "the wave of the future."
"All of that work took so much time and effort," he said. "Now, we can just concentrate on the issues."
So, how does an organization strip itself of all its cash, and still stay afloat? A lot of that just took care of itself when they de-incorporated, he said - by eliminating the work, they eliminated a lot of their expenses.
For example, Covey said, the organization noticed that it was getting a lot of traffic and engagement through its Facebook page versus on its traditional website - so, they did away with the website.
"Having a website costs money; Facebook is free. And, I was paying a lot of the organization's legal fees out of my own pocket," he said, explaining that none of that legal help or those fees are necessary if they are no longer an incorporated nonprofit.
Covey said, he also thinks freeing themselves of needing to ask for donations will help them operate more objectively and avoid the "politics" that can sometimes come with being a nonprofit.
"One of the primary arguments against what we do was that we were 'bought and paid for' by whoever bought and paid for us," he said. "So, now, we want to try and interact with the community as objectively as possible."
"We’ve decided to go grassroots. The only thing we’re asking from people now, truly, is their time," he continued. "We think we’ll be a lot more effective going forward."
What are Sustainable Redwood City's positions?
What is it that SRC is working toward?
Covey said, they group aims primarily to help spread awareness, and call attention to facts about different local issues based on thoughtful research.
"We’re here to see Redwood City become a sustainable community, and find ways to do that more effectively," he said.
The following are a few of the group's main issues of concern.
Covey said, he finds the term "effective housing" better than "affordable housing," because "affordable" is such a subjective term. What he means, he said, is to make sure there's enough housing for everyone in Redwood City, and apply better city planning so that Redwood City is a more pedestrian- and commuter-friendly city.
"Housing in Redwood City is really lacking – not just affordable housing, but housing, period," he said.
Covey said he is friends with many business entrepreneurs from other areas, including Europe, that have told him many times they would love to start a business in Redwood City if only the city had a good business hotel, more housing, and better public transit, such as an inner-city light rail system that goes through downtown.
Covey said he is encouraged by the fact that either being built now or in the planning stages.
Bringing in new tax revenues without raising taxes
Obviously, this one is a challenge, but one Covey said the members of SRC want to help city officials explore.
He said, approving new housing developments and attracting new businesses are examples of two ways he think this can be done.
New developments bring in money for street repairs, schools, and building levees to protect inland areas like Bair Island and Don Edwards, he said. New businesses bring in added tax revenue.
"But, if we bring in more businesses, we also need to be able to provide them with places to live and park," he pointed out.
Concerns about gun crimes
A resident of the Friendly Acres neighborhood, Covey said, "There's not many a night that goes by that we don't hear some sort of gunfire."
Covey said, he is friends with many a responsible gun owner that "doesn't feel the need to go shooting off his gun irresponsibly all the time," so he doesn't necessarily think stricter gun laws is the way to go; and it's definitely a challenge to try and think up ways to keep guns out of the hands of criminals.
He said, he and other members of SRC will be meeting soon with Congresswoman Jackie Speier, Senator Dianne Feinstein and State Senator Jerry Hill to brainstorm this issue, and he briefly talked about an RFID-chip project that may be a potential solution.
The idea puts 15-cent RFID chips into guns - either at the time of manufacturing, or through inexpensive kits that can be sold to add them to existing guns - and then places RFID sensors in places such as schools, parks and other public places so that, if anyone carrying a gun enters one of those locations, the authorities are silently notified immediately and can respond, hopefully before anything dangerous happens.
Lastly, SRC wants to help brainstorm ways to make our local schools more effective.
"The quality of our schools - that's a big reason for people to move into the area," he said.
When asked if he worried that more schools would be needed to serve the families that could soon move into the roughly 1,800 new homes being built in Redwood City, Covey said, "You can’t build new schools until you have the revenue."
"Our schools have enough room to be able to expand, but they have to have the money to be able to do that."
All in all, Covey said SRC's primary objective is to help research solutions to local problems of sustainability, and start a dialogue with local influencers.
"We're here to provide information; to research stuff and come back and say, 'this looks like a good way to go.'"
For more information on Sustainable Redwood City, visit their Facebook page.
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