Are you familiar with the boondoggle that is California’s “First 5 Commissions” – also known as the California Children and Families Program? This program is funded by taxes collected on sales of cigarettes, primarily to working class people of course. They have wasted millions of dollars on truly ridiculous endeavors including belly dancing classes for pregnant teen moms! And they even paid a Republican blogger, Matt Cunningham, to read blogs!
Now a new watchdog site called “Flopped 5” is exposing the First 5 Commissions. Here are excerpts from this new site – prepare to be disgusted at what has happened to liberal Democrat Rob Reiner’s brainchild:
Flopped 5 exists to provide an uncompensated and independent view of the First 5 Commissions, also known as the California Children and Families Program. Because there are no special interest dollars here, we believe our views do not carry the bias of those who in any wayreceive First 5 funds.
Don’t get us wrong: we believe in funding children’s programs; however, we believe California’s need to fund Medi-Cal, Healthy Families, and other truly necessary programs fully eclipses any argument for the continued funding of Jelly Belly factory tours and other questionably run and/or non-essential programs.
While we cannot always be certain of everything that is going on in their organizations, we are committed to focusing on published reports and documents to provide what we believe is a well reasoned but alternative perspective, one that can be used to more fairly assess what we feel is an onslaught of overly positive, expensive, and high gloss messaging produced by First 5.
Based on wide and deep reviews of available information, it is our opinion that the California First 5 Commission is a ballot initiative experiment that has flopped, contrary to the 100% taxpayer paid marketing that attempts to convince voters otherwise.
After over a decade in existence, it is our opinion that the Proposition 10 law’s commissions have offered little to no evidence that they have “made a difference” to improve the lives of children up to age 5. Moreover, we feel it is a law that is structurally flawed and contains improper incentives for public officials and others who both sit on the boards and receive funds.
As a result, while we are a group of citizens with different political views on a range of issues, we have come to the shared perspective that Californians should know a lot more about the First 5 Commissions and the problems that have repeatedly surfaced.
There are many more problems than those listed below, but over time, both blogs and the press have brought to light that funds have been spent on the following improper, questionable, and/or potentially illegal expenses:
- Jelly Belly Factory tours
- Camping lessons and at least one overnight trip to Big Sur
- Overnight stay at the Four Points Sheraton in Pleasanton, CA where couples from San Francisco took marriage workshops and were given $250 in Target gift cards to spend on whatever.
- Holiday party space rental and the purchase of a costume
- Monterey Bay Aquarium field trips
- Halloween party supplies
- A play area at a foreign government’s consulate
- Ice-skating lessons
- Belly Dancing classes for expectant teenage moms.
- $200 per hour to pay a consultant to listen to the radio
- $4 million was spent on a national cartoon show (KCRA broadcast 11-18-08); funds are only supposed to be spent to support services in California.
- Large comp packages for people who mainly give away public funds and go to meetings for a living (this is just salary so does not include pension/benefits; thus add $50K+) the top 5:
- First 5 LA: $248,178
- Children & Families Commission of Orange County: $247,227
- First 5 Alameda – Every Child Counts: $181,310
- First 5 Santa Clara County: $162,289
- First 5 San Bernardino: $154,714
Plus Kern First 5 evaluation funds appear to have not been monitored at all and were spent by evaluators on:
- More than $15,000 paid for Morro Bay retreats for Cal State researchers and First 5 executive directors.
- A $1,800 charter flight for Inyo Co.’s First 5 chief to go to seaside event.
- More than $155,000 for consultants, at least two of them spouses of research-center staffers.
- More than $100,000 for travel, including trips not directly related to First 5 but rather for researchers’ “professional development.”
Click here to visit the new “Flopped 5” website!