Herald Reports on High Expenses at Greenway Conservancy

Greenway’s North End Parks
Greenway’s North End Parks

The Boston Herald’s Thomas Grillo reports on some news that came out of this week’s annual meeting for the Greenway Conservancy in his article, “Critics eye Greenway spending $300G on program for 9 teens, Where’s the money going?”  The Conservancy is the private, non-profit that operates the downtown ribbon of parks from the North End to Chinatown.

At the Conservancy’s annual meeting, it was disclosed that the Green & Grow program spent $254, 696 for an internship and apprentice program for nine teenagers. That works out to over $28,000 per student. I was quoted in the article, “it seems like a lot of money for an eight-week educational program that serves so few. Other summer programs serve hundreds of kids for a lot less money.” It should be noted that the program also includes 3 day/week, after-school sessions during the year.

The Green & Grow program seems like a nice initiative on the surface. But, to spend such a large sum on only 9 kids, at the exclusion of so many others, is a waste. Although about half of the Conservancy’s budget comes from State taxpayers, most of the Green & Grow program is privately funded with $30,697 from public sources (which still is significant for just 9 students). Evaluation of the program is subjective. The private donors need to figure out whether this is good program or not. Such a program could involve dozens, if not hundreds, of neighborhood teens for less money.

The article goes on to talk about the high salaries at the Conservancy that tend to drive up the expenses for these programs. “Nancy Brennan, the Greenway’s executive director, earns $225,000, which tops Gov. Deval Patrick’s pay of $140,535 and Mayor Thomas M. Menino’s salary of $169,750.” The State seems to be taking a closer look. “Massachusetts Department of Transportation Secretary Jeffrey Mullan said, “While we appreciate the level of effort and standards necessary to maintain the Greenway, the commonwealth’s current fiscal situation requires that we explore every option available to reduce cash expenditures for the horticultural and maintenance programs for the Greenway.”

I actually believe the Conservancy is doing better these days, but there is still a lot of room for improvement in disclosure and efficiency. As a new organization there are always going to be adjustments along the way. I attended the board meeting this week and will have more information on other issues, such as the newly proposed Greenway Business Improvement District.