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In 2012, the Levine Campus embarked on a great solar power project that was created under the leadership of Bob Silver, the President of the Federation, during a tumultuous period when our leaders finally succeeded in running the Jewish Federation into the ditch. This was certainly not Mr. Silver’s fault alone, but according to the explanation given at the time, the leadership of the Federation just figured out, after many years on the Board, that the Federation had a “structural deficit”. There is a very detailed analysis on this blog in an earlier post entitled: Smarter Jews Needed, Or Maybe We Just Need A Few Decent Ones. A Salute to the Federation’s New Donors.

I questioned the qualifications of the leadership of the Jewish Federation and the ineptitude of their Board of Directors.  I singled out Bob Silver at the time and wrote:

Bob Silver should also step down at once. He has served on the Board since 2002, and if he is just now, in January of 2011, discovering that the Federation has a structural deficit, then I question what he has been doing as a member of the Board for the last 9 years. See article from Jewish News. Additionally, Mr. Silver was quoted as saying that they have done a very poor job in engaging the community. So, the next question that begs to be asked is why is Mr. Silver, a Board member for the last nine years during which this disaster was unfolding, now tasked with solving the problem? What specific skill does he now possess that has been dormant for the last decade? For that matter, the following board members, who have also served for the last nine years, should also step down:

Ann Zinman, Lanny Lahr, Joel Bernick, David Weiner, Sandra Scheinbein, and Barry Zemel (Zemel served since 2005)

In the January 13, 2012 issue of the Jewish News, we were treated to a story entitled Going green, which highlighted a a new solar panel project for the Levine Campus.  Mr. Silver was quoted in the article:

“This no-cost approach to ‘go green’ was perfect,” said Silver in the release. “We knew this would make a huge impact economically for the campus. It demonstrates to the 25,000 people that walk through our doors each month that it is the right thing to do financially and environmentally.”

First, there are not 25,000 unique visitors to the Levine Campus each month. That would equal 1/3rd of the Jewish population of the greater Phoenix metropolitan area.  It is closer to 3,000 unique visitors, but that is for another day.  Second, we were treated to another article when this no-cost solar project was completed, entitled Campus completes greening.  The article highlights include:

The green initiative kicked off about 18 months ago with a campus recycling program. In January, a solar panel thermal system was installed by Arizona Solar Concepts. The panels, located on the campus roof, are expected to provide energy to more than 70 percent of the facility’s thermal hot-water heaters, according to a VOSJCC press release. The system is scheduled to turn on at the end of the month, said Dae Williams, campus facilities director.

The next phase of the project, through Green Choice Solar, involved installing about 400 solar canopy parking spaces in the campus parking lot. In addition to providing covered parking for campus visitors and employees, the panels are expected to meet 90 percent of the campus’ energy needs and are anticipated to save 11 percent in APS costs, according to the release.

The renovations were done at no cost to the community, Bob Silver, association board chair, told Jewish News at the start of the project (“Going green,” Jewish News, Jan. 13, 2012). The vendors took advantage of tax credits, government programs and rebates run through the utility companies.

Here is what we were not told.  Instead of saving the JCA more than $6.6 million dollars in energy costs over a 25 year period, it will now actually cost the JCA more than $2,000,000 in higher energy costs.  In the first year alone, this so called “no cost” solution of solar panels that the leadership of the JCA was happy to publicize actually cost the JCA more than $120,000 in higher energy costs.  I have a copy of the report that was commissioned by the board of directors of the JCA and prepared by Energy Management Advisors, LLC.  Download the report by clicking  ILJCC Solar Installation Situation.

This is everything that is wrong with the JCA.  Instead of being truthful and informing the Jewish Community that they made a serious mistake by investing in the solar project and that there will be an 8 million dollar swing in the benefit projection, which will ultimately cost the JCA more than $2,000,000 over 25 years and has already contributed to a cost increase in their energy bills of $125,000 in the first year, they have told the community nothing.  I would say that higher energy bills of $125,000 per year contradicts the “no cost to the community” statements made by Mr. Silver.

I think it could be argued that the Jewish News has not done the job they are capable of doing and has done a disservice to the community by sitting on this story.  As a community newspaper, they must walk a fine line between appealing to advertisers and informing us all what is going on.  If the story was important enough for the Jewish News to run two stories on the wonderful greening of the Levine Campus, it was important enough to tell us that the whole project has been a financial disaster, not the “zero cost to the community” wonder that they have written about. The very community the Jewish News is supposed to serve is being trampled under foot by JCA management and the Jewish News appears complicit through the sin of omission.  The Jewish News of Phoenix sat on relevant news of this disaster that would clearly make people question or change their giving strategy after being pressured by the JCA.  They must decide whether or not they will a be a newspaper that informs the community of the issues facing the Jewish Community or a newspaper that focuses on appeasing advertisers. It stands to reason that people have given to the JCA not knowing what the Jewish News knew about this fiasco and more money will most likely be unnecessarily squandered.  This is unfortunate.

Circling back to the subject matter of my last post, this is one reason that 46% of every dollar you give to the JCA goes up in the smoke required to run the JCA.  Gross financial mismanagement, a lack of transparency and accountability, and the sins of commissions and omissions. If the JCA was a public company, these omissions would spark lawsuits and most likely an SEC investigation.  To ask the Jewish community to donate to the JCA, when their leadership is not truthful about their managerial errors and the true state of their projects to protect our future, is an outrage and a moral failing from people we are supposed to be able to trust.  The JCA is nothing more than a financial organization that can not tell the truth to people from whom they want to raise money.

PS – At the rate I am being sent information, I might have to quit my day job.