Charity transparency

The city needs to tell the public where the smart meter donations will go

We typically are supportive of efforts that aim to help the needy, but there’s something a bit unnerving about the new “donation station” smart meters in downtown Chico that the city and local business advocacy groups are championing.

Those are the red meters that can be fed by coins or credit cards and are in place, according to the city, “to create awareness about the negative impacts of panhandling and provide an alternative.” Basically, the city wants to cut down on begging in the city center. The idea is that the public should give to the meters rather than handing money directly to those in need, and those funds will later be directed to services that help the down and out.

Our problem with the cause is that the city has yet to decide where exactly the money will go and how it will be used. Will it, say, go to the Jesus Center and help feed the hungry? Or perhaps it’s destined for Beautiful, Clean & Safe Chico’s efforts to fund security guards. There’s a big difference between those organizations’ missions and, no matter where the public falls in its support for either one of them, we ought to know where our money is going.

Until such time, we urge citizens to refrain from making donations to the meters. The city has made big pronouncements about being transparent in its operations, and this ostensibly charitable effort ought not be an exception.

In the meantime, for those who want to give, do so directly to the organization of your choice. Better yet, when someone asks for money, ask them what they need. If it’s food, offer to buy them a meal. These are human beings, after all, and this is the season of giving.