Local NAACP officials are trying to overturn the Sun City Civic Association’s decision to label the group “political,” thus denying it the right to use association facilities.
The civic association’s board of directors voted 6-1 against recognizing the nonprofit group as a public service organization Tuesday, Aug. 14. Such recognition is needed to use association space.
Board Vice President Randi Hewitt, the lone supporting vote, said the NAACP — formally known as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People — is similar to groups such as the National Association of Retired Federal Employees, which conduct political activity but are recognized by the association.
“They write letters to send to Congress to stop them from whittling away their (benefits),” Hewitt said.
“Personally, I see no problem having (the NAACP) as a PSO here.”
Other members disagreed. NAACP members have a history of political activity, said Director Pam Johnson.
“They’ve always been considered political activists and it doesn’t need to be developed in our community,” she said.
Calls to the national and state associations were referred to the Southwest Riverside County branch. Mary Venerable, president of the local group, rejected the political characterization.
“That’s totally off base,” she said.
The organization, established in 1909, advocates for the civil rights of people of all races and political parties, she said. She noted that neither NARFE nor the NAACP is a political organization because they are non-partisan.
The civic association’s facilities include eight buildings with two 500-person-capacity meeting halls, a lapidary, a woodshop, a ceramics studio, art room, game rooms, a gym, a billiards room and administration offices. Outdoor facilities include its two pools, shuffleboard and lawn bowling areas.
The facilities are privately owned by the Sun City Civic Association, which home owners pay for through fees. The association includes 4,762 homes, according to Jim Rush, the general manager.
Public service organizations must pay $25 annually to meet at the facilities, and the association’s board has the legal right to deny any group to meet on the premises because it is privately owned, Rush said.
Other organizations that meet at the association’s facilities include Crime Watch, American Legion, Menifee/Sun City Concern, Veterans of Foreign Wars and the Philanthropic Educational Organization.
Reutter said meeting in the area would help members who have trouble getting to Lake Elsinore. The Southwest Riverside County has 140 members, 11 who live in the Sun City area, according to Venerable.
Calling NAACP “political” may be a way for people who disagree with its mission to try to block its efforts, Venerable said.
“This is something we’re used to,” she said.
The application should go before the board again in September, according to Venerable.
BY PETER SUROWSKI
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