Amateurs From Kalamazoo

From a article, titled Two Rich Men Decided to Fund a Failing City. Some People Say They Made It Worse.

On the steps of city hall, Mayor David Anderson hollered a guttural “Wahhh!!!” and shot his arms into the sky to celebrate, looking like an inflatable air dancer blowing in the wind.

“Four! Hundred! Million! Dollars!” he shouted, in July, to city residents in Bronson Park, a leafy plaza adorned with bronze busts and plaques honoring pioneers and philanthropists.

Anonymous donors had just given what is thought to be the largest-ever gift to support a municipality, and for city officials, it felt like winning the lottery. It was also a win for two of Kalamazoo’s richest men, philanthropists William Parfet and William Johnston, who created the foundation that received the money and that will determine how most of it is spent.

Since the Two Bills, as they’re known to locals, launched the Foundation for Excellence in 2017 to close budget gaps in their cash-strapped city—reportedly pledging $70 million of their own money to do so—the nonprofit has distributed around $26 million a year to close budget holes, lower property taxes and fund a wish list of projects.

I’m sure our local “philanthropists” are looking at those guys from Kalamazoo as amateurs. “All you have to do,” they’re probably saying to each other, “is kick in a couple grand to City Council candidates. Then you can do whatever you want.”

Read about the whole experimental adventure at

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