Community and Economic Development
As I mentioned last week, the city is an interesting position with their 2013 Community Development Block Grants (CDBG), as HUD has given us an extra $93,133 to work with. One of the items on this week's agenda is a proposal to divide that money among five recipients: The Emergency Shelter of the Fox Valley, Habitat for Humanity, Housing Partnership of the Fox Cities, city administration and the Parks and Rec department.
Last Monday at the CEDC committee meeting we were told the Parks and Recreation portion of this spending ($37,133, to be exact) would go towards a project at Einstein Park to "add ball diamonds and fields." (see 11:25 in the meeting video) We've since been given more details on the project: It involves tearing up some old tennis courts at the middle school, repaving the former tennis courts into the Einstein parking lot and removing a parking lot that currently straddles the line between city and school property.
I'm sure we'll have plenty of discussion on this, but it's my opinion that what amounts to a parking lot project is not an appropriate use of CDBG money. The HUD CBDG website says the following about limitations on this money (emphasis mine):
"Entitlement communities develop their own programs and funding priorities. However, grantees must give maximum feasible priority to activities which benefit low- and moderate-income persons. A grantee may also carry out activities which aid in the prevention or elimination of slums or blight. Additionally, grantees may fund activities when the grantee certifies that the activities meet other community development needs having a particular urgency because existing conditions pose a serious and immediate threat to the health or welfare of the community where other financial resources are not available to meet such needs. CDBG funds may not be used for activities which do not meet these broad national objectives."
I don't see parking lot restructuring as giving the "maximum feasible priority to activities which benefit low- and moderate-income persons." In fact, I'm not sure how this project will benefit them at all.
With that in mind, on Wednesday I plan to ask for this proposed allocation of grants to be reconsidered and appropriate priority be given to potential recipients that could have a more direct impact on the life of low and moderate income residents of our city.
For the third consecutive week the special assessment policy will be a major item of focus for me, as the council once again takes up possible changes to the policy for 2014.
One of the more notable changes to the proposed policy is raising the price for the installation of storm and sanitary sewers by $1/foot. I referred this item back to the Finance Committee two weeks ago because I wasn't comfortable with some unanswered questions regarding why we're considering raising the price.
Unfortunately, after two weeks to research and a very brief discussion at the Finance Committee meeting last week, I remain uncomfortable with the change. As such, I plan to submit an amendment Wednesday night that would remove the fee increases from the proposal. I think it's important that any cost increase be thoroughly scrutinized before approval, and I'm doing my best to make sure that happens.
Keeping you informed on issues that may impact you around the city is one of my primary goals as an alderman. Making the council's activity as accessible as possible to as many people as are interested is part of my goal to make it easier for more people to get involved with issues that matter to them.