NB Politicus

Shrinking Federal Funds: Stewart Blocks Funds For Basic Human Needs, Community Services

Posted in community development, federal funds by nbpoliticus on June 23, 2014
A mayoral veto this month reducing federal funds that will go to meet basic human needs and community services shows the difference between the city’s Democrats and the Stewart-led Republicans.
The Stewart Administration wants to take away at least $62,000 from community services and hand it over to acting Municipal Development Director Ken Malinowski who intends to use the funds to pad his office budget with another administrative position.
The veto message and the list of Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) grants can be found HERE.
This is not a case of cutting back to save taxpayer money. The federal appropriation is already in place. The longstanding federal program which used to provide upwards of $4 million to the city has steadily dropped over 30 years. It has hovered at $1.5 million in recent years.  In the budget priorities of the Stewart regime federal funds for direct services for  residents are losing out to the City Hall bureaucracy.
Mayor Stewart and Malinowski, misinterpreting and exploiting a letter from a Housing and Urban Development official, cited a guideline that only 15% of  the city’s $1.5 million allocation of CDBG funds go to basic human needs and community organizations.  But New Britain and other distressed cities received an exemption to the 15% rule more than 25 years ago — an exemption still in effect that gives the city more leeway in how the federal funds can be used.  The real threat to losing federal funds may lie in the way Malinowski has previously administered federal funds. These include an unaccounted for $100,000 developer loan for which the city had to pay back HUD and the potential loss of federal money for a poorly planned Arch Street project for veterans that was hatched during Malinowski’s time in the first Stewart administration.
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Dozens of residents turned out at the June 11th Council meeting to protest Mayor Stewart’s veto of funds for community services under the federal CDBG program.
The Democratic majority on the Common Council approved $371,000 for direct services in May restoring funds taken away by the Mayor’s Commission on Community and Neighborhood Development (CCND) which set a $319,000 allocation for community services. That prompted the Mayor to send her veto message that could not be overturned. Two Democratic Aldermen — Michael Trueworthy and Carlo Carlozzi — didn’t vote citing conflicts under HUD regulations. No member of the Republican caucus was moved by the many residents who sought restoration of funds at the June 11th Council meeting.
Stewart’s and Malinowski’s agenda, like the Boehner and Ryan crowd in Washington,  hits anti-poverty services particularly hard, including programs at the Human Resources Agency (HRA) such as the Food Resource Center, Las Perlas Hispanas Senior Center and the Polish Outreach Office. Small grant program funds at the OIC (youth employment) and Prudence Crandall Center were also eliminated.
The upheld veto leaves the Common Council with no choice but to adjust the allocations and with fewer dollars to go around this time for neighborhood services and organizations.
The Common Council meets on Wednesday, June 25th, for its last meeting before the fiscal year begins July 1.

Stewart Veto Puts HUD Funds For Community Services In Jeopardy: Does Administration Want Money For Political Appointee Malinowski?

Posted in community development, federal funds by nbpoliticus on June 8, 2014
In a June 6th letter Mayor Erin Stewart vetoed and returned to the Common Council a plan for use of Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds in the new fiscal year.
On May 28th the Common Council on a 7 to 5 voted restored funds to several community agencies that had been reduced by the Mayor’s Commission on Community and Neighborhood Development (CCND).
According to The New Britain Herald story several organizations that had been zeroed out by Stewart and the CCND, including the Prudence Crandall Center,  the Opportunities Industrialization Center and HRA’s Polish Outreach Center, among others, had grant funds put back into the plan by the Council.
At issue is the allocation for community services in the $1.5 million the city receives from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
The Council reduced the percentage this year to $371,000 or 24.7 percent of the CDBG money while the Administration and acting Municipal Development Director Ken Malinowski wants to allocate $319,000 (21.2 percent) — an 8.4 percent cut in funds that have been relied on by various community agencies for more than 30 years.
Stewart and Malinowski, citing HUD’s recommended allocation percentage of 15% for community and social services, want to re-direct funds under the federal program.  This is not a matter of reducing appropriations to save the cash-strapped city but federal funds that are available for a range of neighborhood , housing and community services.  Mayor Stewart and Malinowski want the money for something else, but the specifics have not been given to justify immediate cuts to direct service programs.
Some observers claim the transfer of funds is sought to pay for Malinowski’s $102,000 annual salary as acting head of the department that handles the federal money, a job he left when the previous administration took office in 2011. As is, the Council approved money for management and administration totalling $300,236 or 20 percent of the CDBG budget.
In re-appointing Malinowski to lead municipal development at a six figure salary Mayor Stewart  said she wanted to “get the federal money flowing again.” It also helped that Malinowski was a primary fundraiser for the Mayor’s 2013 campaign after he openly flirted with a mayoral run himself. But Malinowski’s record as a dispenser of HUD funds took at least one serious hit late in the administration of former Mayor Tim Stewart.  HUD ordered the city to return $100,000 for a “non-recourse” loan made to Arete Development Group because the loan was ineligible.  HUD  found violations on the loan given to Arete on Malinowski’s watch related to the application process, environmental standards and accounting for the money.
In her June 6th veto letter Mayor Stewart cited a letter from a HUD official who said most cities have “an annual limit of 15% that can be spent on public services.”  But the same letter affirmed that New Britain has used an allowable “exception” granted in 1984 that may exceed the 15% goal for human and social services. “The statute and regulations have allowed New Britain and similarly situated cities to continue to use that exception ever since,” wrote  Gary Reisine, director of community planning and development in Connecticut’s HUD office.  At the very least HUD is not mandating New Britain’s move to 15 percent this year,  contrary to what Stewart and Malinowski are implying.
The veto is little more than a power play to circumvent the shared governance process that has long been established in the allocation of federal funds. Unfortunately, it may be a pretext by the administration to take money away from direct services for unspecified uses by the Mayor and her political appointee, Ken Malinowski.

NB Holds Its Own With Population at 72,939: Counting Heads Key To Amount of Funds City Can Receive

Posted in federal funds, Hard Hittin' New Britain, U.S. Census by nbpoliticus on May 22, 2014

New Britain’s population is holding steady according to US Census data estimates reported by the Courant May 22nd.

The city’s estimated population in 2010 was 73,202 and was 72,939 in 2013, a drop of 263 residents.

The census counts are a key to funding formulas for a wide variety of state and federal funding programs that support cities and towns.

A Brookings Institution brief points to the importance of population numbers in terms of public investments and economic aid. Billions of federal dollars flow into communities based on the results of the census that is taken every 10 years.  The latest numbers show New Britain — an economically distresses city — is faring no better or worse in the way state and federal funds are disbursed.

The count also figures in the way Congressional districts and political boundaries are drawn.

For example, New Britain was once part of the 6th Congressional district prior to 2000 but population drops reduced the number of Congressional districts to five.

Getting Specter’s Vote: Promise Him More Earmarks

Posted in earmarks, federal funds, U.S. Senate by nbpoliticus on April 29, 2009

The pundits are making much of Senator Arlen Specter’s defection to Democrats as proof that a “moderate” Republican can’t survive in the GOP; that it puts the Senate Democrats on the verge of that 60-vote threshold needed to cut off debate and move legislation if the cagey Specter goes along. Politically, it clears the way for Specter to skip out on a difficult if not impossible primary. Unlike Connecticut where the “independent” Joe Lieberman put himself on the November ballot after losing the Democratic primary in 2006, Pennsylvania has a sore loser law that would probibit Specter from running on a third line.

Despite all the national implications and the rightward drift of Republicans, don’t look for Specter to mimic Lieberman’s self-serving pleas for bipartisanship. Specter’s calculated move has a lot more to do with “bringing home the bacon” via Congressional earmarks — something he is a master of in his role as ranking member of the Appropriations Committee. A recent Washington Post story “If ‘Earmark’ is a dirty word, Pennsylvanians must be blushing” confirms how prolific Specter is at federal largess. A free ride with the Democrats could put Specter in the majority and add clout to his ability to underwrite his annual wish list from back home. Small wonder Specter didn’t leave the Republican caucus earlier over John McCain’s hammering away at earmarks, be they good or bad pork.

If Harry Reid really needs a vote from Specter, he already knows the way forward will be to serve up a few more earmarks for the newest member of the Democratic caucus.