Councilman King sets May 12 meeting on city entitlement $, other issuesA public meeting Tuesday, May 12 has been called by District 3 City Councilmember Keith King to discuss the city's handling of federal entitlement funding this year and how it's affecting the Westside.
The meeting will begin at 6 p.m. in Hughes Hall at the Westside Community Center, 1628 W. Bijou St. In an update the day before the meeting, King announced that other Westside-related items will be on the agenda as well, with the entitlement issue coming up at 7 p.m.
In an interview, King was critical of City Mayor Steve Bach's policies on the entitlement-funding matter and said he wanted to hear from Westsiders.
Totalling more than $3 million this year, the federal funds come to the city annually from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) under three programs. For 38 years, the Westside, through what's known as a neighborhood strategy area (NSA), had benefitted directly from one of those programs - Community Development Block Grants (CDBG).
During that time, the Westside NSA had typically received well over $100,000 annually, most of it used for infrastructure upgrades, such as sidewalks and curb and gutter, and about $8,000 for community outreach. However, in the 2014 fiscal year (April 1-March 31) the NSA received almost no CDBG help, and it is budgeted for none at all in the current 2015 fiscal year because the Bach plan eliminates the NSA format.
The Westside group complaining about the recommendations has been the Organization of Westside Neighbors (OWN), the former recipient of the Westside NSA community-outreach funds. It too was defunded when the NSA funding format went away. The main effect was OWN no longer having money to publish the community outreach newsletter it used to mail to about 8,000 Westside residences.
Hoping to change city policy, OWN President Welling Clark has sent questions to the Housing and Community Initiatives branch of the Mayor's Office that imply a lack of consistency and logic in its HUD/CDBG decisions. Council President Merv Bennett also said, at the end of the entitlement-spending agenda item at the City Council work session April 27, that he is interested in seeing answers to those questions.
During the council discussion, Aimee Cox, head of Housing and Community Initiatives, gave a presentation outlining the new entitlement-funding plan. She asserted (as she previously had at a neighborhood meeting last September) that the Westside has gotten ample help over the years and that the data, as her office interprets it, shows that other parts of town are now more needful. However, she said that Westside residents could still apply for help under housing rehabilitation programs.
Another aspect of the proposed city entitlement funding plan for fiscal year 2015, she noted, is more funds being directed to the mayor's plan to end homelessness.
King, whose district includes most of the Westside NSA, said he believes that existing city rules require more neighborhood involvement in the HUD/CDBG process. Councilman Don Knight had made similar points during the work session.
King also questioned why Cox's proposed spending strategy favors helping relatively few homeless people over a far greater number of low-income working people.
The day before the May 12 meeting, King released an agenda for the meeting:
6–6:10 p.m., King – Welcome
6:10-6:30, Lisa Bachman (public relations for two major transportation projects affecting the Westside) – updates on Cimarron/I-25 interchange, with Eighth Street/Highway 24 changes; and West Colorado Avenue project (31st Street west to Manitou).
6:30-6:45, Tim Roberts of City Engineering – City Bike Master Plan proposal.
6:45-7, Welling Clark – Avenue Task Force update.
7-7:30, Keith King, Welling Clark and CONO President Dave Munger – city's proposed 2015-2019 Consolidated Plan and Citizen Participation Plan (related to entitlement funding).
7:30-8, open discussion.
Westside Pioneer article