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The City Should Program Its CDBG Funding Into Something Beneficial

Why is Jamestown proposing to spend $50,000 of its CDBG funding on a civic engagement fund?

The money, according to the city’s 2020 CDBG draft plan, would pay for technical assistance, training and events or promotions to engage residents in the community development and leadership process. In another area, the plan says civic engagement money would pay for ongoing public participation, civic training and neighborhood-led leadership opportunities.

We thought that the Jamestown Renaissance Corp. had someone doing a lot of this already, paid for by private foundations and with a pretty good record of engaging previously-dormant neighborhood groups. The best part of the JRC position is that it doesn’t cost taxpayers a dime.

Now, consider that the proposed Community Development Block Grant spending plan spends roughly the same amount ($57,517) on one code enforcement officer and $55,000 on a lead poisoning prevention. Those are programs we can get behind. A code enforcement officer is in low- to moderate-income neighborhoods every day working to clean up neighborhoods. And we know full well that Jamestown has battled lead paint issues for decades. We’d think either of those programs could use another $50,000 given the problems the city has with blight in its neighborhoods and with lead paint in its housing stock.

We’re sure city officials think they need a civic engagement program. We don’t think they’re deliberately trying to waste taxpayer money. But proposing to spend $50,000 of taxpayer money on a program that is, at best, fuzzily described in the federal plan sure looks like waste, especially when you consider that the city’s elected and appointed officials have, as part of their jobs, civic engagement.

The city should reprogram this $50,000 into something that actually benefits city residents.

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