Mayor Mike Bell used his veto power on Wednesday to wipe away changes made by Toledo City Council last week on his plan to allocate millions of federal dollars — cutting back funding to three homeless shelters and to a North Toledo community group’s housing project for poor seniors.
Last week, Mayor Bell cut council out of the final piece of the decision-making process on allocating more than $6 million in Community Development Block Grant funding. Instead of waiting for a council vote of approval or allowing revisions, he sent the city’s “one-year action” plan to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
The very next day, council passed its own version of the plan that increased funding to Aurora House, Family House, and St. Paul’s Community Center to the same levels as last year.
In the latest move, Mr. Bell used a line-item veto against those changes.
Bell administration officials have told council it lacked the authority to change the recommendations and hat it had to rubber-stamp the plan. Mr. Bell stuck to that assertion n Wednesday.
“They were so focused on trying to one-up us, they didn’t focus on the legislation of what they were trying to do,” Mr. Bell said.
Deputy Mayor Steve Herwat said council’s changes were contrary to HUD rules. “Under HUD regulation, when you modify an action plan, you have to give public legal notice in the newspaper of record; you have to hold public hearings,” Mr. Herwat said. “Council by itself, once the action plan was submitted a week ago, cannot by ordinance change that plan.”
To restore CDBG funding to the same levels as last year for Aurora House, St. Paul’s Community Center, and Family House, council on May 16 took $150,000 away from the Toledo-Lucas County Homelessness Board. That money had been earmarked by the Bell administration to be allocated out by the homelessness board, but council voted to send it directly to shelters.
Council also voted to take $92,800 of CDBG funding away from the City of Toledo department of neighborhoods budget, and use it for the shelters and United North Inc., which council wanted to award $59,395 toward a project to create 41 apartments for low-income seniors in the former St. Hedwig School in North Toledo’s Polish Village, contingent upon it receiving tax credits.
The mayor’s plan assumed the city would get $6.8 million in CDBG money. Council reduced that expectation to $6.1 million in anticipation of sequestration reducing the amount.
Councilman Adam Martinez, chairman of council’s neighborhoods committee, said Mr. Bell may be right that there was a “mechanical issue” with the one-year action plan submission, but he still thinks council could pass a “substantial amendment” to HUD. “I believe there is a time period and this may impact the nonprofits by about 30 days,” Mr. Martinez said. “This was never an attempt to one-up the administration. This was an attempt to help the homeless shelters and this could have been avoided if the administration had waited one day.”
He said changes were an attempt to continue supporting the shelters until they could adapt to HUD regulations and policies that caused more money to be earmarked for “rapid rehousing.”
With the mayor’s veto, all of council’s changes are erased but nine councilmen could overturn his veto.
Bell administration officials said a veto would not fix problems with council’s plan because it did not follow HUD rules. “The mayor is concerned about following public meetings for the plan, worried about ensuring we are following federal priorities for rapid re-housing,” city spokesman Jen Sorgenfrei said. “He is most worried about eliminating homelessness and the one-year action plan addresses that.”
Family House director Renee Palacios was dismayed over the veto. The shelter faces a $79,000 reduction over last year, which includes a $64,000 reduction in CDBG money. The remainder is a reduction in an Emergency Solutions Grant over last year.
“Oh my gosh, I am so sick to my stomach on this,” Ms. Palacios said. “Without the CDBG money, we are shutting down a program for toddlers, so I think the priorities are a little mixed up here.”
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