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Published: Friday, 4/22/2005

Community development groups plead for money

Toledo Councilman Michael Ashford said yesterday that local community development corporations want and need federal Community Development Block Grant money for neighborhood projects, but cuts are forcing city officials to make tough choices.

Mr. Ashford, chairman of council's community and neighborhoods committee, said he understands the passion he heard Wednesday from many CDC executive directors, who asked City Council for more money, but said there just isn't enough of it to go around.

"The [community development corporations] that aren't funded deserve to be funded, and the ones we are funding deserve more money," Mr. Ashford said. "They are passionate and are doing a great job for the city. There is not enough money to go around."

Mr. Ashford said council likely will vote May 3 on the committee's recommendations. A first reading of the recommendations was made at council's April 19 meeting.

Mr. Ashford's committee gave groups a chance Wednesday to comment on the block grant proposals. Mayor Jack Ford's administration recommended nine groups share about $1.10 million in block grant money this year, up slightly from the $1.06 million spent last year on the corporations.

The city is funding one group it did not last year - $65,000 to the VIVA South Toledo Community Development Corp. Two veteran community development corporations, the Toledo Warehouse District Association and the Warren Sherman Area Council, were not among those recommended for funding this year.

"We meet virtually all of the [Department of Housing and Urban Development] requirements," said Kathy Steingraber, executive director of the Toledo Warehouse District. "We've earned the right and respect of the city. We've created a number of jobs in St. Clair Village."

Ms. Steingraber called the $50,000 the warehouse district is asking for a "drop in the bucket" compared to other projects the city has earmarked.

"I don't understand it," Councilman Bob McCloskey said of the administration's decision not to fund the warehouse district. "All I saw before was a bunch of old buildings [at St. Clair Village] on the verge of being demolished. What you've done with them has been phenomenal."

Council President Louis Escobar and Mr. Ashford said they were taken aback by Ms. Steingraber's comments that the city was not supporting the warehouse district. Both said the district has received city funds for other projects, like street paving.

Ms. Steingraber said the warehouse district needs the money so it can be used as seed money to attract larger grants. Ms. Steingraber said the district is currently losing out on grants because it cannot show city financial support.

Mr. Ashford said what many groups forget is that the city has roughly $520,000 less to work with than last year.

Mr. Escobar said that means the Ford administration and council must make tough decisions.

"We're not saying 'no' because we like it or we get our kicks doing it," Mr. Escobar said during one exchange. "Please don't take this personally. We're doing the best we can."



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