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Published: Monday, 4/21/2003

Group battles to stay funded

BY TOM TROY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Some of the community development corporations that have had their budgets zeroed out by the Ford administration have begun looking for friendly mergers.

At least one is fighting for survival.

Mayor Jack Ford wants to cut the annual federal community development block grant funding of CDCs from $1.5 million last year to less than $1 million. He wants six of the CDCs to close their doors, and has offered $47,000 as an incentive for each CDC that takes over another CDC's territory.

After a detailed evaluation, the administration has decided only eight of the CDCs are effective enough to justify receiving city money.

“[This] is not Monopoly money, but rather tax funds coming back to Toledo as an investment in our community,” Mr. Ford said. “We feel there's too many CDCs, and we want some to merge.”

A few have taken the hint:

  • Toledo Olde Town Community Organization and the Warren-Sherman Area Council are discussing a merger with the NorthRiver Development Corp.

  • Heritage South Commercial Revitalization Association's board meets tomorrow to consider a possible merger with River East Economic Revitalization Corp.

    But the embattled Toledo Warehouse District Association is fighting back, and has at least one ally on City Council: District 3 Councilman Bob McCloskey.

    “Kathy Steingraber [the executive director of the Toledo Warehouse District Association] and her group have worked diligently for years to bring the revitalization down there,” Mr. McCloskey said.

    Ms. Steingraber, one of the lowest-paid directors at $41,600 a year, said she doesn't believe the warehouse district was evaluated fairly. She requested copies of the successful CDCs' applications, and was given them, along with a $190 copying bill.

    “They gave me no scoring sheet, no information whatsoever,” Ms. Steingraber said.

    The administration tried to cancel funding for the Warehouse District Association last year, maintaining the association has only significant one project, the St. Clair Historic Village, on which construction recently began.

    Mr. McCloskey could well find himself in the minority. In support of the changes are Councilman Michael Ashford, whose district includes four of the de-funded CDCs, Council President Louis Escobar, and Councilman Peter Gerken who was on the review committee.

    “The task is being able to help the members see that what has been recommended is a good compromise,” Mr. Escobar said.

    Each year, the city funds the CDCs out of the community development block grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

    Instead of simply renewing the amounts from previous years, Mayor Ford this year required the CDCs to complete a lengthy application, describing their programs, their successes, their funding sources, the names and salaries of staff, the names of board members, and other details.

    Those details were then scored by two committees - one made up of citizens, the other made up mostly from city's Department of Department of Economic and Community Development, which controls the community development block grant.

    Several CDC directors have complained about open-ended questions, as well as the administration's unwillingness to spell out exactly how each application was scored. “It was time for a change for the procedure to be more objective in terms of productivity,” said Christy Fletcher, executive director of Organized Neighbors Yielding eXcellence, one of the CDCs that received a passing score. “However, the application was very subjective.”

    She said her group has had no discussions about taking over another CDC's service area, and said the one-year sum of $47,000 offered by the administration to take over additional territory won't cover the additional costs.

    Being a 10-year veteran of ONYX, Ms. Fletcher has seen an increase in that time from nine to 14 organizations. “As we grew, the pot never grew,” she said.



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