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Buffalo still squandering anti-poverty funds

I'm getting tired of writing this story.

Once again, the federal government has come down hard on City Hall for mismanaging the $20 million-plus it gets annually to fight poverty and blight through the Community Development Block Grant program. 

HUD's been squawking, and the city squandering, since Jimmy Griffin was running the show.

As I reported in Saturday's News:

Among the problems: too much spending on bureaucrats, questionable financing for upscale
housing developments and sloppy fiscal management.

Or, as I reported back in 2003:

City Hall frittered away much of the money through parochial politics and bureaucratic ineptitude, The News found.

More than half went to "soft costs" that include covering bad loans, paying City Hall salaries and subsidizing an overblown network of neighborhood agencies, The News found.

Relatively little has gone to brick-and-mortar projects. What has been spent to revitalize downtown and neighborhoods, The News found, has been haphazard, with money sometimes going to risky and futile projects.

 

To give credit where credit is due, Geoff Kelly at Artvoice broke the latest story. Artvoice has also posted a copy of the HUD report.

Local HUD chief Steve Banko is pretty outspoken in the story:

“Normally you go into a city and there’s a clear line of communication and responsibility. I defy anyone to understand what happens in Buffalo’s City Hall."

 

You'd think that because Buffalo ranks as the nation's third-poorest city, Mayor Byron Brown would be hellbent on making sure sure he's making the most of his anti-poverty tools.

But, in addition to what the feds portray as his mismanagement of the block grant program, Brown has been an outspoken critic of a proposal by Gov. David Paterson to revamp the Empire Zone program. The zones were intended to promote investment and employment in distressed neighborhoods, but the program has been hijacked by downtown business interests.


To be fair, Brown inherited the problems of both the block grant and Empire Zone programs from Tony Masiello. But, three years into his term, Brown has not reformed them, despite the documented need.

In addition, the mayor has not yet delivered on his promised anti-poverty plan, which was supposed to be Job 1 of Deputy Mayor Donna Brown. She's held the job for a year, and all we've gotten so far is talk of a plan.

 

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