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Milwaukee- On Tuesday the Community & Economic Development Committee held a hearing regarding a substitute resolution authorizing the acceptance and funding of the City’s 2015 Consolidated Community Development Entitlement Funding for mandated/essential Services, program administration, and City Strategic Objectives from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development through the Community Development Grants Administration (CDGA). Since the late 90’s, however, a lack of transparency and accountability in community development programs within Milwaukee’s City Departments have led to uneconomical and ineffective spending.

With all of the various programs receiving millions of dollars in Federal funding specifically budgeted for the impoverished/affordable housing, anti-poverty programs, community development, and economic development; the City of Milwaukee ought to be a healthy, flourishing place to live.

So where is the money going?

Based off operating budgets for several different city departments, over 30-40% of those federal dollars go to bloated salaries and fringe benefits, leaving little to no room for the needs within our communities to be properly addressed in the way these programs supposedly intended.

After attending today’s committee meeting I have a better understanding of why our communities are suffering. There’s no transparency or accountability of these funds. Those in power are keeping the community in the dark from the misuse and abuse of so-called “anti-poverty programs,” and it is all by design.

The Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program was enacted in 1974. The block grant program, allows local policymakers greater discretion regarding how federal dollars are spent, yet the federal government is still supposed to maintain oversight to avoid waste and misuse.

How is it that Milwaukee has been able to get away with irresponsible spending of these federal funds for so long?

When probed by Chairman Joe Davis whether there was documentation to account for services rendered, the representatives of various City departments were unable to verify how many individuals in the community were actually benefiting from the programs. This is problematic, because it shines a light on the likelihood of the irresponsibility to meet regulatory requirements by the grant recipients.

“…We have to be a lot more frugal about where we spend the money at… I’m not looking at trying to reduce funding or cut funding. I just want to have an open honest conversation about what priorities should be… this is the beginning of the discussion…” says Chairman Joe Davis.

As a concerned citizen, I would suggest an audit of CDBG grantees. The time is now to implement a plan for better accountability and transparency in the City of Milwaukee. Unless these federal funds were allocated in the manner in which they were intended, we can’t have an honest conversation about repairing our communities. That would bring a great change within the City of Milwaukee.

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