Wednesday, June 16, 2010

B-PEP, Northside Coalition Support Capital Budget Changes

Community groups gathered in Pittsburgh City Council Chambers today to show support for legislation that would reform the city’s process of appropriating capital funds.

One of Councilman Ricky Burgess’s bills would prevent the city from using federal Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds for items that would normally be paid for with city dollars. Burgess says this practice leaves poorer communities with less than their fair share of city funding.

The Councilman says channeling the correct amount of city dollars into CDBG-recipient communities will also create a snowball effect.

“Oftentimes, private dollars and state dollars and other dollars follow city emphases and city priorities. We believe with the city making these communities a priority, you will see other dollars flowing into those poorer communities.”

Another Burgess bill would mandate a six-year plan for the city’s capital budget and require public hearings. A multi-departmental committee would oversee that process.

Speakers from the Black Political Empowerment Project and the Northside Coalition for Fair Housing voiced their support, saying these measures will bring equity to under-funded areas.

Burgess’s measures were introduced last month, but Councilwoman Natalia Rudiak proposed very similar legislation yesterday. Her bill would also mandate public hearings and create a six-year capital budget plan. In addition, it would create a committee to find unspent money left in projects that never got off the ground. However, Rudiak’s bill does not address CDBG funding.

She contends that her legislation contains better definitions and represents the consensus of Council.

“Burgess’s bills take a lot of the budgeting process out of the hands of City Council, which is elected to represent these community organizations, and it puts it in a panel that’s essentially controlled by bureaucrats.”

Burgess says despite policy differences, he’s willing to work with Rudiak.

“I feel very confident that her and I will sit down in the near future and reconcile, through conferencing, our legislation, so that we can put something together that the vast majority of Council can support.”

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