It's bad enough that New Britain's share of federal community development grant funds have been dwindling for a long time. Mid-sized U.S. cities such as New Britain used to count on a bigger share of CDBG dollars to address neighborhood and housing issues and to deliver community services that the local property tax would not support.
"Twenty five years ago New Britain possessed more than double the CDBG funds it has today," noted NB Politicus in a May 2007 post. "When inflation is taken into account the city has no more than a third of the resources it once had to address blight and community development
issues. Of CDBG dollars currently available, much of current funding is dispersed to human and social service agencies because the federal and state pipeline for their services has been cut to the bone as well."
New Britain's share has shrunk to $1.9 million in the current fiscal year. Those dollars are sometimes used to fend off blight and improve neighborhoods. Increasingly the federal allocation has also been used to fill gaps in the budgets of community agencies and social service organizations.
That's why the recent action of GOP Councilman Lou Salvio is so disturbing. Salvio, whose modus operandi has been to use up public resources by filing official complaints against those he disagrees with, complained to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)about City Council approval of CDBG allocations.
Salvio's latest political salvo was directed at three Democratic Council members who are affiliated or related to persons affiliated with the Human Resource Agency (HRA) and the United Labor Agency, two organizations traditionally in line to get federal dollars because of their anti-poverty and job development services. The three Council members Michael Trueworthy, Toni Lynn Collins and Paul Catanzaro, appropriately abstained from voting on any funds directed to those agencies. In fact, Catanzaro who is Chair of HRA's Board of Directors, was absent. No conflict on their part. The Council acted in accordance with the regulations.
Salvio, who initially signalled unhappiness with the allocations because one or more of his pet projects did not get funded, complained to HUD over the failure of the city to file a perfunctory waiver to HUD about the Council abstentions. The irony is that the Stewart administration, which uses Salvio as its Council mouthpiece, failed to file the required waiver. This omission opened the door to Salvio's complaint and a divisive move to derail legitimately voted allocations on a technicality.
Maybe it's time for Mayor Stewart and his Chief of Staff Lisa Carver to put a muzzle on their Council point man when his actions serve no ethical or public purpose. Heaven knows they know how to muzzle city departments when the press and public come calling for information that should not require an FOI order to be shared.