City Council Grapples with Neighborhood Agency Funding
By Fletcher Word
Sojourner’s Truth Editor
Toledo City Council turned
down a funding request for two social service agencies last
week by a seven-to-five vote due to concerns over budget
deficit issues but Council has not yet heard the last of
such requests this year. Councilman Larry Sykes says he is
preparing a similar request for four different agencies that
he will bring before his colleagues soon.
Sykes, who voted for the
funding request for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwestern
Ohio and Grace Community Center that was proposed by
Councilwoman Yvonne Harper, will be seeking funds for the
Neighborhood Health Association, the Toledo Urban Federal
Credit Union, the YWCA and Family House in the amount of
Sykes initially requested
Community Development Block Grant funds in July for the four
agencies along with two others. The funds were unavailable.
Now he is asking Council and the administration to assist
him in finding the funding from any convenient place – CDBG
or the city’s general fund.
“These agencies impact the
very salt of our community,” said Sykes. “We can find money
for police, for various things. How does it break down along
racial lines? People of color believe we have some serious
problems.” Sykes chided his fellow councilmen who declined
to vote for the two agencies last week considering the fact
that funds have previously been earmarked for other
community groups that by and large do not service the
council approved giving $50,000 each to the Arts Commission
of Greater Toledo, the UpTown Association, and the Historic
Sykes observed that three
of the agencies he is promoting – NHA, the YWCA Battered
Women’s Shelter and Family House – have gone to great
lengths to provide housing for families in need and the
credit union has worked diligently to assist those who have
been entrapped by predatory lenders.
“There’s a subculture here
that nobody wants to look at,” he added.
a 2018 State of Poverty in Ohio Report by the Ohio
Association of Community Action Agencies, 39.6 percent of
Lucas County residents in 2016 lived below the federal
poverty line, a 9.4 percent jump from what it was in 2000.
Lucas County, Sykes noted, is the poorest northern Ohio
Harper sought the funds
for Grace Community Center and Big Brothers Big Sisters
because it was her understanding that the city had $8.2
million in excess funds – an accounting error that was a
source of contention in Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz’ successful
campaign in 2017. However, the city is facing a possible
$9.9 million budget deficit in 2019 and $15 million in 2020
leading the mayor to inform council members that he would
veto additional spending from the city’s general fund.
This year, the city
received approximately $7.5 million in Community Development
Block Grant monies from the U.S. Department of Housing and
Urban Development and passed $36,609 of that amount on to
the Grace Community Center. Big Brothers Big Sisters did not
receive any CDBG funds this year.
Big Brothers Big Sisters
had requested the funds to replace monies from other
sources, such as the federal government, that have started
to dry up in recent years, bringing the agency to a crisis
point soon. The $75 that was requested would enable the
agency to avoid laying off several critical staff persons
and ending its “I Am Somebody, I Count” program. That
program works with as many as 80 youth per year in what
Executive Director Johnny Mickler terms a leadership
development training program – preparing high school-aged
students for college and careers. The program finds them
summer jobs, brings in speakers on a regular basis to inform
and instruct and helps the youth obtain scholarships.
The three-year-old program
began by working with students at Scott and Bowsher high
schools, but has had to drop Scott as funds have dried up.
Unless there is an infusion of money, the program will end
at the start of the New Year, said Mickler.
In addition to Harper and
Sykes, Council members Tyrone Riley, Cecelia Adams, PhD, and
Peter Ujvagi voted in favor of funding for the two agencies
last week. Council members Matt Cherry, Nick Komives, Sandy
Spang, Gary Johnson, Rob Ludeman, Tom Waniewski and Chris
Delaney were opposed.
Soon up for City Council –
a request from developer Bruce Douglas seeking forgiveness
for a $500,000 loan so he can sell his 52-unit Uptown Arts
Apartments on 336 14th Street for a profit. The
property has never turned a profit despite the 15-year
community reinvestment tax abatement the owner received.