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By Tyler S. Clark (Contact)

Published January 21, 2010

It's hard to know what to think about the failure to get NSP dollars from HUD last week. Plenty of commenters have blamed "Democrats," but of course many of these people blame "Democrats" for everything. That's not to say there aren't Democrats at fault for failing to bring the money to the Valley, but the inference is it's because they're Democrats.

One community leader suggested to me the recent investigation into MYCAP that may have made granting millions to the area unpalatable. Certainly that investigation does nothing to speak to the region's ability to responsibly manage public funds.

But I'd be willing to accept either of these explanations over the one given by HUD. Namely, that "the application failed to convey the area’s 'strength and expertise' in demolishing houses." It's frankly unbelievable that the application's inability to demonstrate expertise in demolition kept us from getting a single dollar from the process.

Mr. Ryan and Mr. Williams are hoping for new funds to materialize, based on their impressions from the meeting. I'm not holding my breath. It's time we took matters into our own hands. The area has long had a mistrust of the federal government, and with friends like those that refused our Brookings Institute-lauded application, it's not hard to understand why.

It's time to dig deeper into consolidation. How do we more efficiently and effectively manage our municipalities, schools, infrastructure and economic development by eliminating centuries-old boundaries and conserving tens of millions of dollars in the process? This is the only path to addressing the growing poverty and failed school systems. After all, we can demolish every house in Ohio, and that's not going to build a tax base or provide jobs.


1PhilKidd(187 comments)posted 5 years, 10 months ago

NSPII review in D.C. taught us several things:

First, on the local level, we simply need more capacity (i.e. planning staff, county land bank, housing & community development organizations) if we are going to be able to apply and receive high levels of federal program funding similar to the NSP program. That is the reality. Federal programs like NSPII are not just pots of money that are given to communities to spend as they see fit. You must demonstrate that you have the staffing and organizational capacity to spend the money (ex. Youngstown has a staff of 5 and a handful of housing organizations vs. a Cleveland, for instance, that has over 50 such organizations, a county land bank and an entire team of city planners and community development specialists, grant writers, etc.)

There are strict guidelines/timelines regarding the the use of these dollars. It must be demonstrated that there is adequate capacity on the local level before funding can be administered. The application missed a technical component regarding demonstrated ability to administer demolition dollars (of all things) which is the fault of the application writers (which disqualified the application in and of itself) although it was difficult to determine this information was required per how the application read...and especially odd on HUD's part since a great portion of our application discussed the need for extensive demolition (which included a waiver of the 10% cap for demolition). It also identified what capacity we have at present but also requested funding that would make an actual meaningful impact among 9 cities in the region. HUD believed the capacity level was not significant enough and scored our application low - section by section - accordingly (above and beyond the demolition capacity component).

This is why the application was rejected. It was not because it was written poorly. In fact, several reviewers noted in their final overall remarks that the application was a very solid as well as innovative in relation to the approach to the problem given the nature and scale of it. You can read the application for yourself online here and draw your own conclusion in that regard (which I encourage every forum member to do so as it is simply just good information/reading in general: http://www.cityofyoungstownoh.com/Upl...

While the overarching assessment, again, was that we remain unable to demonstrate the ability to provide the capacity (ie. staff, organizations, etc.) to administer the funding to do the work given the federal guidelines of program...they also recognize that communities like ours need to embrace regional strategies as the application attempted to do (and Brookings, as well, agreed). Aside: This is why tools like county land banks are so important and we must ensure the legislation passes the State Senate. Cleveland applied for and received $40 million for their land bank with NSPII.

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2PhilKidd(187 comments)posted 5 years, 10 months ago


It's a catch 22 and it only underscores our original point that the HUD policies and programs are not geared to address the challenges of midsized to small communities. Our problems are the same as the Clevelands, Detroits and Buffalos and require great amounts of resource to address the problem as well...however, we remain at a competitive disadvantage in comparison due to smaller capacity as well as increased competition for the dollars while remaining in competition with the every city in the United States. The playing field is not level and hasn't been for some time. The reality is, is that the the Mahoning Valley leads the state and ranks high in the nation in foreclosures, unemployment and now poverty (Brookings)...and at the end of the day, the dollars are not hitting communities like ours. It has nothing to do with D's and R's. It's federal program policy. HUD officials recognize this problem, however, this is how the programs and policies are structured at present and they must follow the guidelines as they are until the guidelines are changed...

To that end, the meeting with the White House officials (which HUD officials also attended) was much more productive. They very much understand the problem with the system and state they plan to work to fix these issues so that there is a longer term solution (which is why they invited us to D.C. in the first place...before the NSPII scenario). However, we made it clear - very clear - that, while we recognize that is the real solution, we still remain paralyzed and need resources right now as we have much work ready to move forward but can't without initial help. Unemployment, vacant property, foreclosures, and population loss continues to grow each day and with it, the confidence in this administration decreases, fair or not. This will be reflected in upcoming Senate & Governor races in Ohio and, by extention, their administration's race in 3 years from now. They need to come to the Valley and deliver resources immediately (4-6 months) to assist specific programs that we have worked hard to put together and we have ready to go, which they state they plan to do. The pressure will continue and the proof will be in their deeds and not words.

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3Ytownboy(142 comments)posted 5 years, 10 months ago

Why did the city not retain the services of a professional grant writer that is completely familiar with HUD and its politics? Why was Tim Ryan not beating the pavement over this grant? Does he not pull any weight at all?

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