Speakers criticize Schenectady’s use of federal grant funding
SCHENECTADY This year’s annual hearing on how the city should spend federal grant money turned into a debate about whether the city has gotten any bang for its buck.
Resident Jason Planck cited last year’s disappointing results in job creation for minorities.
CDBG pays for the city’s half of the county affirmative action officer. Last year, that officer said the local government workforce got less diverse, not more diverse.
Planck said city officials should change their approach to diversifying the city workforce.
“Where is the affirmative action? Where are the jobs?” he asked. “Nothing ever gets done.”
He added that he thought the city didn’t want to improve. The city has already sent out its request for grant applications for this year’s CDBG money, before the public hearing on what needs the money should go toward.
“What is the point?” he asked.
The federal government requires a public hearing on community needs every year for the Community Development Block Grant. The grant is then supposed to be directed to meeting those needs.
Usually, the needs hearing is poorly attended, with just a few public service agency leaders explaining why their organization helps the community. This time, residents dominated the lectern.
Resident P.D. Voorhis also spoke against the way the city uses CDBG funds, saying too much of it went to salaries.
The city has been routinely criticized by residents because it uses a large part of the CDBG money to pay police, code enforcers and workers in the Department of Development.
But the one person did speak to defend the CDBG spending Monday: Habitat for Humanity Executive Director Jeff Clark.
In the past, he has asked for CDBG funds for Habitat and was rejected.
“Although we do not at this point utilize any CDBG money, I certainly support the city,” Clark said.
He added that the council matched funds to needs.
“I feel it is well thought-out,” he said.
In other business, several residents criticized the proposed 2 to 4 percent raises that Commissioner of General Services Carl Olsen wants for some of his supervisors.
Each speaker told the council not to approve the request.
“You don’t understand, people in this city are living on $20,000 or less,” said resident Harry Brand.
He said residents couldn’t afford the tax increases needed to cover raises.
“We cannot bear it anymore,” he said. “When are you going to stand up to the unions, the commissioner, and tell them, ‘No!’ The good days are over!”
He added that he was sympathetic with the supervisors, though.
“I don’t blame them for asking,” he said. “I blame you for giving it to them.”
The council tabled the request last week, but council members plan to continue discussing it.
Also Monday, Councilman Vince Riggi called for the council to not fill the seat left vacant by Councilwoman’s Denise Brucker’s resignation.
“Let’s leave the seat open. Let the voters decide in November,” he said.