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The Great Cdrs Hassle, Continued

The Great Cdrs Hassle, Continued image The Great Cdrs Hassle, Continued image
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The Ann Arbor City Council, turn tor almost six mpnths by a protracted political blood-feud, is still ' deadlocked over how to spend $2.1 million in eral Community Development Revenue Sliaiing (CDRS) money th is year. Tliey may not break the deadlock before they confront a larger issue: black Democratie Mayor Albert Wheeler's proposal for a showcase city Human Services program tliai could attract more than S 1 2 million in eral kinds over the next three years. Wheeler, a vcteran of 25 years of civil rights campaigning, was eleeted Ann Arbor's first black Mayor in April -largely on the strength ofhis promise to give the city an innovative depai tment-level nerve-ccnter lor "human services" like job training, healtli care, neighborhood youth groups, legal aid for the poor, anti-discriniination efforts, minority business loans. and special aid to groups likc the eldeily and liandicapped. II approved. it could bc the first unie m the city's history that a separate department devoted to a coonlinated approach to essentjal human services had as large a budget as the untouchable Pólice Department. Wheeler's electioji victory seemed to liave swept in a six-vote new maonty ot tivc Dcmocruis und Human Rights Party member Kathy Kozachenko. Ann Arborites thuught thal Kozachenko.a quasi' socialist, could be counted on to juin the rock-solid Democratie bloc to det'eat five hard-core Republicans on progressive social issues. But late this September, when it carne time to vote on ('DRS money, Kozachenko provcd to bc u capricious swing-voter. As a warm-up exercise, each of the tluee parlies tricd to pass its own program and was perfunctorily voled down by the other two. Then Koachenko, for reasons known only to hersell, CUt ;i desperate deal wiili the Republieans, voting foi ;i CDRS budget that included aboul 10 Republican dollars for every onc proposed by the 1IRI'. The audience in the Council Chamber gaspod audibly at ihis feai of politica! acrobatics, Koachenko publicly justified the bargain by claiming il was the only way to get immediate funding foi ;i numbei of small conununity projects that would tace bankruptcy without it. Yct she had voted against an earlier Democratie continued on page 25 1-1)1 IOH 'S VOTfí: The Ctmnnunfty Developmeni Reverme Sturing (CDRS) propam i the most recent retsion o) the federal goverronenl "revenue sharing "cvucepi, Jirsi introduced by the Nixim administratton. As Nixon ï doHte&tit Oeiitttumtt hackcd away at whai remamcd of the "(ircat Society " anti-poverty programs initiateil under Kennedy and Johnson iuctudinf the Office of Hctmomic Opportuniiy, Model ('mes, l.egal Aid. and ïo tonh ihev nffcTcd 10 mttkc itp fot llie lost Junds by returrUiig a litare oj federal lux lollan m the local communities who origbiaüy paid thcin, Ihe com epi wal billed by Nixon as pan oj his "new federalista. " iupHlsedly retuming "pon-er m Ihe people, "cis Pit k pui il at the time, The hoped-Jor eljei I. o] eonne. was hal the federal Xoverninent nould haek ufj trom lts eoininilinenl In poor people and ihai eomenative heat agencie! woidií use rile money lor other purpuxs. CDRS continued from page 3 propèsal to give 5475,000 in emergency CDRS tnonej lo 2l such liard-pressed projects. Push liad come to shove, and Wheéler swit'tly vetoed the patchwork GOP-HRP compromise. But under a rarely used City Charter provisión tor mayoral vetoes. hc let stand twenty line-item allocations totalling S341 .309 for the most hardpressed community projects. These projects will now get their money with no further delay. Speculation over Kozachenko's motives was fueled by the inclusión of some agencies which had barely advanced past the idea stage and, furthermore, had not even applied for money. Kozachenko. with the support of a strong radical feminist constituency witlijn the HRP, won from the Republicans an increase of S40.000 in child care grants, $5.000 for Women's Non-Profit Enterprises, and S25.OOO for the Women's Cominunity Center. The GOP-HRP compromise budgeted a total of SI 92,231 for child care. Of the 20 projects Wheeler passed for emergency funding. seven were daycare centers and two were women's projects. Back in February, Wheeler and the Democrats had proposed spending $400,000 -more than twice the HRP-GOP amount- for child care. HRP'sOne Night Stand Council Republicans. for their part. made no attempt to hide their cynicism about exploiting Kozachenko's vote. The GOP-HRP alliance turned out to be a one night stand. At the next regular Council session. Kozachenko moved passage of her own MR1' budget tor spending "$1 .023.229 of the ('DRS money. Neither Republicans nor Democrats would second her motion; thereiore. under Council 's rules, no discussion of it was in order. A five minute shouting match broke out when she decided to speak anyway, over the object tions of Wheeler and other Democrats. A Democratie motion to recess the meeting uut il order could be restored failed to win a single Republican vote. The Republicans wanted the public watching on local TV to hear a rousing HRP-Democratic dogfight. [f the) had oo hopes of conquering, they could at least divide. The incident was fairly typical of Republican tactics since Wheeler was elected on a platform of practical and progressive retorm. The interests ofíow-income and rninority groups had been consistently ignored during the previous Republican administration. The Republicans. refusing for four jnonths even to admit they had lost the election to the Democratie-! IRP "coalition." t ried to keep Wheeler backpedalling with a drawn-out fight against ïertifying the election tesults; a couri hattle to overturn the city's new Prelerential Voting law; continual threats of a recall campaign that always seemed to evapórate into thin air; and eye-gouging and ear-biting generally. Possibly the lowest blow canie when Council was considering the extensión of nearly S2 million for Ann Arbor's old Model Cities program (a HUD program, aimed at developing minonty and lowincome neighborhoods). The DemocraticHRP "coalition" voted for. the measure. Republicans charged Wheeler wilh "conflict of interest" in an attempt to niake hini abstain from the vote and thus kill Model Cities funding. The "conflict of interest" charge froved so baseless and expedient that not even the Republicans publicly repeated it aller the city attorney disallowed it and the GOP lost the vote. Until another election sets things straight (and all three parties claim it will), Ann Arbor's present three-ring ' circus fomi of politics, complete with lion tamers. rule jugglers. promise sssallowers. tightrope ballerinas. and more than one clown act, may well continue. Wheeler and progressive elements in City Council will be stuck with the unenviable job of trying to work within this context. While Republican and HRPCouncÏÏmembers work the crowd for laughs and applause, somcone must niake hard. responsible, intelligent decisioris ahmit the use of CDRS money. It Ann Arbor, a relative Garden of Eden when n ai mes to urban problems, can't solve these issues, little success can be hoped for in New York. Los Angeles, or Detroit. People vs. Property The three parties' disagreement over how to spend the money goes to the very heart of their politica! philosophies. The Republicans liad originally proposed spending about 50 per cent of the budget in its two largest categories-30 per cent on housing iniprovement and 20 per cent on community (read "human") services. Both the Democrats and the HRP I1RP originally agreed tliat an amount closer to 75 per cent should be spent in these two eategories, where they saw tlie community 's most urgent human needs. The Democrats had argued back in February that 44 per cent should be spent in the human services category alono more than twice what the Republicans were willing to spend. The biggest chunk of money in any party's housing allocation would go to enforcing Ann Arbor's building code mul the effort to bring sub-standard housing up to the level of liveability already required by city law. Under the austerity budget of the previous Republican adniinistration. however. salaries for city building inspectora were cut. and many were laid off. The director of Ann Arbor's Building and Safety Department luis stated in writing that h is departmenl doos only a quarter of the inspections city law requires. Many have argued that the Republicans, strongly backed by landlords and rental property interests, simply don't want to enforce housing regula tions. There is also debate over how Ann Arbor should spend federal money to créate "public service" jobs tor the unemployed under the Comprehensive Employmenl Training Act (CITA). Wheeler wants the Human Services program to coordínate use of both CETA and CDRS money. instead of hiring the unemployed to lean on shovels and rakes. he says. the salaries could be used to staff existing community service agencies that are struggling to do more work than they can handle. The Republicans would pui almost 20 per cent of the budget into a "Public Works" category which includes some S25O.OOO for street resurfacing. S49.500 for curb and sidewalk repair, and SI 00,000 for new fire engines. The parties also differ on whether CDRS money should go toward major capital expenses nol just lire trucks, hut land and buildings. Wheeler is not likely to support such expendí tures until he sees how they fit into an overall long-term plan. RèpubHcans-say that usingCDRS money to help the-Summit Street and Free Peoples' Clinics buy the buildings they now icnt would allow those agencies to be more certain of continued operation. The Will of the GOP The Republicans, of course. maintain that they speak for "'the people." The people they mean, most of the time. are the Republican people on the Republicanappointed and Kepithliain-controWed CDRS 'Citizens' Committee. ' whose budget recommendations to Council they support to the penny The Citizens' Committee quickly becanie little more than a charade. Befpre long. many citizens stopped attending committee meetings in frustration, mg that the Repubh'cans had rjggéd the game. The 30-member committee's final recornméndations to Council wtxt passed by seven memben voting yes. four voting DO, and one abstaining. The iest of the "citizens" didn't even bother to altend. Tliis suninicr, Republicans waged a bitter publicity campaign against Democratie attempts to aniend the Coinniittee budget, accusing the opposition of violating the sacrosanct "will of the people." Tlie GOP. liowever. ignored the Committee's recommendations in closing its deal with the HRP. The Republieans' continua! Lnvocation of the "will of the people," in lact, has been little more than a rhetorieal trick to disguise tlieir six-nuinth campaign to reverse or nulhty the results of April's mayoral electlon. For a long time. the GOP drive succeeded in at least distiacting attention from Wheeler's lliinian Services idea. Hut the last month of uproai and stalemate on Council seems to be driving home an important lesson: that none of the three parties can govern the city all by itself. Council members are quictly beginning to lisien io one mother. 1 ven Republicana m.i be starting to hear Whoelei's sefíous proposita foi a Human Services program. Countilperson Louis Belcher, foi one, told the SUN last week he was "nol opposed" in principie. A number of Council working sessíons may bring the partios closet to a nutsand-bolts solution to the impasse. Bet'oie they are over, Mayoi Wheeler's "drearn" of i multi-million dollar city Human Services ageney could be a good deal closer to reality. Aun Arboi is just one of many biggei eiiies witli CDRS dolíais to spend. Some teel that ('DRS will turn out to be tho same buieauci.iiic boondoggie all over the country, just another pie for the polilicians to slice up and sell foi VOte. But some Ann Aiboiiles llunk they may siill prove it ain't si) in llieir lown. Joseph nam is i free-knet writer wli Uva in Ann ArboT, lic was fonneriy the workhonc reporter for dood Morning Michig;m. The Republicana continua! invocation of the "will of the people, "has been little more than a rhetorical trick to disguise their campaign to reverse or nullify the results of April's mayoral election.