Program promoted by Richard Nixon--Community Development Block Grants--once earned annual 5-0 City Council approvals but now draws opposition
One of the more interesting votes taken each year by Yorba Linda City Council members involves the acceptance of federal funds for projects under the Community Development Block Grant program.
The dollars the city receives from the federal government aren't much – $195,791 for the current 2016-17 fiscal year, with a $3.6 million total since 2003 – but the vote to take this money each year can tax the politics of council members, all self-identified conservatives.
And add the fact the program was developed in the administration of Yorba Linda's native- son President Richard Nixon, and the quandary for believers in limited federal government activities is heightened.
Nixon left office before Congress approved the program in 1974 in Gerald Ford's presidency, but it was Nixon's idea to consolidate several existing programs under one umbrella and give cities greater latitude in how funds would be spent.
The block grant program is one of the longest, continuously run programs in the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, with $2.8 billion awarded to more than 1,100 local governmental entities this year.
In past years, this city's council members voted 5-0 to accept the money, often under the expressed theory “if we don't take it, it will go to some other city.” But that changed upon the election of Craig Young to the council four years ago.
Since then, Young has cast the lone “no” vote on accepting the grant money, citing opposition to the grants “in principle” and criticizing the program's federal and local administrative outlays.
This year's vote at a recent council session was 3-1, with Gene Hernandez, Peggy Huang and Tom Lindsey in favor and Young opposed. Mark Schwing, a usual grant supporter, was absent.
Here's how this year's cash will be spent, according to a report from Pam Stoker, the city's economic development manager:
--$77,264 for Americans with Disabilities Act compliance, including $47,264 to replace the “obsolete elevator...in a low-income senior residential community” and $30,000 for “ramps for public accessibility at Hurless Barton Park and the Community Center.”
--$50,000 for the Neighborhood Improvement Program for funding “rehabilitation grants to qualified homeowners for general property improvements and repairs to meet local codes, standards and ordinances.”
--$29,369 for “operational costs associated with the daily senior lunch program” held at the Community Center (limited to 15 percent of the total grant award).
--$39,158 for program administration for “overall development, management, coordination and monitoring” of the grants (20 percent of the total, 10 percent each to the city and county).
If the council chose not to participate in the grant application, the funds the city has been allocated would go to the county “to be distributed through a competitive process to other Orange County cities seeking additional funding,” Stoker stated.