May 27, 2009

No one shows up for city committee meeting

What happens if you call a city meeting and no one shows up? You get stuck talking to RacinePost for a half hour.

Joe Heck, assistant director of development for the city, called a meeting of the 16-member Community Development Committee Wednesday night and not a single committee member attended. (See the members here.)

Heck had hoped to review guidelines for awarding CDBG stimulus money before the committee meets Thursday to make some decisions on how to spend about $534,384 in federal money.

The extra money, which came through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, can only be used for specific purposes, Heck explained.

At least 70 percent of the money needs to benefit low-income and moderate-income persons, households and areas. Up to 15 percent can be used for public services, and 10 percent can go for administration and planning.

Heck said the city has two proposals to spend the money. One calls for spending $400,000 to convert about 800 city street lights to energy-efficient LED lights and the other would set aside $80,000 to train 14- to 24-year-olds for green jobs in the community (like retrofitting homes for energy savings). The remaining money would go for grant administration, Heck said.

Other proposals from the community are expected to be submitted Thursday to the committee, Heck said. The committee will need to make a quick decision on the money. The grant application is due a week from Friday and the submitted projects need City Council approval on Tuesday.

Heck said the federal government gave cities around the country a month to submit their CDBG applications.

The CDBG committee is holding an unusual Thursday night meeting - it starts at 7 p.m. to accommodate RCEDC's annual meeting, which is also Thursday - to make some decisions on the money and several other items on the agenda.

Heck had hoped to help the meeting along by giving an information briefing to committee members on Wednesday.

Instead, it looks like the commission will be working Thursday night on the fly.


  1. Hmm, no one called in to say they weren't coming? Perhaps the notice of a meeting wasn't sent out? Odd.

  2. That list hasn't been updated.

    Of the people listed, only 3 still have active terms: Donnie Snow, Carol Wallace and Brian O'Connell.

    Two of the people on the list (Ben Hughes and Becker) aren't even with the city anymore.

  3. And perhaps the new mayor needs to find folks who WANT to serve vs a good looking resume.

  4. Really?! No one really cares where half a million dollars is going? I'm all for LED lights, but can't Racine think of a better way to help low-income families?

    more farmer's market vouchers, invest in local community centers, improve public transportation, provide personal hygiene products banks, give families energy efficient washer/dryers, assist after-school programs for children, fund community gardens, it could go on...

  5. Hey Dustin....Did you give them any ideas on how to spend the money?

  6. "If a Racine City official speaks in the forest and there is no one there to hear him, is he still full of s***?"

  7. Just to jump in ...

    5:23 a.m. - There was a notice for the meeting, but it was informational only so it's likely a number of committee members took the night off knowing tonight's meeting will be a long one.

    6:57 a.m. - Here's the committee members: Mayor John T. Dickert, Chairman, Director of City Development Brian O'Connell, Director of Parks, Recreation, and Cultural Services Donnie Snow, Public Health Administrator, Janelle Grammer, Alderman Thomas Friedel, Alderman Q.A. Shakoor, II, Alderman Gregory Helding, Alderman David L. Maack, Alderman Sandy Weidner, Alderman Aron Wisneski, Ken Lumpkin, Lee Martinez, Carol Wallace, Betty Larsen, Sammy Rangel, Debbi Embry, Alderman James Spangenberg

    8:26 a.m. - No, I was just there to see what's going on.

  8. Hey, if they're getting 1/2 million and can't show up for a meeting, maybe they'd like to forward that money to Caledonia where it would actually be appreciated.

  9. Dustin, what's the best way to give the committee members suggestions? Can you provide contact information? Can the public attend the meeting?

  10. How does spending $400,000 on street lights help low income people ??

  11. can a truck driver with outstanding loans get a racine stimulus package for say less than 10% of the money. that would cover the truck and second mortgage.

    if they gave me 10% then i could inject financial capital into the hosp, the surgeon and the collections folks from my knee surgery last year. costs that were not covered by my wifes ins.

    if it had been a low income person/unregistered alien/illeagal i am sure the city, county and usa would have fallen all over themselves to pay for it.

  12. Alderman Aron Wisneski5/28/2009 1:50 PM


    The members of this committee were invited to this INFORMATIONAL ONLY meeting about 5 hours before it happened. I had to work last night, so I could not make it, but I read the information that was provided and felt I understood the objectives of this CDBG-R money. The meeting to ACT upon the proposals is tonight.

    As for the process, please note that the Feds only got us the regulations for this money a few weeks ago and yet all applications are due by June 5th. Here are some of the criteria we were given:

    • At least 70% of the funds must be for the benefit of low- and moderate-income persons, households, and areas.
    • Up to 15% of the funds may be used for public services; up to 10% may be used for administration & planning
    • City’s application is due to HUD no later than June 5, 2009
    • Racine’s share= $534,384. All regular CDBG activities are eligible for funding, but priority will be given to activities, which invest in economic development, housing, or infrastructure and other public facilities, and quickly leverage further economic investment, increased energy efficiency, or job creation and retention. HUD strongly encourages use of the funds for discrete, stand-alone activities and co-ordination with other ARRA funds

    Further, the Feds gave us this:
    “Funding available under the Recovery Act has clear purposes – to stimulate the economy through measures that modernize the Nation’s infrastructure, improve energy efficiency, and expand educational opportunities and access to health care. HUD strongly urges grantees to use CDBG-R funds for hard development costs associated with infrastructure activities that provide basic services to residents or activities that promote energy efficiency and conservation through rehabilitation or retrofitting of existing buildings. While the full range of CDBG activities is available to grantees, the Department strongly suggests that grantees incorporate consideration of the public perception of the intent of the Recovery Act in identifying and selecting projects for CDBG-R funding.” The committee does not come up with ideas all by itself, but rather we are tasked with approving/questioning/changing/rejecting proposals brought to us by City/County/Not-for-profit/Private agencies.

    We have not heard the full pitch for the idea yet, but the LED light proposal would probably use LOCAL contractors to do the work, LOCAL companies to provide the lights (like RUUD lighting for example) and will save City Taxpayers $$ in future electricity costs (paid for out of tax levy).

    This is the checklist we have been given to assist in evaluating each proposal:

    1. Is it CDBG-R eligible?

    2. Which CDBG national objective (benefit to lower income persons, elimination of slums and blight, address imminent threat to public welfare and safety) does it meet?

    3. Which American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) objective (preserving & creating jobs; promoting economic recovery; assisting those most affected by the recession; providing investment needed in transportation, environmental protection, or other infrastructure that will provide long-term economic benefits; minimizing or avoiding reductions in essential services; or fostering energy independence) does it meet?

    4. Is it a public service activity?

    5. Is it a continuation of an activity already receiving CDBG funding?

    6. Does it have clear start and end dates?

    7. Is it “shovel-ready”? Are plans and specifications ready for bidding?

    8. Does the implementing agency/organization have experience with CDBG or other federal funding?

    9. Are other ARRA funds involved?

  13. Dustin -

    I think you are taking a little literary license with your report.

    "The CDBG committee is holding an unusual Thursday night meeting"

    CDBG does not have a regular meeting time like a standing committee, but when it does meet, Thursday is usuaully the night.

    "Heck had hoped to help the meeting along by giving an information briefing to committee members on Wednesday."

    Joe Heck does a great job of providing this informaiton to us ahead of time. We all received electronic versions of the guidelines via e-mail this past week. The meeting would have presented the same information. This is not a bad thing; Joe likes to make sure we are prepared. However, missing the meeting is not a bad thing either, as long as you read your e-mail, which I and others do.

    "Instead, it looks like the commission will be working Thursday night on the fly."

    Only if you assume no one reads the meeting documents ahead of time. This committee is made up of experienced Alderman, city officials, and citizens. It has been my experience that most of them come to the meetings well-prepared.

    Additionally, Wisconsin's open meetings law intends that meetings are held "on the fly" and decisions are made out in the open. This has been, and will continue to be, an entirely public process.

  14. I thought Janelle Grammer was fired from her position with the city - is she still on this committee?

  15. I would like to apologize to both council members for jumping before looking. Next time I will look further into what is going on.
    Again sorry you both do great work for the City and do not need this crap

  16. Italics. Cool.