OWN dates postponed as federal budget wrangling puts CDBG funding in question
The Congressional budget stalemate is having an impact on the Organization of Westside Neighbors (OWN).
The city-recognized advocacy group has not received its annual stipend of about $8,000 in federal Housing and Urban Development (HUD) money, which is causing OWN to postpone publication of its quarterly newsletter as well as its next public town meeting for Westside residents, both of which were scheduled this month.
“We're in a holding pattern,” summarized OWN President Welling Clark. “But if people call, we'll try to help them.”
The money from HUD is a small piece of $2.5 million total that is routed through the city's Housing Development Office as Community Development Block Grants (CDBG). Such funds are intended to assist people with low to moderate incomes, the city website states.
As part of its allocation approach, the city identifies less affluent neighborhoods and directs CDBG money to them. The older Westside has been a city Neighborhood Strategy Area (NSA) since the late 1970s. OWN was formed around the same time, to act as a liaison between the NSA neighborhood and the city's administrators.
Typically, the CDBG funds arrive in ample time for the fiscal quarter starting April 1. But that's not the case this year, without a federal budget since September and no agreement in sight, as Congressional Republicans wrangle with Democrats over how much to cut spending.
A Westside Pioneer call to the Washington office of District 3 Congressman Doug Lamborn brought an unofficial affirmation that the CDBG expenditure item is a result of the budget disagreement. Lamborn's Office then set up a phone connection with Linda Rice, the public information officer for the Colorado Department of Local Affairs. She offered the same assessment but added that a proposal in the Republicans' Congressional House budget bill is to cut 62 percent from the CDBG element of HUD.
Clark said that no matter how its CDBG funding winds up - none, some or as much as before - OWN will still try to provide outreach services of some kind to the Westside. “If we're cut, we'll just have to adapt,” he said.
According to Clark, nearly all of OWN's CDBG funds are used to publish and direct-mail its newsletter (the Westside Story) to about 8,000 households in the Westside NSA.
The newsletter is part of OWN's CDBG contract with the city. Other parts of the contract are to host at least four town meetings a year and to organize an annual picnic (usually at Bancroft Park in July or August). The group also looks for newsletter advertising and seeks donations to help reduce its costs.
For now, the board will continue to meet, update its website and “conduct all 'non-CDBG funded' operations/business as usual,” Clark said.
The next scheduled board meeting will be Thursday, April 14 at 7 p.m. at the Westside Community Center, 1628 W. Bijou St. Dave Krauth of City Traffic Engineering is scheduled to talk about a plan to remove the stoplight at 17th Street and West Colorado Avenue and replace it with a pedestrian signal.
Westside Pioneer article