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City Council Meeting April 12

Citizens protest cut back at Day Camp
Proposed allocation of HUD funds
Marc Knapp who covers City Council

It was a long night even though there was little up for discussion. The Ways and Means and Council Meetings were delayed for nearly an hour while Council had a photo session. And then there was about an hour of presentations and recognitions.

Probably the highlight of the evening was the Citizen Participation period. There were some 10 or more persons who rose to protest cut backs in the "Jump to It" summer program at the City gym. There was probably another 20 people who came to support the speakers. The issue was the cut back in enrolments in the program. The program is essentially a summer camp for kids and is very popular with the East and West Side communities. Enrolment in recent years has been around 300 children but the City this year decided to cut it to about 100. According to the Mayor, the cut back was made because of concern about supervision. Many of the youngsters are supervised by teenagers and the City felt that more adult supervision was necessary. According to one mother we spoke to, the program operated 5 days a week from 7.30 am to 6 pm.

The City may be unhappy with supervision, but the parents were not, All spoke glowingly of the program, and cited problems that cut backs will generate. The program is also relatively inexpensive. Some speakers stated that because of the very short notice given by the City in relation to cut backs, they were not able to find slots for their children in other day camps. Some also expressed concern about their ability to pay for some of these other programs. Some indicated that with out the program, they would need to give up their jobs.

There was no doubting the concerns of these parents. The Mayor agreed to move rapidly to address the issue. Councilmember Gilliard also spoke of his wish to fully restore the program. We have to confess to surprise that a program as popular as this could have been cut back by the City without any discussion with parents or Council members. However, considering the comments of the Mayor and Councilmember Gilliard, it will be put right even if more City funding is necessary.

Drainage infrastructure in bad shape
Just for the record, I rose to speak again. I spent much of last week over by MUSC where I am involved with a contract related to City Drainage. Folks, our drainage infrastructure is in very bad shape and reflects many years of neglect. I warned the City, if maintenance spending is not raised, there will be dire consequence in the future. Funds that are marked for maintenance need to be properly utilized.

Allocation of CBDG and Home Funds for fiscal 2006
There was no discussion but the proposed allocation of Community Development and Block Grants (CDBG) and Home Grants made by HUD was tabled. These grants are used to help fund "affordable housing" and other social programs. The total allocation is about 5% less than last year and the recipients included most of the old faces. To see the allocations press here (You will probably need to click on the View and then Full Screen tabs to see the figures clearly)

As in previous years, the City's Redevelopment and Preservation Commissionreceives the largest share at $800,000. This is down from the $850,000 last year. Elpis, part of the Agape Ministries Group from which Council Member Jimmy Gallant retired as a director late last year, receives $245,000. Of the total, $150,000 was for further restoration of the J C Tennent House on East Bay Street. But there was $75,000 for the Carpenter House project for the rehabilitation of people released from jail and $20,000 for the Innovative Alternative for Education Inc. Pastors, also part of the Agape Ministries group is allocated $130,000, mostly for "affordable housing". It was allocated $74,139 last year.

Absent from the recipients this year was Charleston Affordable Housing Inc, the group run by Kathy Kleiman, It receives nothing. Ms Kleiman has said that real estate has become too expensive in downtown Charleston to provide "affordable housing".

The other major "affordable housing" groups, the Humanities Foundation and Habitat for Humanity are to receive large allocations though in the case of the Humanities Foundation, well down on last year. This probably reflects the incidence of programs more than anything else. Ms Bonnie Lester was one of the recipients of recognition awards at last night's meeting. She is stepping down from leading the Foundation at the end of this month.

We should note that the figures in our table have been taken from City documents. But even so, we note discrepancies. The documents made available last night refer to funding in the previous year. Sometimes the figures do not agree with those in last year's documents though often the differences are not large.

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