Saturday, May 14, 2005

Correction on the Small Projects Fund

I said in an earlier post that a promised increase in the city's Small Projects fund hadn't materialized. I was wrong.

I found out at this morning's Greensboro Neighborhood Congress meeting that city staff has approved $200,000 in small projects grants to neighborhoods. That's great! (City Council will now have to approve that in their next budget.)

This didn't happen without a lot of lobbying. Last year, Patrick Downs and Marsh Prause, representing the GNC, went before city council with a request to increase the funding for this project from $100,000 to $500,000 per year. Council agreed (without a vote) to increase funding incrementally over several years. This spring, Donna Newton of the Center for Neighborhood Information went to bat for neighborhoods to make sure that city staff were administering the approval process effectively.

The great thing about the Small Projects fund is that it gives neighborhoods the power to decide how city money should be spent in their areas. An increase in the fund doesn't necessarily entail an increase in the city budget (or taxes). Ideally, the city can simply reallocate capital improvement funds from other departments' budgets (such as Transportation or Parks and Recreation).

Of course this means that city staff must hand over some of their power to neighborhood associations when it comes to spending on public improvements . I think that's a great idea, though I doubt whether it will be thrilling to many members of city staff.

Still, I think neighborhoods are usually in the best position to know their own needs, and the whole process of applying for the funds and executing the projects can be a great community-building enterprise. Anything that gives neighborhoods a stronger sense of their identity, and at the same time encourages their active participation in city affairs, is a good thing.

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