The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development defines CDBG as an annual grant program “to develop viable urban communities by providing decent housing and a suitable living environment, and by expanding economic opportunities, principally for low- and moderate-income persons.”
HUD further explains that these “block grants provide money for general areas of social welfare, rather than for specific programs.”
The commonly used CDBG acronym stands for Community Development Block Grant.
In Cottonwood, though, it seems to stand for City Designated Budget Gratuity.
See, for the last two cycles that Cottonwood has been awarded CDBG funding – this year, it’s $330,000 – the city council has elected to use these federal dollars to fund city projects that otherwise would come from Cottonwood’s general fund. In other words, council members are choosing to use this money to finance city projects that they likely otherwise would not be able to afford.
Despite bumping the city’s sales tax levy last year.
This week, the City Council decided that this year’s $330,000 in CDBG funding will be used to develop a vision for parks and open spaces within the city. The plan would also lead to an improved irrigation plan.
Somehow, council members justified that choice as “providing decent housing and a suitable living environment, and … expanding economic opportunities, principally for low- and moderate-income persons,” according to the HUD definition of what CDBG funds should be used for.
It would seem that only Mayor Tim Elinski and veteran Council Member Ruben Jauregui fully grasp the intended purpose for how CDBG funds should be used. They both voted against the parks and recreation appropriation, and instead advocated that the $330,000 should go to the Verde Valley Homeless Coalition to purchase a building for transitional housing.
Which perfectly seems to fit the HUD definition of “providing decent housing and a suitable living environment … for low- and moderate-income persons.”
Other choices for this year’s CDBG funds included a restoration project for the Verde Valley Senior Center and an improvement project for the Verde Valley Habitat for Humanity ReStore.
It bears emphasis that this is not the first time the Cottonwood City Council decided to use its CDBG funding exclusively for a city project that it likely otherwise would not have been able to afford. When Cottonwood last was awarded CDBG funding four years ago, the City Council voted to use it to renovate the downtown Civic Center, which today has been renamed the Cottonwood Community Clubhouse.
A good project? Yes. But again does it meet the definition of “providing decent housing and a suitable living environment, and … expanding economic opportunities, principally for low- and moderate-income persons?”
As stated above, in Cottonwood CDBG stands for City Designated Budget Gratuity.
And until the City Council learns that “community” and “city” are not synonymous when it comes to the way these federal grant funds are spent, a lot of folks will reach the conclusion that CDBG stands for Cottonwood Deserves Better Governance.