Saturday, September 13, 2008

Where's our slice?

I don't know whether you had an opportunity to catch this bit of news, although I suspect you didn't. I have the benefit of working with local data guru Kurt Metzger at United Way who turned me on to a release about dollars raining down from Washington to help distressed communities and looked forward to reading about it because -- obviously -- Detroit falls into that category.

What surprised me is that the U.S. Treasury approved the appropriation of more than $54 million to organizations across the country dedicated to helping folks in communities that are economically challenged, and not a cent went to an organization in Detroit.

The only Detroit-area agency that got any money from Treasury’s Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) Fund was the Wayne County Community Action Agency in Wyandotte, which was awarded over $87,000. A second Michigan agency, in Flint, also was included in the group of 89 organizations awarded funds.

I'm surprised because if you work as an elected official in Congress and there's a federal agency willing to dole out money to help communities, you're typically interested in figuring out how large a chunk of the dough you can direct toward your constituency. Given our community's dire straits, you'd think that our elected representatives on Capital Hill would have at least carved out a slice for Detroit and adjacent communities suffering similarly, right?

Instead we got nada coming back to Detroit. That is beyond disappointing to me because we're a few years into the regime of the most powerful group of leaders in the United States Senate and House of Representatives that we will see in my lifetime. In short, southeast Michigan has juice on Capital Hill right now in Levin, Conyers, Kilpatrick, Stabenow et al, but I'm a little disappointed at how that power has failed to prove fruitful for our region.

Maybe the problems confronting Detroit's mayor and city council have limited the ability of our federal legislators to bring back dollars for community revitalization. I don't know. One thing I'm sure of, however, is that we should expect more. The problems Detroit is facing is a direct result of not expecting more of out leadership on the local level. Now I'm wondering whether the problems aren't being compounded by not demanding more our leaders at the federal level. I think we deserve a larger piece of the pie.

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