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Council Passes CDBG Bill in Reversal of Mayor's Decision

Funding levels for Pittsburgh community groups remain in limbo, as City Council and the mayor seem entrenched in opposition on the allocation of $500,000 in federal grants.

Council gave preliminary approval to a bill that would return the allocation of 2010 Community Development Block Grant funds to the levels recommended by a dedicated committee.

Councilman Doug Shields said Mayor Luke Ravenstahl should not have changed the funding levels submitted by the city's Advisory Commission on Community Based Organizations (ACCBO).

Shields said the bill, which is up for a final vote Tuesday, would reverse the mayor's move to increase funding for some groups, while decreasing grants for others.

Shields said the mayor sent out award letters to community groups in secret, not telling City Council or ACCBO that a change in funding levels had been made.

"You want to get rid of ACCBO? Fine. You want to cut funding, you want to increase funding? Fine," said Shields. "But to change this process unilaterally at its end, if you will, for this cycle — I don't think that's the wisest course of action for anyone to take."

Shortly before the bill was given an affirmative recommendation with five votes of support, sponsoring Councilwoman Darlene Harris said the mayor's reallocation of CDBG funds was disrespectful to the work of the ACCBO members.

"It just tosses their recommendations in the trash, and spits out all new numbers without the benefit of the concerted effort of that group," said Harris. "It was done without the knowledge of either ACCBO or City Council."

Councilman Ricky Burgess cast the lone vote against the legislation, which he called "aggressive." He said a conversation with the administration would serve the city better.

"Passing this legislation — as I think Mr. [Patrick] Dowd would agree with me — we're simply throwing another bomb," said Burgess.

But Harris said she invited the administration official involved in the situation to Council's meeting, only to be declined.

Councilman R. Daniel Lavelle said passage of the bill would take funding away from some community groups in his district, many of which have already budgeted this year for the increased funding provided by the mayor.

He and Council Members Patrick Dowd and Theresa Smith abstained from the vote. The measure will be subject to a final vote on Tuesday.