This morning, Mayor Laura sent this missive in response to FrontBurner's unattributed item regarding her alleged attempt to kill the Business Assistance Center in Oak Cliff. Turns out, she says, not so much:
"We are approving the project today as part of the city's annual federal block grant budget. Business Assistance Center, Inc. is one of the few non-profits that has ever requested federal block grant money, which we distribute annually, to help build a building for its private use where the non-profit has raised other monies towards the project. So that's a good thing. The problem, however, is the overall policy of using federal tax monies to help private organizations build buildings for themselves when our own city facilities are falling apart and we could use those same tax dollars to fix them. The most egregious example of this was eight years ago when the city spent one million dollars building a rollerskating rink, called Southern Skates, in Oak Cliff. The non-profit that applied for the money had no money of its own--in fact, when the skating rink opened, the city had to buy the rollerskates, at a cost of $50,000. The facility has since defaulted and the city now owns and operates it at a loss of $200,000 a year. The city has tried to sell it, but the only buyer at this time would turn it into a flea market, which the neighborhood opposes.
Consequently, we are voting today--in a separate agenda item--to hopefully change the current policy and no longer allow federal block grant money to be spent on the bricks and mortar projects of private entities. Although we voted several years ago to make this change, a last-minute amendment was accepted at the time of the vote that allowed one such project per year to be included in the budget. I am hopeful that we can close this loophole today."
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And, according to friends of Unfair Park who've been attending the weekly City Council meeting all morning, that's precisely what the council voted to do moments ago, after a "heated discussion." --Robert Wilonsky