The spinmeisters of City Hall


image6049818x-3Why do I pick on Doug and Enzo so often? I addressed that question at some length recently, but the short answer is that they just keep begging for it; for example, by trying to spin everything that happens in this city to their advantage — often at the expense of the truth.

Take this undated press release Press Release w_Ltrhead Mayor Demo Funding 20160120, which I received January 20th. First, why City Hall would put this out at this time is very odd; the new demolition funding is not official yet, and no dollar amounts per state (let alone per county) have been made public.

I do think we are getting some money, but if we don’t, Doug and Enzo are going to look pretty foolish for having announced “Warren’s share” before it was a fact. They are guessing.

Even if the money comes through, Warren won’t have a share; the Trumbull County Land Bank will have a share. And while it will likely spend the bulk of the money it receives in Warren, based on the significant number of vacant homes we have (over 1500), there are other communities to consider as well. Doug and Enzo will not control that money, nor should they. No one community gets to unilaterally dictate the path of a countywide grant or steer the use of county funds.

Warren Township, Brookfield, Niles, Girard, Hubbard,and other communities in Trumbull County have blight too, and there is a process for executing this grant which was ignored here by City Hall in the effort to get some cheap press. The ill will and misinformation that has ensued benefits no one.

The press release also states that the city is going to use some of these funds to hire unemployed local people to maintain the lots. That might be a good idea, but it is unclear how they will do that without having control of the funds or the legal authority to administer the program. So, where does one apply for these jobs? Potential employment opportunities in a community that severely lacks them are not something to play politics with; people need real jobs, not jobs that exist only at the podium. This was actually cruel.

D&E also talk about the “279 residential structures cleared and ready for demolition.” This isn’t how the programs works. I don’t want to get too deep into the weeds on this, but the money can be used only for demolition of tax foreclosed properties that are placed  in the Land Bank by the Trumbull County Treasurer. The city’s opinion on the condition of any house is not the issue, the tax foreclosure is, and the Treasurer’s office was not even mentioned in City Hall’s release, despite Trumbull County Treasurer Sam Lamancusa’s enormous role in the creation and success of the Land Bank itself.

City Hall’s self serving release also failed to mention one very large part of the program, Trumbull Neighborhood Partnership, which has managed the Land Bank under contract for 3 years and is the reason the state might be excited to send more money in the first place. This allocation, if it is made, is essentially an extension of additional funds that TNP has already been awarded because of their demonstrated ability to use the funds efficiently.

TNP has been bringing down the vacant and abandoned houses, finding productive reuse for the lots, getting delinquent properties into the hands of new homeowners who will maintain them, and beautifying Warren in the process. Don’t let anyone confuse you on this point. Instead of embracing TNP as the huge asset they are to Warren, Doug and Enzo continue to fight them and grab the credit whenever possible.

Fortunately, the Tribune’s Ray Smith’s reporting went beyond the Mayor’s propaganda and quoted national expert on urban land reutilization, Jim Rokakis, in its January 21 story, on why we have been so successful getting Federal demolition funds:

“Of medium size counties, Trumbull County Landbank was the most effective in using its funds,” Rokakis said.

The Tribune also quoted TNP:

“There are 10 target areas in Warren and one in Girard where homes are being demolished using Hardest Hit Funds. The landbank is developing other target areas in Brookfield, Warren and Hubbard townships.” 

The Land Bank has a board. There are 7 people on it. The City of Warren gets one vote. Collaboration matters. Accuracy matters. City Hall can’t change the course of this grant by simply yelling over every other voice at the table and staging a press conferences filled with bad information. Doug and Enzo do not control this money, and given the state of the city’s budget that should be a relief to most.

Posted Tuesday, January 26th, 2016 under Blight, Vacant homes.

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