The Iowa League of Cities is speaking out against President Bush’s proposed 25 percent cut in the community development block grants the federal government extends to cities. If approved by Congress, Iowa cities would get over 12 million dollars less from the feds next year.
Ottumwa Mayor Dale Uehling says the program shouldn’t be cut. “We feel very strongly that this program has been beneficial,” he says. “It has helped many families in Ottumwa in home rehabilitation.” Uehling says they’ve used the grant money in a lot of different ways like improving the city’s sewer system. But he says those grants are really helping Ottumwa deal with its housing needs. It’s been a very valuable tool in revitalizing neighborhoods and eliminating blight,” Uehling says. “We’re one of the older communities in the state, having actually been incorporated two years before Iowa became a state so we have a lot of older housing stock that needs to be renovated.”
Des Moines Mayor Frank Cownie says he’s amazed President Bush’s budget aides have concluded community development block grants are “ineffective.” “It just doesn’t make sense,” Cownie says. “We ask that not only should this program not be cut, I think that the funding should be increased.”
Iowa City Mayor Ross Wilburn says Iowa City has used community development block grants to build affordable housing for low income residents and is currently using the grants in a joint project with Iowa City schools to run an after-school program. “We really would like to see funding restored for community development block grants so we can build community,” he says. “That’s what it’s for. That’s what it’s about.” Iowa cities received 53-million dollars in community development block grants this year. Mayors who are leaders in the Iowa League of Cities are meeting today (Wednesday) in Des Moines.