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Block grant program still mired Council interference remains too great as low-rated programs get more money

Buffalo Mayor Byron W. Brown's administration gets credit for making better use of federal economic development dollars, but work remains. Changes implemented by the administration in the $19.3 million block grant program represent a beginning, but a recent Buffalo News analysis found continued flaws in the system.

Spending on administrative bureaucracy continues to take a large chunk of the budget, with a small amount left for bricks and mortar. The Common Council still plays too large a role in doling out money, continuing the flow to the lowest-performing agencies.

The program remains entrenched in a tradition of patronage. Attention over the past few years and from a new administration has worked to improve that culture, though slightly.

For example, the Council reduced funding for two of the top agency performers and increased funding for five of the 10-lowest ranked organizations. Worse, two of the agencies that received the largest increases over the amount the administration wanted had unsatisfactory ratings. This would have been an excellent opportunity for the mayor to use his veto power. But he didn't, choosing instead to tighten spending.

That the Council has a mere $270,000, or $30,000 per member, for capital spending (read: pork) as opposed to the $1.55 million it wanted a year ago is a substantial improvement. Not that members didn't want the million. But they listened to city officials and relented. The block grant program, in many ways, remains mired in the same muck. It will take a strong, determined administration to make necessary changes.

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