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Federal funds build sidewalks to nowhere

Posted By Drew Zahn On 07/15/2011 @ 11:45 pm In Front Page | Comments Disabled

In a dilapidated neighborhood of Detroit, Mich., federal dollars have been hard at work, sometimes forging a trail through overgrown weeds over 6 feet high, in order to construct sidewalks in front of empty, abandoned lots.

Detroit resident Brenda Price was driving through the neighborhood near the intersection of John R Street and 7 Mile Road on her way home from work one day, when she noticed construction crews and wondered why the city would be replacing sidewalks in front of long-term abandoned properties.

“I just thought that that was kind of a waste of taxpayer money,” Price told WXYZ-TV in Detroit, “or it could be more strategically spent.”

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WXYZ investigative reporter Scott Lewis described the area this way: “Lots of abandonment, tons of vacant lots, burned out shells, and other sidewalks in the area badly broken up or so overgrown, they’re impassible.

“Brenda’s question was a good one,” Lewis commented. “Why would the City of Detroit replace sections of sidewalk here?”

The answer, he discovered, was federal money.

Detroit’s Director of Public Works Ron Brundidge confirmed that federal dollars were funding the project, but that the money was targeted, with strings attached.

Specifically, the money was required to be used to replace sidewalks damaged by heavy equipment when homes are demolished.

Detroit’s shrinking population and devastated economy have made the city notorious for abandoned buildings in need of such demolition. The metropolis that was made over as part of President Lyndon Johnson’s “Model Cities Program” as an experiment in centralized government planning is now plagued by roughly 90,000 abandoned or vacant homes and residential lots – a blight former WND financial commentator Porter Stansberry likened to an area roughly the size of Boston, Mass. – according to Data Driven Detroit, a nonprofit organization that tracks demographic data for the city.

The Wall Street Journal reported in 2010 that $20 million in federal funds, primarily from Obama’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, or “stimulus” package, have been poured into Mayor Dave Bing’s plan to demolish 10,000 structures in his first term as mayor.

But after Lewis brought Price’s questions before the city’s Department of Public Works, Director Brundidge admitted the city does have discretion about which sidewalks destroyed in demolition it replaces. Brundidge reportedly pledged to change the city’s policy on use of the funds.

“From now on, the city will strategically target this federal money,” Lewis reports. “Instead of spending it willy-nilly, they’ll direct the funds to replace sidewalks damaged by demolition in neighborhoods that are more vital, areas with more foot and bicycle traffic.”

Brundidge’s office confirmed with WND that while funds for the demolition of many buildings came from Obama’s “stimulus” package, the money that had been replacing sidewalks came from a wholly separate, block grant program.


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