Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Missing the most important point #1: government contracts, funding and ethics

This happens to be something I looked into 8 or 9 years ago, with regard to community development corporations and the H Street Community Development Corporation specifically.

In 2002 the Washington Post ran some brutal articles about community development corporations in DC. Of course, nothing really happened. We had hoped that it would help us gain some power and countervailing force with the H Street CDC but it never did.

So the H St. CDC set up individual business groups, giving ownership percentages to various people, for each deal. And the executive director of the group owned a janitorial company that just happened to have the contract for cleaning some of the facilities owned by the CDC.

But the Federal Regulations concerning HUD, HUD funds, and conflict of interest are only specific to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. So HUD staff can't benefit from contracts. But personnel from subgrantees, e.g., the government agencies like the DC Department of Housing and Community Development, and their subsubgrantees like community development corporations don't have the same restrictions. As long as potential conflicts are disclosed and the relevant board/contracting officer signs off--no big deal.

So seeing this article in today's Post, "Peaceoholics' troubles prompt Gray to seek tighter nonprofit disclosure rules," well it's a real disappointment, because these kinds of conflicts have been going on for years and years and years and years and nothing changes, including:

• DC government officials getting sweetheart deals on houses renovated by CDCs (this happened with the Development Corporation of Columbia Heights);

• CDCs getting deals on property that gets immediately flipped with little community benefit;

• an executive director of a CDC having a Mercedes leased and provided to him as part of his employment

• a social services contractor paying for a leased vehicle for the organization's chairman;

• well-connected DC lawyer-lobbyist David Wilmot getting control of a local nonprofit with big city contracts and paying himself and his friends exorbitant amounts of money to run it.


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