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City approves $1.4 million in unused funds to assist businesses

Alhambra City Council voted unanimously on Monday night to allocate $1,415,510 in unused funds to the Special Economic Development – Jobs Creation program, which aims to assist businesses and developers by creating more jobs in existing commercial establishments.

Resident Eric Sunada expressed his disagreement on the matter during a public hearing before the vote, claiming that the funds could be put to better use if allocated to other services, such as those for at-risk youth. "I understand we need the tax revenue, but it needs to be more balanced," he said during the public hearing. "The youth services budget was going directly to help at-risk youth, and that got axed, yet you’re going to add $1.4 million to essentially subsidize retail. That doesn’t seem appropriate to me."

City officials responded that the youth program still exists and has been picked up by Alhambra's general funds. They also stated that federal guidelines allow only 15 percent of reallocated funds to go toward such services, which the City has already met. "We follow federal guidelines very strictly, and it's not in our purview to change them around," Mayor Barbara Messina said. "If we're guilty of anything, it's following the law completely."

Not able to attend the last meeting? You can watch it in its entirety here. Skip to 2:50 for the full public hearing.

City Council meets every second and fourth Monday of the month at 7 p.m. in City Hall: 111 South First Street, Alhambra, 91801. The next meeting will be held on Monday, October 22.

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4 thoughts on “City approves $1.4 million in unused funds to assist businesses”

  1. Thanks for the additional background Eric. The issues you highlight are troubling.

    I recommend clicking over and reading Eric’s link if you’re at all interested in understanding why it is wrong of the city to subsidize businesses in this way.

  2. There's really more to it than what's in the news brief above.  The funds being used are federal block grant funding (CDBG grant funding).  These are grant funds that are to be used to help those in need.  Whether it is job training programs, assistance to the homeless, literacy programs, subsidizing healthy food outlets, among others.  In fact, the federal guidelines state that the funds must meet one of the following objectives:

    • elimination of slums and blight and blighting influences;

    • benefiting low to moderate income persons or neighborhoods; and/or

    • meeting other urgent community needs imposing an immediate threat to safety and health.

    Yet the city approved the use of these funds to subsidize retail and commercial development.  How do they justify this?  The rationalization is that by subsidizing retail development, it creates jobs for the target income group.  This trickle-down mentality really doesn't work.  For one thing, most of the jobs created will not pay a livable wage.  I thought the idea is to improve the lives of those in need, not ensure they continue to earn low wages.

    Oh, and by the way, the city was wrong in their justification for cutting the Youth Counseling program.  They stated that they are limited to 15% of the budget for all service programs, which include Youth Counseling. This is not correct. Per federal regulations, it is 15% of both this year's and last year's combined buget that can be used for services. The Youth Counseling service was thus eligible, but instead it was cut. Furthermore, the program was not picked up by the general fund.  It is always partially paid for by the general fund and partially with grant funding. But this year, the grant funding will be going away and the program will suffer.   More worrisome is that the city council focused on this one example instead of the big picture.

    To get more background on this egregious use of grant funds, see:  http://www.sgvog.org/misused_grant_funding.html


  3. How about posting all the new job openings right here on this website?

    1. I also would like to thank Eric for his research on this issue. I watched the Internet streaming of portions of the City Council meeting and am bothered by the way Ms. Messina cuts off residents when she doesn’t agree with them and then becomes defensive.

      It is obvious that Eric spends and lot of time researching these issues and deserves to be treated better.