For shelter money, try a more personal approach

THE WAY IT IS

May 31, 1992|By Jeff Griffith

The governor had $230,000 in grant money to spend on shelter programs.

The governor had $620,000 in requests for funding for shelter programs.

Carroll County's request was ranked No. 1 by the staffers at the state Department of Housing and Community Development.

Carroll had received grants for the past five years; Carroll is widely recognized as a leader and an innovator.

The governor studied the grant requests carefully. He took them home with him, studied them overnight, marked them up and made his choices.

The governor himself decided.

Twelve subdivisions, 10 counties and two municipalities would receive grants.

Carroll was not one of them.

Cries of "Foul!" rent the air. Some locals -- especially those who revel in bashing Gov. William Donald Schaefer -- proclaimed that the choices were politically motivated.

The governor's choices were at least partly the result of his intention to give some new players a piece of the action. Said one Schaefer staffer, "Some had never stepped up" to compete in this funding arena before.

Since Carroll programs had received grants for the past five years, one ironic cost of success could now be failure.

As to the charges of political motives, the same staffer noted that, of the 12 recipients, three or four give the governor and the governor's programs, at best, "moderate support." The others, said the staffer, on assurances of anonymity, range from "hating his guts to no support at all."

But, in reality, all decisions in the realm of politics bear some tinge of politics.

Reality: Nobody in elected office in Carroll has any connection with the decision-making apparatus in the executive office in Annapolis.

And the approach of our elected officials is generally to distance themselves from the governor and the governor's programs.

The net effect of this loss of contact with the locus of control is the loss of programs. That's politics.

So now what? Well, a limited amount of Block Grant money potentially is available to fill the void left by the loss of the grant.

How can we get access to that funding?

* The commissioners can reaffirm their commitment to the shelter program. That commitment has been unfailing for no fewer than three administrations. The current threesome has been especially creative in meeting needs in a depressed economy.

* Our elected officials can help put our best foot forward. In particular, Sen. [Charles H.] Smelser could begin to pay the same kind of attention to this issue as has his junior counterpart, Sen. [Larry E.] Haines.

Insiders describe the latter as "extremely responsive." The former, however, is said to be "unapproachable."

* All of the above could invite the governor to see our programs. He has a soft spot for programs that work. He needs to see first-hand what a remarkable job Carroll's shelter programs do.

Politically motivated?

No, just politics.

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