Rolley: Loss of lead-paint grant reveals city mismanagement

March 07, 2011

The hardest part of managing a government is deciding how best to allocate limited taxpayer funds among critical needs. It isn't making sure that dedicated funds are spent correctly and on time.

Or at least it shouldn't be.

Unfortunately, earlier this week we found out that Baltimore is losing federal funding specifically designed to help remove toxic lead paint from city houses due to, as The Sun reported "mismanagement of its most recent grant" ("City loses lead-paint funding," March 1).

The need for this program is evident, with thousands of Baltimore homes containing lead paint. The money for it had been allocated, with $4 million being budgeted by the federal government last year alone. But what was missing was the ability to manage the money correctly. This failure not only costs the city needed funds but will ensure that too many, including children, remain in harm's way.

That alone should be unacceptable to us all.

But as bad as this clear mismanagement is, what is more outrageous is the administration's unwillingness to simply admit there was a mistake. Instead, they point the finger at past administrations. Unfortunately, however, the grant was not pulled because of past problems, but because of current ones.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is reportedly investigating how last year's grant money was spent, including whether funds were spent to replace windows that didn't contain lead at all. In addition, the city didn't adequately document how it was spending money and whether the homes that were treated were income eligible or had young children living there. Clearly, this investigation needs to continue and any findings be made public quickly.

Baltimore's citizens deserve to be certain that services that are promised and paid for are delivered. It is clear the city needs to implement additional controls over how it manages its funds and more public disclosure of how those funds are spent.

HUD has tagged Baltimore as a "high-risk" grantee for additional lead abatement funds. Unfortunately, because of the city administration's management failure, it's the people of Baltimore who are at "high-risk."

Otis Rolley, Baltimore

The writer is a candidate for mayor of Baltimore

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