As a self-described newcomer to the city government beat, it's understandable that Frank Carlson was confused and frustrated in trying to follow the draft CAPER report that was online for public comment. ["Following a CAPER," Citybeat, Sept. 23, 2009.]
Federal reports can be tedious even for the veteran public servant. However, it is simply inaccurate and misleading for Mr. Carlson to state that "presented a choice between turning in an incomplete, confusing report and losing millions in funding, the city chose the former."
The CAPER is in the format required by HUD and is an accurate and complete report on what the city and our nonprofit partners achieved with CDBG, HOME, and ESG funds during the last fiscal year. Similarly, we prepare an annual Empowerment Zone report that cites the accomplishments and expenditure of EZ funds, and we will report quarterly on the accomplishments of our new ARRA-funded stimulus projects.
Because these are distinct reports by funding source, they do not capture the total outcomes of the city's efforts in community development or how we leverage the various funds to achieve our goals, meet different grant deadlines and "timeliness" requirements, and maximize outcomes for the low-to-moderate income neighborhoods and people that we serve.
Here's an example. Mr. Carlson points out that we did not meet our goal for the construction of new housing units. This is a HOME-funded project implemented by our nonprofit housing partners—who were, by the way, hammered by the economic recession and housing downturn just like the private sector.
In addition, we chose to use EZ funds for seven of the homes that were to be funded from HOME because EZ has less stringent income restrictions. While this strategy doesn't help meet CAPER goals, it does offer more opportunity for a stable mixed-income neighborhood. It also maximizes our use of federal funds since HOME funds have a five-year time frame for expenditure while the EZ funds must be spent by next year.
These seven homes were built in Park City by Knox Housing Partnership and are now receiving awards for being the first affordable, visitable (accessible), and sustainable LEED Gold homes in the state of Tennessee.
Mr. Carlson failed to mention goals that were exceeded. For example, our goal of emergency and minor home repairs was exceeded by 61 percent and rehabilitation of rental units by 50 percent
HUD recognizes that not all projects can be completed within a fiscal year. That is why they allow projects and unexpended funds to carry forward into future years as long as certain timeliness requirements are met.
Nevertheless, my staff, our non-profit partners, and I strive every day to meet our annual goals, improve our effectiveness, provide value to the people we serve, and be good stewards of the resources with which we are entrusted.
These reports do get easier to follow once you become familiar with the programs. I welcome Mr. Carlson to this beat and invite him—and any interested citizen—to come by our office to learn more about the services we provide and the passion and dedication with which we deliver them.
Madeline Rogero, Director
Community Development Depatrment,
City of Knoxville