It’s easy to complain that there’s too much government, especially at the federal level.
It’s easy to complain that tax rates are too high, especially at the federal level.
But it’s very hard for local elected officials—Democrat or Republican—to say “no thanks” to big government when there’s a chance of scoring some federal money for their community.
Earlier this week, Bridgeville joined a long list of local governments across the nation that formally oppose a White House plan to eliminate the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program, a $3 billion federal initiative that takes your tax dollars and redistributes them to state and local governments across the country.
Borough council voted 6-0 to oppose the elimination of the program. Neil Lyons was not present.
Mayor Pat DeBlasio, who does not have a vote on council matters, was the lone voice of dissent, arguing that the program is the epitome of big, inefficient government.
“We should not oppose the elimination of a vast bureaucratic program coming down from Washington,” he said. “The CDBG money that we get—it’s very nice—but let’s not forget that it’s our tax dollars that are sent to Washington, and after going through a vast bureaucracy, are sent back to us.”
The grant money trickles down through various layers of government and by the time the funds get to Bridgeville, DeBlasio said, there’s less of it and the borough has less control over how it is spent.
Nobody on council echoed that sentiment. Rather, there was concern that Bridgeville might stop receiving federal money.
In recent years, Bridgeville has used CDBG grants to demolish condemned houses and to add wheelchair-accessible curb ramps to some streets, among other projects.
Councilman Joe Colosimo said he was worried about Bridgeville’s financial future without support from larger government entities.
“If you listen to the news,” he said, “the money from the state is practically gone. Eventually we’re going to be on our own and Bridgeville, I don’t think, can cut it.”
At the federal level, policy experts on the right consider CDBG inefficient, wasteful, and even corrupt. Analysts on the left tend to view it as a flawed, but important, program that helps fight poverty and improve infrastruture.
At the local level, the partisan divide is fuzzier because, well, the idea of getting federal money to support your community is really appealing. In some communities it might even seem vital.
Case in point: Bridgeville. There was no party-line divide as council’s Republicans—Bert Cherry, Bruce Ghelarducci, Michael Tolmer, and Joseph Verduci—agreed with the Democrats—William Henderson, and Joe Colosimo—that Bridgeville wants to keep receiving those federal grants.
Correction: This story initially said that Bridgeville Borough Council President Michael Tolmer is registered as a Democrat. He is a Republican.
Cover photo by Stephen Melkisethian / CC BY-NC-ND