Oakland District 2 residents and other interested people gathered recently to brainstorm how to use Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) money to benefit their neighborhoods.
The forum was held last Thursday evening at Williams Chapel, which under the leadership of Dr. Kenneth Anderson is mounting a $52 million development project.
The development will be built in the church parking lot, building 88 apartments of affordable housing for low-income seniors. The development is still its first phase at 10th Avenue and International Boulevard and at the beginning of the funding application process.
Dr. Anderson opened the forum by thanking those in attendance, stating that “community engagement matters so much.”
District 2 City Councilmember Abel Guillen also offered greetings, saying, “This is the second of four gatherings. One was held in Chinatown last night, and I thank you for participating tonight.”
Councilmember Guillen said around 50 people attended the Chinatown forum, and around 40 people attended this second forum.
The church made its fellowship hall available for the evening, and after opening remarks, breakout focus groups discussed ideas that will be recorded and voted upon by them.
District 2 is one of only two districts in Oakland that gather direct community input, rather than using an established board to decide how CDBG funds are used, “Maybe you won’t even know the decision by the board in your district,” said Councilmember Guillen.
The event was facilitated by the Participatory Budgeting Project (PBP), which has offices in New York and Oakland. The organization is a nonprofit designed to support participatory budgeting and empower people to decide together how to spend public money.
Dr. Anderson pointed out that in District 2 prostitution, drug abuse and graffiti are major problems.
And while block grant money can be used for infrastructure as well as programs and services, a facilitator pointed out that a stop sign costs $50,000, while a one-year weekly program for senior citizens costs $35,000.
As Williams Chapel under Dr. Anderson’s leadership mounts its building project, the church is also committed to broader planning for public monies available in their community.
For more information on community budgeting, go to www.participatorybudgeting.org.