Empowerment zone residents want more say Community seeks input on how money's spent


A contingent of community representatives complained yesterday that residents of Baltimore's federal empowerment zone are not having enough say in how $100 million in federal funds is being spent.

The four representatives faulted the board overseeing the revitalization effort for not consulting the community-based Advisory Council before making recent decisions to emphasize economic development over social programs and to allocate money to six neighborhood "village centers" on the basis of population rather than in a lump sum, as originally intended.

"The process must reflect a true perception of neighborhood needs from those who live there," said Leonard Jackson, a community activist from Sandtown-Winchester in West Baltimore, one of the communities in the empowerment zone.

"Why have an advisory committee if you don't ask them to advise?" asked Arlene Fisher of the Lafayette Square Association. Lafayette Square also is in West Baltimore and is in the empowerment zone.

Chairman Mathias J. DeVito appointed four empowerment board members to meet with four members of the Advisory Council to increase community input. "We're all trying to do the same thing here," he said.

But Mr. DeVito noted that zone residents are represented on the 29-member board and that two members of the 80-member Advisory Council will join the board in January.

Also yesterday, the empowerment zone reported that it has spent $449,000 in federal dollars since January to set up and operate the office and pay the salaries and benefits of four employees.

The city and the private Annie E. Casey Foundation have contributed an additional $444,000 for the wages and benefits of eight employees on loan from the city.

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