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Madison, Wisc: Community gardens at issue How to fund is question

  • Subject: [cg] Madison, Wisc: Community gardens at issue How to fund is question
  • From: Adam36055@aol.com
  • Date: Sun, 22 Aug 2004 13:20:20 EDT

Sounds like the ACGA board might want to give this mayor some factual ammunition on the  real dollars and cents contributions of community gardens....

Adam Honigman

By Pat Schneider
August 22, 2004

Mayor Dave Cieslewicz is vowing that the city's community gardening program will be funded next year, despite a recommendation to drop it from the list of its usual funding agency.

"It's going to be funded," the mayor said Friday. "Community gardens is an extremely valuable program."

The city's Community Development Block Grant Commission, facing a tight budget, recommended that the community gardens program not receive some $40,000 in CDBG funds that has been allotted it in recent years.

"We recommended it be included in the city budget, not the CDBG budget," said Ald. Austin King, a member of the commission.

"We were looking at either cutting funding to programs serving homeless people or cutting gardens. That's not a difficult decision for me to make," King said.

The community gardens program, administered by the Community Action Coalition for South Central Wisconsin, operates 16 gardens around the city where some 611 families this summer are working plots.

The program also provides varying levels of assistance to eight additional gardens.

The 16 gardens in 2003 produced some 270,000 pounds of food, said Joe Mathers, coordinator of the CAC garden program.

The $40,000 from CDBG is about 40 percent of the program's operating budget, Mathers said.

King said community gardens provide "a very valuable service and I think we should fund it. I personally intend to fight for it."

Cieslewicz called the effort to shift high priority programs to other agencies "a budget game."

"We're not going to do that. I think we're going to require CDBG to continue to fund it," said the mayor, who earlier this month led a bicycle tour of community gardens.

Cieslewicz is juggling funding requests from city departments, which were ordered to cut their budgets by 1 percent next year. The first hearing on 2005 budget issues is Thursday.

Carl Silverman, a citizen member of the CDBG commission and the city's Committee on Community Gardens, called the July 29 recommendation to stop funding CAC's program "a late-night bad decision" by exhausted commissioners trying to chip away at program funding requests.

In weighing the value of programs in the tight budget climate, there are others that respond to more critical needs than community gardens, Silverman acknowledged. "But I'm not convinced of the efficacy of some of those programs," he said.

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