Mayor Shayne Gallo said this week that memo he sent describing programs run by Family of Woodstock at a Midtown community center as “tired and old” were not meant to be disparaging, but to signal the need for an “injection of new life” into the initiative. But Gallo stands by the memo’s allegation that city environmental projects manager and mayoral challenger Steve Noble circumvented city officials in an effort to win more funding for Family of Woodstock programs at the expense of other initiatives.
The memo in question was attached sent to the Common Council attached to Gallo’s recommendations for the distribution of nearly $700,000 in federal funds under the Community Development Block Grant Program. (Each year, nonprofit agencies apply for CDBG money to fund programs for the city’s poorest residents.) In the memo Gallo accuses Noble — who is challenging him for the Democratic nomination for mayor — of advocating for of Family of Woodstock programs to receive more money without consulting his immediate superior, Parks & Recreation chief Kevin Gilfeather, or the mayor’s office. The alleged unauthorized lobbying took place at a March 24 meeting of an advisory board charged with drawing up recommendations for CDBG funding allocation. Noble responded with his own memo to the council accusing Gallo of leveling false accusations.
On Monday, Gallo repeated the claim that Noble acted without Gilfeather’s knowledge and that he attempted to take money from other programs to support Family of Woodstock’s initiatives at the Everette Hodge Community Center. Gallo said Noble’s funding requests, if approved, would take resources from programs at the Rondout Neighborhood Center.
“He’s trying to take money from kids on one side of the city and give it to kids on the other side,” said Gallo. “He didn’t follow the process, he circumvented it for political reasons, for Family of Woodstock, and he got caught with his hand in the cookie jar.”
Gallo added that Noble had no authority to make recommendations to the advisory committee beyond presenting suggested funding for operations in Parks & Rec facilities. Gallo added that any suggested changes should have been cleared with his office and Community Development staff.
“You don’t go into a meeting and make policy recommendations without clearing it with your boss,” said Gallo.
Meanwhile, Noble denied any attempt to shift money from other programs to Family. This week, Common Council Majority Leader Matt Dunn, who attended the meeting, backed up the claim. According to Dunn, Noble simply offered suggestions when the advisory committee questioned how they could further spread the limited funding. Dunn said that Noble suggested that money slated for “public facilities” — like improvements to the Andy Murphy Neighborhood Center — could be shifted to programming. The city could then issue bonds to fund the public facilities work.
“We all know this is political,” said Dunn of Gallo’s memo. “Let’s be honest, this is how the mayor works from time to time, it’s nothing new.”
Meanwhile Gallo, who took flak for referring to Family of Woodstock’s Hodge Center programs as “tired and old” said that he merely meant to convey the need to inject new life into existing initiatives. Gallo said that he wanted to see the Family programs taken to “the next level” with new programming designed to connect teens with jobs, mentoring and training in the arts and technology sectors. Gallo noted that he had already recommended that the Hodge programs be funded at the same level as last year and, he said, changes in the CDBG allocations would enhance and complement the Family of Woodstock offerings.
“I think it was implicit in that statement that we were all in agreement that we were going to give these programs new life,” said Gallo.