by Michael Bonds, Ph.D.; Binghamton, New York, Haworth Press, 2004, 130 pages
Dr. Newkirk, a forensic psychiatrist, lives in Belle Mead, New Jersey.
This book seeks to address the issue of how much the racial makeup of politicians in a particular city influences the allocation of federal government funds targeted for underserved populations. The specific funding source is community-development block grants. These grants are to be used by community-based organizations to make capital and service improvements in their home communities. Part of the focus of the grants is not only to improve neighborhoods but also to have community members benefit by having access to the jobs that these grants would fund in the implementation of the proposed projects.
The book is based on well-researched data related to the funding of block grants in Milwaukee. It focuses on the years 1975 to 1997 and explores how federally funded block grants intended for impoverished neighborhoods were distributed—according to the racial makeup of the city's politicians and on the racial demographics of the community-based organizations that applied for those grants.
During the years included in the study, there was a marked increase in the number of African Americans elected to the city council in Milwaukee, which had oversight of the community block grants in question. Bonds reviews various records over time, including the voting patterns of city council members regarding the awarding of these grants. He looks at the racial composition of the community-based organizations that applied for grants and compares it to those of the organizations that were awarded grants.
Bonds's research concludes that the mayor had the ultimate position of power in the awarding of the grants, because the mayor also appointed the head of the oversight agency for the block grant program. The mayor also held veto power over any decision the council made regarding the grant programs. The presence of African-American council members had little impact as they did not vote as a racial block but as individuals. The African-American community that was involved in applying for grants was not particularly vocal about the negative actions of the city council toward the grants directly affecting their neighborhoods. This book exposes the reality of at least one urban area's experience with the political process of grant awards and the impact of racial issues on the awarding of these grants.
This book is not directly related to mental health issues. It may be useful to mental health professionals working within advocacy or community agencies as they attempt to secure funding for nonclinical services that would be beneficial to people of color living with mental disorders. Oftentimes, clinicians have minimal knowledge regarding the political aspects of grant applications and subsequent awards or appropriations.
The author's background lends itself to such a review, because Bonds is an assistant professor in the Department of Educational Policy and Community Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. He is also a researcher, and his method of investigating funding streams is useful to readers of various professional backgrounds who are providing services that utilize public funds to community residents. He has also worked as a fiscal analyst for the city of Milwaukee in the past and is well acquainted with the inner workings of the Milwaukee city government.