Communities on the way: rebuilding local economies in the by Stewart E. Perry

By Stewart E. Perry

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In retrospect, the antipoverty agency can be seen to have played only one specific but critical part in sketching in the new institutional pattern. Although the CDC was born as a local innovation to handle local problems, it did require some outside resources. The role of OEO essentially was to organize some new formal practices to allocate resourcesnamely, federal fundsfor capital investment by the new local institution, the CDC. The total financial support from the antipoverty agency was never very largeit usually hovered at $20-$40 million a year and rose once to a peak of about $55 million.

And finally, for our own agency purposes as well as the requirements of the relevant legislation, the organization operated in a distinctly defined neighborhood where focused efforts could have a visible effect. During our site visit, my colleague and I discovered impressive leadershipnot just the enormous talents of DeForest Brown, but the dedication of other members, such as the architect, the Legal Aid chief, a former numbers runner who was good at figures, and a steady businessman who had doubled as a fence in earlier days.

Clearly, HADC had the internal resources to do the job for its neighborhood. Within a few weeks, we were assisting HADC to prepare the kind of written proposal that would sail through the bureaucratic hurdles at our agency. But in those days of black-white suspicion, the task was not always easy. Once when my colleague and I had to admit that the agency would retain certain strings (that we personally did not agree with) over the expenditure of the investment capital to be awarded to HADC, we were warned that only our personal opposition to the unavoidable strings would get us out of the neighborhood safely that night.

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