Mishaps in the War on Goth, #23

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Blue Springs returns much of Goth grant

By DONALD BRADLEY, The Kansas City Star

Teens in Gothic getup may freak out a few folks in Blue Springs, but apparently the issue isn’t worth a quarter-million dollars.

The city has returned almost half of a $273,000 federal grant it received in 2002 to fight a perceived growing Goth culture. Some feared the black clothes, morbid music and obsession with the occult — and Ozzy Osbourne — could lure a wave of youngsters into a world of depression, drugs and suicide.

It didn’t happen.

Officials returned $132,000 of the money because the Goth situation was overstated in the beginning, Blue Springs Police Chief Wayne McCoy said Friday.

Community forums on Goth culture were never held because of a lack of interest, and no youth received treatment for Goth behavior. Both were provisions of the grant.

“My belief is that you guard public dollars very carefully,” McCoy said. “The money wasn’t being used so we gave it back.”

The issue arose when parents and other residents called police to inquire about Goth and its influence on teens. McCoy said the callers feared what they didn’t understand.

At the time the $273,000 grant for Blue Springs was announced, a watchdog group critical of government spending attacked the project as wasteful.

But U.S. Rep. Sam Graves, who helped Blue Springs secure the money, defended the grant as a means to prevent teens from falling into drugs and violence.

On Friday, Charlie Broomfield, a Democratic challenger to Graves for the 6th District congressional seat, issued a statement saying that Graves wasted money to fight a “phantom problem.”

Graves’ Washington office on Friday defended the action, saying the Republican congressman helped Blue Springs identify and confront a potentially developing problem with the Goth culture and its effects on the community.

“As their representative, he worked hard to deliver the funding to address that need,” said spokesman Brian McKenna.

Blue Springs officials don’t regret the project. They say the money that was used would serve the community well in terms of education and training for youth workers. The Goth project was overseen by the Police Department’s Community and Youth Outreach Unit.

“We gained some very valuable knowledge,” McCoy said.

And in the process, the city dispelled some myths about Goth and teens.

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