It would be easy to dismiss the words that follow as sour grapes.

After all, when Dunkirk has faced disappointment twice in the Stellar Communities grant program run by the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs, it would be easy to dismiss any criticism.

And when you add to that the fact that Portland also went through two disappointing cycles with the same program, any commentary on our part at this point is going to look like the whining of a sore loser.

But these thoughts have been on our minds for about four years now, and we may as well get them off our chest.

Here goes:

•The Stellar Communities program is a bad idea poorly executed.

•Its primary goals are political rather than substantive.

•It wastes thousands of volunteer hours and equal amounts of effort by local government officials with little time to waste.

•It stalls projects that might otherwise move forward, simply by holding a jackpot prize out there as a distraction. It confuses needs with wants.

•And — other than politicians who get to take part in photo opportunities — its primary beneficiaries are engineering and consulting firms, some of which specialize in drawing castles in the air.

What is the Stellar Communities program? It’s a project that was launched in 2010.

The idea was that rather than spread grant money around to lots of different communities, OCRA (the Office of Community and Rural Affairs) would hold a competition and bestow an abundance of grant money on just two communities a year. Big impact, big bucks, big publicity and big political payoff.

And at the outset, it wasn’t a bad notion. It succeeded in getting rural communities to think about their needs in a more wholistic fashion. Instead of lots of little projects, cities and towns started to think bigger, coupling parks projects with sewer separation, connecting senior housing complexes with libraries and downtowns.

From that standpoint, the program should get credit for some success.

But there were unintended consequences.

When cities and towns started coupling projects together, they often lost their focus. They started chasing the grant dollars instead of keeping their eye on the problems at hand.

And before they knew it, those cities and towns were spending a lot of money with consultants and engineering firms. Worse yet, they often found themselves paralyzed.

Why move forward on addressing a community need when the whole thing could be solved if you won the Stellar Communities jackpot?

And then there was the fallout that came with disappointment.

Since the program was structured in a way that only two communities came away as winners, more and more cities and towns became disillusioned and bummed out. They’d spent months or years on a project, had held off on moving forward in the interim and ended up with a losing lottery ticket.

When the Stellar Communities program started, there were something like 54 municipalities participating. This year there were 14. That looks like 40 municipalities that have decided the program is a waste of their time, their dreams and their effort.

This year’s 14 are now down to six finalists, and Dunkirk’s not on that short list.

But, in some ways, that’s okay. For four of the six finalists, the next several weeks and months will just be a drain on the civic pocketbook.

Is all this just sour grapes like the fable from Aesop? We don’t think so.

Stellar Communities has been sour from the beginning.