Sunday, December 30, 2012

Resolution 1313: Housing Authority is city agency

“It is not now a question of whether or not you can come to an agreement that everybody would like. The question is whether you will comply with it.” – Speaker identified only as Mr. Fogel.

Charlottesville, Va. – The urban renewal agency meeting December 20 put to rest any question that the Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority is a city department under the control of City Council, who appoints the 7 commissioners. All 40 acres of CRHA land is city-owned and acquired by condemnation or threat of eminent domain. Until recently the local agency had federal funding exclusively from Housing and Urban Development, but Council now contributes some money as well as all the land.

However today’s newspaper commentary paints a different picture. Current commissioner and chairman 2005 to 2011 Jason Halbert asserts the city and its urban renewal agency are separate. But at the Dec. 20 meeting Halbert agreed to seek guidance from the entity that controls the board – City Council. It’s as if the commentary was written before Dec. 20, or Halbert is clinging to old, discredited propaganda. (“Housing, growth fight poverty, aid economy” by Jason Halbert, Dec. 30, 2012, The Daily Progress)

Current chairman of the board and chairman in 2002, current city councilor, Dave Norris called the non-binding study proposed for Council a “3-month due diligence review period.” He said CRHA is a political subdivision of the City and the separation is an “artificial wall.” The purpose of the study is to improve effective and efficient management of the housing authority. Apparently the authority has not been studied since its creation in 1954.

Commissioner Joy Johnson claimed former Councilor Holly Edwards had planted the seed of separating the redevelopment arm from the public housing authority. Actually the Daily Progress documents in 3 articles a movement in 1977 to split CRHA in just that fashion. Blair’s Blog has documented for several years Edwards’ opposition to publishing the full housing archives, which allows her to present old ideas as new ideas.

As further proof CRHA is the City, Resolution 1313 was brought forth by Allyson Manson-Davies, Deputy City Attorney. The city attorney’s office represents the city, including its public housing department. In 2007, on request for proof of ownership of Levy Avenue, CRHA employee Randy Bickers gave some deeds but held back on the condemned properties. Upon further request, Barbra Ronan of the city’s legal department gave the full information. Bickers later became executive director and resigned only 2 years later.

Two other items were considered in the 40-minute meeting before the board went into closed session to review Executive Director Connie Dunn’s performance since hired in April.

Resolution 1312 is the Barment Policy to ban and un-ban individuals from public housing sites. CRHA/City attorney Davies said the new policy is “essentially the same” as the old policy. For the lowest level of offenses the banishment is changed to 6 months and the middle tier is changed to 2 years and the most serious offenses become 7 years. There is better tracking of changes in the document and a clean edited version.

Identified only as Mr. Fogel, the lone speaker (except for a Brandon Collins cameo) argued that approving the new policy is one thing, but what about the 400 people on the list now? The problem has two parts: offenders are not being notified under Virginia Code 55-248.31.01 and there is much redundant language.

According to Fogel, the most egregious case was a tenant with kids who wouldn’t cooperate with police because he had been abducted. Not cooperating with police should not be a reason to bar someone, said Fogel. Therefore there’s a problem with the current barment list. The commission should not approve the current barment list unless notice is given. To pass it “would violate your oath of office to follow the law” and make the board susceptible to a lawsuit.

The board passed it unanimously and talked about hiring temporary staff to clean up the list. Private housing operates much differently where everyone is barred from trespassing unless given specific permission. Public housing is public property so there’s an expectation of use by the public even though the property is being used as a private residence where city government is the landlord.

Finally the board wanted to appoint 3 members of public housing in the Garrett urban renewal zone to a steering committee for Strategic Investment. But nobody applied. However Commissioner Johnson said she knew of 10 residents who said they might be interested if they knew more about it. With a sense of urgency, the board was willing to approve whoever Public Housing Association of Residents or the neighborhood association nominated to represent Crescent Halls, South First and Sixth Street public housing sites.

Brandon Collins said PHAR;s next meeting is the second Monday in January. Collins asked if Council is waiting for the names. Chairman Norris said “No, no,” the board just wants to get it done. Apparently rushing things through without notice is tradition and policy for the housing authority.

Related Links

Video of Dec. 20, 2012 CRHA Board Meeting.

“Housing, growth fight poverty, aid economy” by Jason Halbert, Dec. 30, 2012, The Daily Progress. Halbert doesn’t list any sources for confirmation of anything he says. The Daily Progress has a higher standard for letter writers than for public officials whose propaganda undergoes no vetting or fact checking.

“Race commission on agenda” by Graham Moomaw, Dec. 17, 2012, The Daily Progress.

“Race commission postponed, Dialogue on Race forever” by Blair Hawkins, Dec. 18, 2012. Reports CRHA chairman wants Human Rights Commission to apply to the urban renewal agency.

“Human Rights Commission taking shape” by Graham Moomaw, Dec. 19, 2012, The Daily Progress. Does not report CRHA / HRC connection talked about at length during the meeting.

“Housing board mulls overhaul” by Graham Moomaw, Dec. 21, 2012, The Daily Progress. Still no mention of Human Rights Commission to have jurisdiction over the housing authority. Moomaw parrots the story line echoed in today’s commentary by Halbert.

Blair Hawkins calls Schilling Show Dec. 21 to warn listeners not to trust Daily Progress reporting particularly this week regarding Housing Authority and its relationship with the Human Rights Commission. "This was a big week for urban renewal."Podcast 12-21-2012 Hour 1 first call.

“Race relations fight continues” by Graham Moomaw, Dec. 26, 2012, The Daily Progress. Still no mention of human rights and housing authority in same sentence.

The Daily Progress has a well-documented, decades-long, de facto policy to not report housing authority history even if it's in the Daily Progress archives. So each new article is as if it’s the first article on the subject.

Editorial Page Editor Anita Shelburne practically spelled out the policy in two recent editorials: “CRHA must balance goal, public image” Oct. 4, and “Any CRHA study should be flexible” Dec. 23. Balance the goal of truth-telling with the public image of CRHA. Maybe it’s time to scrutinize the agency but any study should be meaningless.

Editor Anita Shelburne is still opposing the Nov. 6 Property Amendment, which passed with 61% in Charlottesville and 75% statewide. “Loophole may hamper property law” Dec. 19. Shelburne is still talking about public use, which didn’t change much. Just Compensation was the major reform, which Shelburne can’t talk about because this is where the law has its teeth.

“Newspaper confuses Va. Eminent Domain amendment” by Blair Hawkins, Nov. 3, 2012. Exposes as false Editor Shelburne’s daring claim that the Daily Progress has a “decades-long history” of supporting private property rights.

Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority official website contains no history, not even the year the agency was formed (1954).

Housing Authority Blog from May 2009 to October 2011. Comments are closed for all posts. Apparently the blog was the sole effort of Redevelopment Director Amy Kilroy, whose name no longer appears on the official website.

Blog has a history page linking to Historical Society article “A Community in Turmoil: Charlottesville’s Opposition to Public Housing.” The article talks about Vinegar Hill and public school integration. But the article spends most of its words talking about Garrett urban renewal since it was larger and more controversial.

Everything Must Go! June 14, 2011. “[S]ince purchasing the former Walker Garage site [next to Levy Avenue site] last fall, we also inherited a pile of auto repair merchandise that was left behind by the previous owners. This includes things like hydraulic lifts (x5), miscellaneous tools, diagnostic machines, a variety of storage bins and other items of value.”

City of Charlottesville shows 2 items on auction: HVAC filters at $1 and Aluminum Hydraulic Shoring $500 current bid. Why does the City sell surplus property at auction, but not surplus land?

Public Housing Association of Residents blog. Latest post “Barment and Un-Barment Policy Adopted!!!” Dec. 21, 2012.

Official List of Urban Renewal Commissioners/ Abusers of eminent domain.

1. Ms. Sherri Clarke - Resident Commissioner, Term Expires: 6/30/14
2. Ms. Claudette Green- Commissioner, Term Expires: 6/30/14
3. Ms. Joy Johnson -Resident Commissioner/Treasurer, Term Expires: 6/30/13
4. Mr. Hosea Mitchell – Chair, Term Expires: 6/30/14
5. Mr. Dave Norris - City Council, Term Expires: 12/31/12
6. Mr. Robert Stevens - Vice Chair, Term Expires: 6/30/13
7. Mr. Keith Woodard- Commissioner, Term Expires: 6/30/13


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