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Purge Housing Authority

Published April 12, 2007


A few questions for the Brooksville City Council regarding the Brooksville Housing Authority:

- How much more federal tax money must the authority waste, or allow to be stolen, before the council takes action to replace the members it appointed to oversee public housing for some of the city's poorest residents?

- How much longer must those adults and children live in apartments that are fire hazards because electrical repairs were either not done or done improperly?

- How much farther into debt must the authority go to pay for these repairs a second time?

- How many more of its employees must be prosecuted by the federal government before the authority members are held accountable for their negligence?

We are hopeful City Council members might do us - and their constituents, of course - the favor of answering those questions now, seeing as how they never got around to it at a joint meeting Monday night with the Housing Authority.

All the council did was promise to work with current authority members to address the problems. They'll forgive the public for not singing along to that tired old tune. After all, assurances from a bunch of do-nothing authority members to a bunch of do-nothing elected officials are not exactly reassuring, especially considering the authority's shameful history the past few years.

To be clear that our somewhat flip preamble is not misinterpreted, here's the upshot:

As a governing body and oversight committee, the Housing Authority's performance is sluggish and contemptible.

Even after the authority's executive director and program manager were indicted, and the latter pleaded guilty to stealing, its members seem unfazed by the federal scrutiny.

Even as residents of Summit Villas and Hillside Estates live in apartments where an inspecting electrician said they were "lucky" no one has been electrocuted or died in a fire, the authority dawdles.

And even as one of its members, Paul Boston, says the authority "needs to be replaced," the City Council continues to hesitate.

Enough! Boston is right. The council should replace the entire board as soon as possible with people who are more committed, caring and knowledgeable.

The council also should appoint one of its own to act as a liaison with the Housing Authority, with the task of attending every single meeting and reporting back to the council. That may be the most expedient way to bridge the accountability gap that now exists between the public and the Housing Authority.

If a council member is assigned to monitor the authority, then residents have an elected official they can count on to convey their concerns and to whom they can complain. Never again would the council be able to plead ignorance of the authority's inept or ill-advised actions, which also have included instances of no-notice meetings and the refusal to release public records in a timely manner.

The Housing Authority and the City Council meet on the same night, and some council members have used that to explain why they do not attend the authority meetings. Like so much of the council's kid-gloves treatment of the authority, that is just an excuse. The council should insist that the authority change its meeting schedule.

No more excuses. No more delays. No more exploitation or endangerment of tenants.

We urge all Brooksville residents to join us in asking for answers to the questions we have posed to the council. Everyone deserves to know exactly what it will take to elicit meaningful action from the council.

[Last modified April 11, 2007, 23:55:24]

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