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City Council retains Housing Authority board

April 04, 2001|By AARON CLAVERIE, Staff Writer

CALEXICO — The City Council here acknowledged the complaints of Calexico Housing Authority residents who demanded the removal of the authority's board of commissioners but ultimately voted 4-1 to retain the board "for the betterment of the city."

The vote came after a public hearing during Tuesday's City Council meeting.

Mayor Victor Carrillo, Mayor Pro Tem John Renison and councilmen Javier Alatorre and Frank Montoya voted to retain the board and monitor its proceedings. Councilman Gilbert Grijalva voted to remove the board.

In addition to the 75 authority residents who came in support of the board's removal, the hearing was watched by a class of San Diego State University-Imperial Valley campus students who respectfully clapped at appropriate times and laughed or showed empathy during speeches.

The students were frequently nodding soberly as the public hearing featured impassioned pleas and calculated and measured reasoning on both sides.

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Under Carrillo's direction, the hearing followed strict rules that gave each side a chance to speak but made sure comments didn't stray into personal accusations.

Referring to the "allegations and accusations" against the Housing Authority that have been a part of City Council and Housing Authority meetings for months, Renison said, "This has got to stop."

"We have heard of appointments with residents being canceled by the Housing Authority administration and long grievance process for the residents that lead to nothing. I can assure the people here that if we took over things would not be that way," Renison said.

"If we took over this council I would demand more from the administration."

Renison voted not to take over the board, though, because he said the board will change soon enough when two new commissioners are appointed.

Jose Quiroz, one of four commissioners targeted for removal by a consortium of authority residents and their supporters, is up for reappointment soon.

The seventh spot on the board is expected to be filled as soon as next council meeting.

Renison recommended monitoring the board or having City Council members sit in on Housing Authority meetings to make sure there is order and residents are heard.

Grijalva said that plan doesn't make sense.

"Instead of one or two of us sitting in we might as well just remove the board and take over," Grijalva said.

"I don't think we should create a subcommittee to look after a committee of a sub-committee."

He said the situation of threatened lawsuits by residents is a liability issue for the city because the City Council appoints the commissioners.

Maria Gasca, president of the Resident Council of the Housing Authority said if the board is not removed a lawsuit will be filed.

Speaking in favor of monitoring the board, Carrillo said, "The authority commissioners need to know the role they play. They need to be given direction by us."

Carrillo said he has heard of a "lack of recognition of authority residents by the Housing Authority administration and problems with communication between the board and the residents."

Lupita Rios, executive director of the Housing Authority, asked to be allowed to respond to the accusations to which Carrillo referred.

Carrillo had said earlier in the meeting he was not going to judge a "tennis match" of accusations and rebuttals going back and forth from each side.

He denied her request because she had been one of the first to speak at the meeting, when she told of the authority's favorable audits by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Staff Writer Aaron Claverie can be reached at 337-3419.

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