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Our Opinion: A better idea

January 15, 2002

We are certain the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has a lot of good ideas, but the concept of having staffers of the Calexico Housing Authority serve as director of the agency on a revolving basis was not one.

Yes, the Housing Authority has been plagued by controversy and needs to get on the right track, but having rotating directors — even on an interim basis — is far from being the right choice for promoting stability.

A government agency needs to have a person in charge, someone who is going to have the last word and is ultimately responsible. And the public needs to know who that person is.

Having different people as director for short periods of time creates a situation where confusion is likely and no one will really feel as if he or she is in charge. It also puts people in charge who are not the most qualified and some may use their brief tenures at the top to exact revenge or make other self-serving decisions.

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A housing authority has a direct impact on many people's lives, so it needs to have a person in charge who the public can go to with questions and concerns. The public should not have to guess every month regarding who is the boss.

For that reason we support the Calexico Housing Authority abandoning that plan and selecting one interim director. Christina Rojas, who works in the authority's finance department, will serve as director for three months while the board searches for a permanent director.

Rojas replaces longtime director Lupita Rios, fired in November after months of controversy about her running of the authority.

It is not easy to run a housing authority. There is much to manage, from existing operations to new programming and the constant infusion of federal funds that must be handled appropriately. It is a balancing act that requires strong managerial and people skills.

We recommend the board bring in a permanent director from outside the agency, maybe even an individual from outside Calexico, who can look at the issues with a fresh eye and determine what needs to be done.

That's not to say the agency is facing nothing but problems. The authority's homes are in good shape. For public housing projects, many are pretty darn nice. Our concern is there is more the agency could be doing. There are programs to be implemented and other issues that need addressing.

One of the most important decisions the authority will make is the selection of a new director. It will not be easy to find someone who is the perfect fit for Calexico, but we are confident that with time and effort, that person can be found.

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