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Our Opinion: Entering the quagmire

May 13, 2002

We are glad to see the Calexico City Council has decided to disband the Calexico Housing Authority board of commissioners.

The housing board had become embroiled in recent years in petty politics and bickering that not only was hurting its functioning as a board but was endangering the well-being of the people who live in the authority's so-far still decent homes. How long those homes would have remained decent under the board of commissioners was starting to become a pressing question, as the board this year went through directors (allegedly) running the agency on a nearly monthly basis.

Calexico Mayor John Renison and City Manager Richard Inman were summoned to a meeting with U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development officials last week. Inman said the talk turned into more of a "lecture" from HUD officials, who said the Calexico Housing Authority was on the verge of big trouble. The council was told it had two options: it could deep-six the housing board and take over the authority itself while it looked for "responsible management," or it could let the feds come in and run the authority.

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We are convinced the council did the right thing. There are some smart, level-headed community-minded people on the council, and while we don't agree with some of what they do, they certainly are a more rational and even-keeled body than any of the many recent editions of the housing board. And anyone with a speck of sense also wants the feds to be kept out of whatever they can be kept out of, because they are bound to muck it up one way or another.

The council will have to address many problems immediately in regard to the authority. Authority funds were "locked down" last week unless the expenditures are approved by HUD officials. That was at least partially related to remedial actions recommended in an independent assessment done last fall that have not yet been carried out. It is time the council made sure those actions are done and done quickly.

Funds that were available for future programs also have been reclaimed by HUD, and there was the threat if the board had not been removed of the federal Inspector General's Office imposing sanctions against the Calexico Housing Authority.

The City Council didn't want this responsibility and last year decided to keep the board in place despite mounting issues with the authority administration and board. Now the council, which has plenty on its plate without volatile housing issues, is going to have another huge burden.

We hope once it brings in responsible people to run the authority it can appoint a board that will be able to oversee it, leaving the council for the most part out of housing matters.

When that will happen may be longer than any of us think.

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