Resident Leader: AHA Misused My Name
(APN) ATLANTA — Atlanta Housing Authority distributed a letter dated January 10, 2008, to City Council Members last week, signed by who they claimed to be 20 of 29 public housing resident leaders, stating they are in support of the public housing demolitions.
The letter was in response to a resolution passed on January 09, 2008, by the citywide Resident Advisory Board opposing the demolitions for various reasons and condemning AHA’s lack of consultation with residents, signed by five Presidents who are voting members earlier this month.
The letter states, “We are voting members of the Jurisdiction-Wide Resident Advisory Board. We understand that a few members of our board met yesterday. We have learned that they put together a document they claim to be a resolution of our Board opposing AHA’s plans under the Quality of Life initiative.”
However, three of the 20 leaders who signed AHA’s letter no longer live in public housing because their communities have already been torn down. Three other leaders no longer live in public housing because their communities are being cleared out presently. Another already moved out of public housing voluntarily, Diane Wright, RAB Board President, told Atlanta Progressive News.
Four Presidents did not sign the letter. Of the remaining 13 Presidents who signed, only three live in communities currently being affected by evictions, and only one of those three Presidents, Elaine Olsby, regularly attends meetings. The other ten Presidents in currently unaffected communities do not attend the meetings either, Wright said.
Moreover, Ms. Olsby, the President of Cosby Spears senior highrise, said she was misled by AHA as to what she was signing.
Olsby told Atlanta Progressive News that AHA’s Charles Walker came to her and asked her to sign a letter. “The signature was for me to bear witness that I was not at the January meeting,” of the RAB Board, she said.
“I’m doing a retraction letter. That’s not right. What was told to me, I was supposed to sign, with me not being there. The next thing I know, it’s something else, I’m in agreement with residents saying we should set up another Board. I’m not in agreement with that,” Olsby said.
Olsby did not have time to read the letter, she said, because she was rushed by Walker.
“I had just enough time to sign because he said he had to get to another meeting. I thought it was legitimate, until Diane [Wright] brought it to my attention. I read the whole thing. I said oh my lord,” Olsby said.
“I’m in agreement with the people being relocated, but I’m not in agreement with people not getting what they’re supposed to get,” Olsby said.
Olsby has already complained to Mr. Walker, she said. “I asked Charles, where’s your boss at. I need to talk with your boss. Charles, that’s not what you told me to sign my name off on. I just don’t like stuff like this. It’s not right. If you don’t have adequate place for people at this time, why not hold off until they do?”
“AHA is saying fuck the presidents, fuck HUD, they’re gonna do their thing,” Olsby said.
“He came to me and other presidents and told em the same thing he told me, because they repeated it back to me. I know his job’s probably on the line, that’s not my problem,” Olsby said.
“If you don’t know what’s going on, or don’t do your homework, you’re in the midst of their foolishness,” Olsby said.
Another resident leader told Atlanta Progressive News she never read the letter because she was also rushed by Mr. Walker, adding that she has serious concerns about the relocations.
“At the time that I was called about that, whatever that was, I had no idea what was going on cause I wasn’t even in the state. They know I wasn’t here, in the state. So I signed the letter. No I didn’t read it before I signed it,” Barbara Dean, President of Cheshire Bridge Road senior highrise, said.
“It was a thing where they came and I signed the thing. I had just come back from out of town the night before and they had to have it the next day. They explained some of it to me. I don’t remember exactly what it was because I was supposed to sit down and read that letter. I haven’t had a chance to stop,” Dean said.
“I couldn’t refuse to sign something saying I wasn’t at a meeting,” Dean said.
“They’re tearing down too many properties without rebuilding some of the other ones. But if they’re in bad shape and they needs to be torn down, then I’m for it, as long as they have someplace to go. It’s too many people that’s in the project for them to just dislocate so many people and they really don’t have a place for them to go. They don’t know where they’re going to go,” Dean said.
Ms. Wright has serious concerns about the letter circulated by AHA.
“First of all, you’re voting members if you come to meetings. If you’ve never been to a meeting, how can you be a member of anything? Some of those presidents haven’t been to not one of the meetings. This board was put together in 2000. They know who they are. And if they’ve never been to a RAB Board meeting, how can they say they’re a voting member and say what we can do and what we can’t do?” Wright said.
“You have HOPE VI presidents that signed that don’t even have a community anymore. And therefore, we don’t have 20 Presidents. They have no community because they have no residents,” Wright said.
Of the RAB Board members who passed the resolution opposing demolitions, “Those are Presidents that’s in jeopardy that’s losing their homes. They have a right to sign and say what they want and what they don’t want,” Wright said.
The letter argued that the resolution did not speak for what they said was a majority of the Board.
“There are only a few members of the Board that want to interrupt the plans to relocate residents. They are the ones who met on yesterday. They do not represent the feelings of most of the Board on these issues. They were not authorized by the majority of the Board to adopt any resolution,” the letter states.
“It is a majority that was there. We are the majority that come to the board meeting every month. We are the RAB Board, we’re the ones that come month after month.”
“I need to add, we need to stop AHA from writing our letters,” Wright said. She believes AHA wrote the letter because “first of all, those presidents didn’t know anything about the resolution. They were not at a meeting. Secondly, they did not know who we were sending it to. They did not know we were sending it to HUD. They didn’t know we were going to the City Council.”
This is notable given the fact the letter was dated the next day after the RAB Board resolution was passed.
“We didn’t need their approval. They were not there and they don’t come. They don’t see that it’s of any significance to them. And in fact, we have a right to fight for our communities. We’re resident presidents too. We were voted in just like the rest of them. We are the Jurisdiction-wide board that’s recognized by HUD. Since 2000, we’ve been meeting. Housing didn’t put us together in the first beginning, HUD did. We have by-laws. We know what the quorum is,” Wright said.
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Matthew Cardinale is the News Editor for Atlanta Progressive News and may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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