AHA Defrauds, By-Passes Council, Fails to Answer Questions

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(APN) ATLANTA — Atlanta Housing Authority’s Vice President for External Affairs, Barney Simms, made a fraudulent claim to the City Council of Atlanta, on Tuesday, March 11, 2008, about its promise to consult with the Community Development and Human Resources Committee regarding demolition applications.

“I wanted to point out that the Atlanta Housing Authority has already submitted the applications to HUD for Palmer House senior high rise, Roosevelt House senior high rise, Herndon Homes, and Thomasville Heights,” the present writer told Council during public comments lasting about fifteen minutes.

“The residents, resident leaders were not notified that they were sent. And the reason that is a problem is the date that they sent the applications… Remember how AHA made those voluntary measures and those were incorporated into Felicia Moore’s second resolution which replaced the ordinance? I wanted to tell you about one of those voluntary measures,” the present writer said.

On February 04, 2008, the Full Council unanimously approved a resolution incorporating the following promise by AHA:

“AHA will provide to CD/HR Committee of city council a draft copy of any proposed demolition/disposition application, that, when implemented, would result in the permanent relocation of the majority of the affected families from an AHA development, at least three weeks before AHA submits the application to HUD,” AHA wrote.

“I’m sure that the Committee will be troubled that they did not have the opportunity. Obviously they couldn’t have had three weeks cause they were sent… one of them was received by HUD a day after this resolution passed, first of all. Second of all, the other three were received on February 1st, three days before the resolution passed, but that basically means that AHA was in negotiations with Felicia and the other Members of the Council… and then sending those applications into HUD without doing that,” the present writer said.

“One of the things I wanted to make certain that you and your Committee understood, the Housing Authority never promised we would not submit the applications forward to HUD. We promised we would not submit the three applications that include those in Felicia Moore’s District,” Simms said.

Simms’s statement was fraudulent, however.

APN obtained a second copy of the resolution directly from the Clerk’s Office, minutes after Simms’s remarks, and distributed copies of the resolution to all Committee Members and personally informed Maddox of the documentation as well.

Anita Beaty of the Metro Atlanta Task Force for the Homeless told the Committee in her remarks that AHA’s statement had been verified as false and that AHA had indeed by-passed Council.

AHA DEFLECTS APN’S QUESTIONS

After promising to Council that they would respond to APN’s 82 questions about the demolition applications, which were hand delivered to Renee Glover’s Office on March 10, 2008, and presented to CD/HR on March 11, 2008, AHA’s response was more of a non-response.

“Thank you for your comments and questions regarding Atlanta Housing Authority’s (AHA) draft demolition applications for Bankhead Courts, Bowen Homes, and Hollywood Courts. AHA has reviewed your comments and will consider them as we finalize those demolition applications to be submitted to… (HUD). We will also share your questions and comments along with a copy of this response as part of the submission to HUD,” Simms wrote in a letter to Atlanta Progressive News dated March 12, 2008.

Dozens of Hollywood Courts residents have signed a petition, which will be sent to HUD, demanding, “WE WANT REAL ANSWERS!”

AHA’S RESPONSE TO FELICIA MOORE QUESTIONS

“I don’t have a formal presentation,” Simms told the Committee. “I just wanted to… share with you and your Committee that the Housing Authority has addressed and answered all of Councilwoman Felicia Moore’s questions regarding demolition applications for Bankhead Courts, Bowen Homes, and Hollywood Courts.”

Simms stated that Renee Glover was absent because she was in Washington, D.C..

“I’m also happy to report to you that we have completed Phase One of the AHA Quality of Life Initiative and that ended February 29th and we moved a total of 694 families successfully. The projects that we moved the families away from were Inglewood Manor, Jonesboro North, Jonesboro South, Leila Valley, and U-Rescue…”

It is unclear whether the families were moved “successfully,” however, as AHA has admitted many residents end up in hotel rooms; AHA has provided no evidence of available voucher leasing-opportunities; and such opportunities have been concentrated in poor, Black neighborhoods.

Diane Wright, President of Hollywood Courts and the Resident Advisory Board, said she has heard residents were told AHA didn’t care where they went, even if they had to go live with relatives, but that they had to leave.

“And I believe we shared with you answers to those questions we received from the Councilwoman,” Simms said.

“We did receive the questions and the answers that you all provided to [sic]. And I sent a letter or memo to Ms. Moore who is unable to be with us today to ask her to review it. And to, if she’s satisfied with the answers or she has further answers, of course she can get back in touch with you all,” Chairman Jim Maddox said.

“I have not heard back from her from that memo, pointing out any one that she’s, one way or the other, whether she’s satisfied or not quite satisfied, I really haven’t heard back,” Maddox said.

Maddox asked Council Members if they had questions and none did.

AHA ABSENT FOR PUBLIC TESTIMONY, BRIEFLY RETURNS

At that point, Simms and AHA staff and attorneys prepared to leave.

“I would suggest that you hang around because we have some other people have signed up and they may have questions for you, I don’t know,” Maddox said.

“All right, thank you, Ms. Glover is not in the office today so I will step out for a moment and I’ll come back,” Simms said.

AHA staff and attorneys then left.

Cheri Mitchell, of People First of Georgia, then spoke about her concerns regarding the disabled.

The present writer, Matthew Cardinale, spoke next, presenting an analysis of the demolition applications for Bankhead Courts, Bowen Homes, and Hollywood Courts.

For more information about APN’s analysis of the applications, please see: http://www.atlantaprogressivenews.com/news/0303.html

“First, I would like to point out that AHA has left the room,” this writer said.

“I think we all knew that and they said they would be back. They had to go out and make some calls,” Maddox said.

“I just spoke with him [Simms] and he said he may be back but that is not his intention. He’s taking his contingent towards the highway,” activist Ben Howard interjected.

“And I just think that this is… We’re going to be sending this videotape to the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, and I’m sure they will find that this is very disrespectful to the residents, very disrespectful to the public and those of us who have concerns, and this is part of their pattern so I just wanted to put that on the record,” this writer said.

“Let me ask, if Mr. Simms is out there, please ask him and his delegation to please come back in. Because these people are raising questions, and I think they should be in here to answer them, not to leave the building at this point,” Maddox said.

Simms and his contingent returned during APN’s and Ben Howard presentations and then left again after Simms made two sets of remarks.

Mr. Howard asked whether Councilwoman Moore’s questions and AHA’s answers could be sounded for the public, as well as APN’s questions and AHA’s answers to those.

“Mr. Simms, do you want to go through those at this point?” Maddox asked.

SIMMS’S REMARKS TO APN AND BEN HOWARD

“Mr. Maddox, I don’t want to be disrespectful to you or your Committee. I was not coming here for a Town Hall Meeting. I was not prepared. I can certainly read those questions, the 82 questions I received from APN. They came to the Office on Friday… It’s my responsibility to address those questions,” Simms said.

“I would assume you all gonna respond to the person who sent the questions,” Maddox said.

“Yes sir…” Simms said.

“Much of what was said, and I have to say, that what we’ve been doing is under the cloud of suspicion and those kinds of things. It really is disconcerting,” Simms said.

“First of all, with the applications, we have to get a third-party objective bias [sic] from engineers to certify what we’re suggesting to HUD. HUD also has been here, and all of the properties that we’re recommending for demolition, none of them, not one of them, passed the HUD’s REACT inspections,” Simms said.

The REACT inspections are comprehensive and include items above and beyond and physical condition of the buildings, Wright said, adding Hollywood Courts did not pass REACT inspection because the maintenance room was unclean.

“And when we send these applications, if any of you know anything about HUD or the IGA system or anything, they’re gonna be on the ground. They’re gonna be doing their due diligence. We’re doing the application and they will do their due diligence,” Simms said. “And I just want folks to be engaged and involved in that.”

“And even with the resident consultation, we have done numerous consultations. We’ve had some of those consultations that have included HUD officials to be part of the act and the situations,” Simms said.

AHA’s idea of consultation, however, is telling residents their plans and taking questions.

“And I understand clearly what it means when you give someone a questionnaire, are you for it or are you against it? They can be biased and I admit that, if you’re only presenting one side of it. Do you agree, check here? But just as we’ve done our surveys and they’ve done those,” Simms said.

“But at the end of the day, if you would look at, judge the merits of the applications, and HUD has approved Phase One of those applications and the properties all kind of mirror one another,” Simms said.

“We are where we are and I just want everybody to understand when we submit an application, we’re submitting an application for HUD’s approval. And HUD has to approve that application based on a variety of facts. HUD is aware of the conditions of the properties because they inspect those properties annually… So this is not news coming to HUD that something is wrong,” Simms said.

“And I was not aware I was coming for these presentations or have the appropriate staff to be joining me for the presentations,” Simms said.

“Other folks that come before this Committee and come before the Council, to make presentations come prepared to do just what that person said he did not come prepared to do,” Howard said.

“In addition, they subject themselves to questions by people like me, Dave Walker, Carrie Duncan, and others. But the Atlanta Housing Authority somehow feels that they’re an exception to the rule. That they can come, that they can make what they call a presentation. And not stay to provide any substantiation for their claims except that smattering that he chose,” Howard said.

OTHER PUBLIC COMMENTS

Public comments were also made by Lindsay Jones, private attorney for various residents’ groups; Assistant Professor Deirdre Oakley of Sociology at Georgia State University, who presented her maps showing voucher leasing opportunities are concentrated in poor, Black neighborhoods; Shirley Hightower, President of Bowen Homes; and Anita Beaty, Carl Hartrampf, Boubacarr Sarr, and Tony Thomas from the Task Force for the Homeless, the latter of whom presented a video of residents from Bowen Homes and Hollywood Courts.

MOORE UNSATISFIED WITH AHA’S RESPONSE

“I wanted to come and sort of close the loop for now… Unfortunately, I think it would have been helpful and beneficial to citizens in my communities who were concerned who couldn’t make it down, who were watching to see what some of the answers to the questions were that I posed, but they were not required to sort of reiterate those,” Councilwoman Moore told CD/HR Committee on Tuesday, April 01, 2008.

“I will say… that I’m not satisfied with the answers that was given by the Atlanta Housing Authority. They were very generic and didn’t really speak to the answers I’ve been trying to get, in one question in particular that they have still yet to answer,” Moore said.

The one question is: where are these residents going?

“I guess I’m coming to the realization that the only reason you don’t answer is either you can’t or you don’t want to. I’m not sure which one they’re guilty of, maybe it’s a bit of both,” Moore said.

“So I just wanted to let you all know that I’m not happy at all with Atlanta Housing Authority. I’m not happy with how they operate. I have for years been a very big supporter of Atlanta Housing Authority. I’ve been a big defender of the Housing Authority with other elected officials, members of my community, and others,” Moore said.

“And frankly I feel foolish. Having so vigorously went against those people or try to work and put myself in the way of those people and the Housing Authority to try to work out issues. When in fact I guess it only took a matter of time for me to realize what their real concerns were because I have the same ones now,” Moore said.

“So I just wanted to… let the public know that I am not at all happy with the Housing Auhority, I’m not happy with the response that we get. And that’s putting it politically correct. I could be much more frank than that,” Moore said.

“I have not figured out yet what I’m doing to do. But I’m determined in the back, in my spirit, that the Housing Authority is going to have to make some changes. I’m just not clear on how I’m going to make those happen. But I did want to come and at least express that to you in case I take up more of your time in the future dealing with Housing Authority issues.”

“If this Committee can do anything to assist, we’d be happy to help,” Maddox said.

Moore also complained AHA didn’t respond early enough to where she could seek follow-up, before they sent the applications to HUD.

“They waited until the very last minute… to attempt to answer the questions. Why? Because they knew if they gave it to me two weeks before, which they had plenty of time to do it, I probably would have asked for follow-up,” Moore said.

“It’s the height of arrogance. I think that they are operating the way that they wish to operate. And that’s why I’m here to let you know I’m not comfortable with them, and I don’t care for them frankly at this point. I don’t think that they’re being the way that they should be, particularly since we as a Council and the City support their endeavors,” Moore said.

“But I’ll deal with them one way or the other. What goes around comes around, and it will come back around,” Moore said.

About the author:

Matthew Cardinale is the News Editor for Atlanta Progressive News and may be reached at matthew@atlantaprogressivenews.com.

Revised syndication policy:

Our syndication policy was updated June 2007. For more information on how to syndicate Atlanta Progressive News content, please visit: http://www.atlantaprogressivenews.com/extras/syndicate.html

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