Public housing resident to join board governing city agency

April 13, 1993|By Melody Simmons | Melody Simmons,Staff Writer

Responding to a request from public housing residents, Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke said yesterday that he will appoint a resident to the board that governs the Housing Authority of Baltimore City.

He also promised a coalition of residents and advocacy groups a say in the selection of the authority's new deputy executive director, who is responsible for day-to-day management of public housing.

"We are not going to make any progress without the residents," Mr. Schmoke said. "This coalition is an important development in our effort to improve public housing. We've got to get into a good partnership with the residents."

Mr. Schmoke and Housing Commissioner-designate Daniel P. Henson III met yesterday in East Baltimore with about 50 members of Citizens for Housing Action and New Grassroots Empowerment (CHANGE), who asked for a say in running public housing.

CHANGE is a coalition of public housing residents and Legal Aid, the American Civil Liberties Union, Baltimore Neighborhoods Inc. and the Citizens Planning and Housing Association.

During the meeting, CHANGE also asked Mr. Schmoke for a seat on the Comprehensive Grant Planning Committee, which oversees renovation of public housing units, and regular meetings with his staff on public housing issues.

Mr. Schmoke agreed to the latter and said he would consider the former.

CHANGE was formed in February by residents angered by unsanitary and unsafe living conditions in many of the city's 18,000 public housing units, and by poor maintenance and poor management.

Also in February, Mr. Schmoke ordered the closing of a high-rise building at Lexington Terrace development in West Baltimore after he had spent eight hours inspecting poor conditions there.

That month, the mayor also reassigned Robert W. Hearn from his dual role as head of the Housing Authority and city housing commissioner. Mr. Hearn has been sharply criticized for his low-key management style.

Before he was reassigned, Mr. Hearn, responding to residents' complaints, had fired the authority's deputy director and reassigned the official who supervised maintenance and other daily operations.

Mr. Henson was appointed last month to replace Mr. Hearn.

June Johnson, a member of the public housing coalition and a resident of McCulloh Homes in West Baltimore, welcomed the move toward a partnership of residents and housing officials.

"A lot of us are treated like children, and we are adults. The management needs to understand that," she said.

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