Housing Dept. retreat was a genuine effort to improve...

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

November 19, 1999

Housing Dept. retreat was a genuine effort to improve service

As the person responsible for ensuring that the Housing Authority of Baltimore Citys (HABC) operations do not violate either ethical or legal parameters, I take exception to The Suns editorial Big spender (Nov. 11).

The editorial refers to the management retreat held at St. Michaels as misuse of the publics dollar. . . This characterization is unfair. It implies that public money was not used for a proper public purpose, or to improve HABC operations. This is not the case.

This event was not a New Age corporate seance or a government boondoggle to relieve management stress. Rather, it was an intensive two-day executive planning session to issue instructions for a long-planned reorganization.

This is the culmination of a three-year effort to make the Housing Authority more responsive to those we serve, and to address the ways public housing is changing because of welfare reform and many other influences.

Underpinning this efforts is the belief that the authority can do better, and should not repeat past errors. The Suns suggestion that such a planning session should be postponed until a new housing commissioner arrives strikes me as extraordinarily shortsighted. To put an organizational plan on hold, simply because of an election, would be a disservice to those who have contributed thousands of hours to this effort and could delay improvements in our service.

That would be a real waste. The business of government does not stop simply because of a change in leadership.

I was at this retreat, and I saw no waste or abuse. I did see a lot of hard work by dedicated employees. I will reserve judgment on the value of the retreat until I can assess its effectiveness. The Sun would do well to do likewise.

John A. Goebeler

Baltimore

The writer is inspector general of the Housing Authority of Baltimore City.

On behalf of the 54 Housing Authority of Baltimore City division directors and program managers who worked diligently at our recent retreat, I must take strong exception to The Suns editorial Big spender (Nov. 11).

This retreat was the culmination of three years of effort by eight task forces -- comprised of residents, employees, private sector consultants, Department of Housing and Urban Development representatives and many others. A number of factors precipitated this effort, including changes in HUD regulations and welfare-to-work programs.

It would have been irresponsible of me, and of the agency, not to carry forward this series of initiatives assuring HABCs continued position as one of the nations top housing authorities.

My job at this point is to provide a seamless transition for the next administration. I am not a caretaker. I am an active participant in assuring that no momentum is lost.

Daniel P. Henson III

Baltimore

The writer is commissioner of the Housing Authority of Baltimore City.

Ellicott City: a village that renews our spirit

The suggestion that Ellicott City is too unsafe an environment to be rebuilt is absurd (The hidden dangers of Main Street charm, editorial Nov. 11). This fabulous village has been rebuilding from adversity since its founding in the 1700s.

I grew up in the area and owned a shop in Ellicott City during Hurricane Agnes. Its village spirit and physical structures enrich me every time I visit. We are all lucky to have such a viable example of the past so close to our modern world.

But some rewards still come with risks -- and surely the residents and merchants were aware that their unique environment did not offer all the modern safeguards.

Of course, everything must be done to prevent future fires. Plans must be developed to handle future emergencies. If sprinklers are the answer for fire safety, funds must be found to install them.

But to suggest that Ellicott City be abandoned as unsafe shows we are no longer willing to fight for what makes us unique or makes our hearts content.

Dolores Deluxe

Baltimore

In digesting the announced cause of the Ellicott City fire (Smoking cited as cause of Ellicott City fire, Nov. 16), two thoughts:

If the sale of tobacco to minors is illegal, how did a 17-year old get a cigarette?

If employees had been allowed a smoking area with proper receptacles, rather than being forced to smoke outside, would the fire have occurred at all?

W. L. Wilson

Hydes

Historic Fort Howard must be preserved

While the closing of the Fort Howard VA Medical Center is a given, the Veterans Administrations proposal to level thepropertys historic structures should not proceed without a public outcry (Holiday protest is step in veterans fight to save Fort Howard hospital, Nov. 12).

Many of these structures, including the officers row of housing, date from the 1890s and the early 20th century

As a well-preserved example of the Endicott era of coastal defense fortifications, Fort Howard has few peers. Many former forts have been converted to diverse uses, but few have so many of their original buildings still intact.

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