O'Malley appoints housing commissioner

Patricia Payne served in state Cabinet

wants to increase homeownership

February 02, 2000|By Gerard Shields | Gerard Shields,SUN STAFF

Mayor Martin O'Malley completed his Cabinet yesterday, naming former state Housing Secretary Patricia J. Payne as Baltimore's housing commissioner.

As director of the Housing Authority of Baltimore City and the city Department of Housing and Community Development, Payne will be responsible for 2,200 city employees and a $300 million annual budget for services ranging from sheltering the homeless to issuing building permits.

O'Malley credited Payne, who served as state housing secretary and deputy for seven years, with knowing state and federal housing programs that he hopes can help Baltimore rebuild poor neighborhoods and reduce the number of 20,000 families waiting for public housing.

"I'm constantly running into people that say, `You know there's state money available for that, there's federal money available for that,'" O'Malley said. "She knows what to apply for because she's created the programs."

A resident of Guilford, Payne welcomed a return yesterday to the city housing agency where she started 35 years ago as a Pennsylvania Avenue community organizer.

"I already know its going to be great fun working for this mayor," Payne said. "Baltimore will be seen as the comeback kid of American cities."

Payne, 56, listed improving city neighborhoods and increasing homeownership as her top priorities. Payne also said she will re-examine the city's vacant- home demolition program.

The city estimates that it has about 40,000 vacant or abandoned homes in addition to managing 17,000 public housing units.

"I wouldn't want the job," said state Comptroller William Donald Schaefer, a former Baltimore mayor. "But she's tough, a good choice."

Gov. Parris N. Glendening replaced Payne in her state post in 1998. The two apparently had differences over his Smart Growth policy, two sources said yesterday. Payne has since worked as president and chief operating officer of the Shelter Policy Institute, a Baltimore group of private companies specializing in multifamily housing.

Payne succeeds Housing Commissioner Daniel P. Henson III, who stepped down in December after O'Malley announced he would not be reappointed.

Henson gained accolades for making Baltimore one of the nation's first cities to tear down high-rise public housing projects and replace them with mixed-income townhouse neighborhoods.

Henson and O'Malley, a former city councilman, clashed over agency spending and housing policies. Henson left earning $120,000 a year. Payne's salary will be set by the city Board of Estimates.

In addition to her 17 years with the state, she served with the federal U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development from 1979 to 1981 with former city Housing Commissioner Robert C. Embry Jr.

Embry ran the city housing agency under Schaefer and served on O'Malley's housing transition committee. Payne defeated at least 10 other candidates for the post, Embry said yesterday.

"She has an amazing combination of experiences," Embry said. "And she's a dedicated city person, she knows the issues."

City Council President Sheila Dixon welcomed Payne's appointment, saying she hopes to hold community forums on housing issues before Payne's City Council confirmation hearings.

The council's executive appointments committee will consider the reappointments of Health Director Dr. Peter L. Beilenson and Fire Chief Herman Williams Jr. at 2 p.m. today. At 5 p.m., they will review the nomination of Col. Ronald L. Daniel as police commissioner.

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