Crowd decries housing policy

Petitions presented against limit on electrical appliances

March 07, 2000|By Amy Oakes | Amy Oakes,SUN STAFF

Protesters packed a small meeting room at the Annapolis Housing Authority yesterday afternoon to complain about poor living conditions at the city's 10 public housing developments.

Earlier yesterday, a few Annapolis aldermen worked on reviving an ordinance giving the city the power to inspect Housing Authority properties. The authority does not answer to city officials but to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The protest by more than 150 people -- a crowd that stretched down the hallway at the authority's monthly board of commissioners meeting -- culminated five days of community work to improve the quality of life for the nearly 3,000 people in Annapolis public housing.

"We are no longer going to be dumped on," Robert Eades told the board of commissioners to cheers of support. "This commission is supposed to represent us."

Eades presented the board two petitions. One petition, with 336 signatures, targets policies in new Housing Authority leases, such as limits on the number of electrical appliances allowed. The other, signed by 411 people, supports the right of tenants to file collective grievances against the authority about the recent removal of appliances such as window air conditioners, freezers and washing machines.

Harold Pinskey, the board chairman, said the petitions will be reviewed before recommendations, if any, are made.

The meeting became heated at times as residents and community leaders tried to address the board and P. Holden Croslan, the housing authority's executive director.

Pinskey said the commissioners had an agenda to follow. "There is nothing on here that says we should entertain every question from the public," he said. He asked that representatives, rather than each person, speak.

Some of the 15 people who spoke talked about having to give up their air conditioners, washers and other appliances. Croslan assured them that the only people asked to remove air conditioners were those who had electrical fires after power overloads.

Several people suggested a need for better communication between the board and residents, though Croslan said she holds monthly meetings with tenant council presidents.

Carl O. Snowden, special assistant to County Executive Janet S. Owens, offered to help.

"These aren't manufactured problems," Snowden told the commissioners. "These are real problems."

Snowden spoke at a meeting Thursday at First Baptist Church on West Washington Street, encouraging more than 200 public housing residents to attend the commissioners meeting. The petitions were started at that rally.

Two days later, Eades conducted a tour of College Creek Terrace and Obery Court with several elected city officials, including Mayor Dean L. Johnson and Aldermen Samuel Gilmer and Cynthia Carter.

For an hour and a half, the group walked through homes in which windows had been knocked out, pipes had burst and doors hung off hinges.

Carter, a Ward 6 Democrat, said, "These places aren't fit for animals."

Carter said she and Gilmer met with Johnson yesterday morning about an ordinance to take control of public housing inspections. Gilmer said the ordinance would include passing the cost of inspections to the housing authority.

A similar ordinance, introduced in 1997, failed, Gilmer said. The Ward 3 Democrat had voted against it, but said he now sees it as a necessity.

Alderman Herbert H. McMillan, a Ward 5 Republican, said he thinks he and other aldermen should have been invited on the tour, arguing that his ward has more people living in public housing than others.

McMillan said he also submitted a resolution to give the city control of inspections at public housing developments.

"Some people might talk about it, but I'm going to do it," McMillan said.

Croslan said she would not be opposed to the ordinance if the city deems it necessary.

"I think our standards are higher or as high as the city standards," she said after the meeting. "But, if they think it's a good idea, fine with me."

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