Moyer seeks larger board

Wants 9 members on team overseeing city's public housing

`Different perspectives'

Critics say mayor, who would name 4, aims to control panel

March 11, 2002|By Amanda J. Crawford | Amanda J. Crawford,SUN STAFF

Mayor Ellen O. Moyer has asked the state to nearly double the number of commissioners on the Annapolis Housing Authority's board - a move that critics say is a thinly veiled "power grab" by the new mayor.

The state legislation would increase the number of commissioners from five to nine, enabling Moyer to appoint four new members to the board that oversees the city's 10 public housing properties.

Moyer said the increase would allow for broader expertise among board members, more resident participation and a city council representative. This would help the board change roles from property manager to community developer, she said.

"We need to bring a broader breadth of experience and talent to the board," Moyer said. "By enlarging the board, you enlarge the vision."

Moyer's request for the state legislation that is needed to change the size of the board came as her public housing transition team was finalizing a report that recommended increasing the board to seven members. The Housing Commission of Anne Arundel County, which manages 350 units compared with the city's 1,100, has a seven-member board.

The team recommended that at least three of the commissioners be residents. Currently, one tenant is appointed to the board.

After reviewing the transition team's recommendation, Moyer said she believes a nine-member board would allow for more of a "variety of different perspectives" than a seven-member board if three of the members are tenants. She said she would like to see members with expertise in banking, real estate, social services and other fields.

`Control of the board'

Others note that a nine-member board could give Moyer, who appointed community activist and entertainer Parris Lane to fill a vacant board seat last month, an instant majority of supporters on the independent board, which is governed by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development.

"She would gain immediate control of the board," said former Alderman Herbert H. McMillan, who challenged Moyer in the mayoral race. "That's why it appears it is a power grab."

The Rev. Mamie A. Williams, who led the transition team, and other city representatives addressed Anne Arundel County's state delegation in support of the legislation Friday. When a legislator asked how the Housing Authority's current commissioners feel about the legislation, given that none was present, Williams told them, "I think they are in support of it."

After the meeting, Williams acknowledged that she was "not sure" how the commissioners feel, but sensed from earlier meetings "an attitude of cooperation."

The chairman of the Housing Authority's board of commissioners, Howard Pinskey, could not be reached for comment Friday. But in published reports, Pinskey has criticized the move to increase the number of commissioners, saying he does not think it is a good idea and referring to it as a "power grab" designed to oust embattled Executive Director P. Holden Croslan.

Croslan has led the historically troubled agency since 1998 and is credited by some with pulling the authority from the brink of bankruptcy. But she also has been harshly criticized by residents and activists, including a member of Moyer's transition team, as unresponsive to residents' concerns. The board of commissioners renewed Croslan's contract last year, but can pay her to leave at any time.

Seeking a `high standard'

Moyer denied that her intention is to get rid of Croslan, but acknowledged that she thinks the Housing Authority has "big problems" that she hopes to change through board appointees who would encourage "a high standard."

"It is dirty, it is trashy, the roofs leak and the rec centers are closed up - it is not a high standard," she said of public housing properties.

She said the Housing Authority presents "an attitude of not caring" and questioned whether the authority's financial problems ever were as serious as Croslan's supporters contend.

Still, Moyer said, she is not sure that Croslan needs to go in order to inspire change to the Housing Authority.

"She is a talented, skilled person, and she is quite capable of moving the Housing Authority ahead," Moyer said. "There is an accusation that this is a power grab to fire the executive director, and that is not it at all."

"She is capable of doing good things," Moyer said, "but she needs to be encouraged to do more. It is the board that encourages."

Croslan said she is proud of her record at the Housing Authority.

"I think that we are probably the best-run agency in the city," Croslan said.

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