All 9 Talk At Forum In City

Mayoral Race

Remarks On Public Housing Stress Communications And Creating Opportunity

July 26, 2009|By Nicole Fuller | Nicole Fuller,nicole.fuller@baltsun.com

The nine candidates vying to be Annapolis' next mayor discussed public housing issues ranging from funding to revitalization and social services at a recent forum hosted by the Housing Authority of Annapolis.

The seven Democrats, one Republican and one independent spoke mostly in broad terms of improving communication and collaboration between public housing residents and city government and creating opportunity for residents.

Housing Commissioner Michael Jackson posed perhaps the most controversial question of the forum, asking candidates if there should be a time limit on families living in the city's public housing, which is often home to generations of families.

Just one candidate, Chris Fox, an independent who owns the Sly Fox Pub on Church Circle, answered yes.

"HUD should put a time limit if they're physically and mentally able to get a job and if we can offer them a pathway to job training and nondependency on the federal government," said Fox, adding that those conditions should be a requirement. "Just kicking them out would be like kicking them to the curb."

Republican David Cordle, an investigator with the county state's attorney's office and a Ward 5 alderman, said there is "always going to need to be a safety net," but that he would work for job training to help residents "move up, on and out."

Zina Pierre, a political consultant and Democrat, said "We will always need a safety net."

Wayne Taylor, a Democrat and former alderman, answered bluntly that there should be "no time limit," but added that residents should "not be allowed to be aimless," saying that he would work for job training.

The candidates tackled another controversial issue when asked to talk about the redevelopment of public housing. The Housing Authority is working on a $12 million redevelopment project at the College Creek Terrace-Obery Court project. Many residents of the city's public housing have said they see the redevelopment as a way of steering public housing residents out of the city, with its expensive real estate.

Trudy McFall, a Democrat and former chairwoman of the board of commissioners of the Housing Authority, said officials "absolutely need to redevelop and transform" public housing and blamed HUD for allocating "too few resources" to the city.

Josh Cohen, a Democrat and member of the County Council, said, "They need to be rebuilt, but the Housing Authority needs to work with residents to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to come back after it's rebuilt."

Sam Shropshire, a Democrat and alderman in Ward 7, said he thinks the city needs more Section 8 vouchers and Habitat for Humanity homes. "The whole damn thing needs to be rebuilt. I've been in these places that are falling apart."

Gilbert Renaut, a Democrat and retired attorney, said, "Redevelopment isn't a bad thing if you have an administration you trust."

Laurie Sears Deppa, a Democrat who joined the race last week, told the audience that she had just learned of the forum a few hours before but had "done research."

"I want to bring a new management style to the city," said Sears Deppa. We need to tighten the ship up." Of public housing, Sears Deppa said, "It shouldn't be a hammock. It should be a safety net."

Wednesday's forum was the second of several planned before the fall election. The candidates are battling for the office held by Mayor Ellen O. Moyer, who is term-limited.

The two-hour forum, attended by about 50 people, began with a three-minute introduction from each candidate, followed by questions from both the housing authority commissioners and the audience. Candidates received one minute to respond to each question. Linda Denning, executive director of the Anne Arundel Conflict Resolution Center, moderated the forum.

Many of the candidates spoke of their personal encounters with public housing. Pierre said she and her family briefly lived in public housing. Shropshire referred repeatedly to visiting public housing residents and having dinner in their apartments. Renaut said he had campaigned in public housing and "got the warmest welcome."

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