Councilman Butt: Politics seizing housing authority issue

Community View: Illegal dumping along section of Richmond Greenway 'out of control'
Councilman Tom Butt
Councilman Tom Butt

(Councilman Tom Butt reacts in his e-forum Thursday to Wednesday night’s emotional meeting on the Richmond Housing Authority.)

“In an election year with everyone on the City Council but me campaigning for something, I suppose it’s not surprising that the fear of losing an election has overtaken the satisfaction of making rational choices. The entire City Council seems to have adopted the “The Campaigner’s Creed,” which goes something like this:


  1. “Never say no to anyone. Ever”
  2.  “Never do anything to make anyone unhappy. Ever. Each unhappy person is a vote for your opponent.”
  3. “Never turn down a request from a business interest or developer. That’s kissing a campaign contribution goodbye.”
  4. “Whatever the press says must be true.”

Last night, The Richmond City Council, sitting, with two resident commissioners as the nine-member Board of Commissioners of the Housing Authority, voted 6-3 to ignore the advice of City Manager Bill Lindsay and hold a no-confidence vote on two City employees.  See Lindsay’s advice copied at the end of this email.

Then, they voted unanimously, with me absent, to spend $500,000 that the City does not have to move some 130 people out of Hacienda as soon as possible. In the process, they will use up money for approximately 130 Section 8 vouchers that were being held in reserve because of anticipated further HUD funding cuts resulting from the sequester. Worst case scenario is that when that money goes away, Hacienda residents that will have been scattered all over in privately owned Section 8 rentals will lose their vouchers and will become homeless. No one conducted a poll to find out how many Hacienda residents would rather move out on Section 8 vouchers rather than stay. A vocal minority of Hacienda residents has been controlling this agenda ever since the yellow press descended on Richmond. See Campaigner’s Creed, items 1, 2 and 4.

Whatever problems it has, at least Hacienda groups together people who have need of certain social services, making it convenient for both providers and recipients. For example, the Housing Authority has an MOU with the CCC Mental Health and Vocational Services Department, which has an office on site at the Hacienda #115 and provides mental health and vocational services to the residents. Once they are scattered, service will be much more difficult.

Most people don’t seem to understand that the Richmond Housing Authority is supposed to be a 100% HUD-funded operation. All the City is supposed to do is manage it. When the City kicks in $500,000 it doesn’t have, that’s money that will never be paid back and will not be spent for public safety, potholes and parks. It’s like a subsidy to the federal government by Richmond taxpayers.

The City Council and the press, inexplicably, continue to ignore the fact that the root cause of the Housing Authority’s problems is severe underfunding by HUD. Instead, they want to blame Housing Authority staff, each other, racism, classism, elitism and anyone and anything else other than the agency responsible.

This was all against the advice of Tim Jones who recommended at least waiting 90-120 days with the chance that HUD might pay for it rather than the City.

I left the meeting before the vote was taken because chaos reigned in the chamber and the mayor was either unable or unwilling to keep order and allow me to even speak on the issue.

If there is any good news it is that ultimately when Bates’ “no confidence” vote was taken, it failed with Booze, Bates and Thompson voting yes, McLaughlin and Myrick  abstaining, Hall and Rogers no, and Butt and Beckles absent.”

– Councilman Tom Butt