A time to quit

Published 10:28 pm Thursday, October 2, 2008

I attended the Wednesday, Sept.19, Franklin Redevelopment and Housing Authority meeting. What I heard at that meeting both shocked and horrified me. When I turn on my TV, I feel bombarded by bad news concerning the meltdown of our national economy due to the mismanagement of our housing and mortgage banking investment companies on Wall Street and the lack of oversight by the U.S. Congress. What I heard at the FRHA meeting made me feel that I would now see a coming catastrophe in Franklin caused by the mismanagement of the authority’s Board of Commissioners and the lack of oversight by the Franklin City Council.

It is a little known fact that the FRHA is a troubled agency listed under the Cleveland TARC. Instead of waiting for HUD to clear them to operate as a responsible agency, able to contribute to society, the City Council continually pretends that the agency is competent and able to do what they have shown they are not; i.e., manage their budget and execute their mission statement. Some probably failing financial institution has given the FRHA a credit line of $1 million. The Commissioners haven’t made a decision on how to spend the credit yet, that will come at their retreat next month. But they discussed and debated enough to make it clear that they wanted to spend that credit as soon as possible.

Their favorite idea of the night dealt with borrowing $1 million in order to buy a lot of Langston Street-type affordable homes around the city to sell to low-income families. This didn’t make sense to me because they can’t sell the empty new houses and lots on Langston Street that are already in their portfolio. I guess they know this plan wasn’t the best and one of them said that if they couldn’t find buyers they could always rent the houses out. Here’s where the horror comes in. The FRHA has a pre-waiting list of 422 families seeking public housing. The city has 1,714 black families that are severely impacted by an inability to afford rental housing, according to the FRHA. The city has a housing shortage of two- and one-bedroom homes. So, they spend an hour trying to figure out how they can buy a couple of $250 thousand houses around the city that they will rent to low-income tenants for about $300 to $400 a month. Once the FRHA buys a house, it comes off of the city tax rolls, which means less money for schools, police and other community needs. Just imagine where we will be in a few years. The taxpayers will be paying even higher city property taxes to cover all of the lost revenue due to a huge portfolio of FRHA’s rental mansions spread all over the city.

In my humble opinion, we better do something to stop this idea and we need to do it quickly. I think asking Vice Mayor Raystine Johnson to step off of the Board of Commissioners will help some. Benny Burgess stepped down from the FRHA Board when he was elected. Johnson’s resignation will allow the council to be more impartial and objective when dealing with the FRHA. The City Council is the only body that can make the FRHA fiscally responsible, and stop them from sticking the tax papers with a big bill for nothing useful. Johnson should do her part and quit the FRHA.