Monday, January 12, 2009

Winds of Change?

Tomorrow night the Alexandria City Council will fill two vacancies on the ARHA board. One is due to the retirement of Ruby Tucker, the other due to the expiration of A. Melvin Miller's term

This is indeed a major fork in the road for Council. In this election year, will they demonstrate their commitment to reforming a scandal-ridden housing agency and improving its notoriously slipshod management by appointing fresh leadership?

Or will it be business as usual?

In contrast to years gone by, there are now several strong candidates for the ARHA board — individuals with meaningful policy and operational experience.

And in another departure from precedent, Council held an executive session last month (and will do so again immediately before Tuesday's meeting) to interview candidates in depth. This is a good indicator that the Council at last takes citizen concerns about ARHA seriously.

But this is only window dressing if Council falls back on old habits and reflexively reappoints A. Melvin Miller. It will also speak little for their confidence in governing our community if they line up once again behind someone who, in many public sessions last year on BEAG and Bland, repeatedly displayed an obstructionism, a suspiciousness and a lack of respect for the elected officials who are trying to salvage his agency.

It's also time to stop appointing individuals who bring nothing to the table but ineffectual advocacy. ARHA's board needs serious reform and it needs members with discernable skills and a willingness to tackle the issues. And yes, compassion too.

Given the recent scandals involving repeated FBI raids, housing operations director Mary Ishe's pending drug charges and the departure of former CEO William Dearman after negotiating a legally questionable contract with another ARHA manager's significant other, it's time for a fresh start.

And you, readers, can help.

Click on the link on the right (under Tell 'Em What You Think) to send a group E-mail message to the Mayor and Council. Be polite and succinct (no ranting) but let them know your expectations about tomorrow's appointments and that they will be held accountable in May for their actions this month.