Monday, January 11, 2010

The Englin Initiative

An alert reader yesterday notified us that in a radio interview with Michael Lee Pope Delegate David Englin announced was planning to introduce legislation in the General Assembly to change how public housing authorities like ARHA handle their trespassing policies, making it much more onerous for them to ban criminals from their properties. You can listen to the brief broadcast by visiting this link for Windows Media Player (or this link for Real Player).

Note that ARHA Commissioner Carlyle Ring stated in the interview that many of those banned from public housing have been arrested or convicted of crimes including drug dealing and domestic violence.

Today we now have the text of Del. Englin's proposed bill.

Some readers have asked about the Del Ray legislator's concern about public housing. Apparently he has been cultivating this constituency for some time. His donor report for January 1, 2008 to December 31, 2009 states that one of the activities his campaign paid for were public housing cookouts and voter registration drives.

A 2005 press release from "Arlington/Alexandria for Democracy" which endorsed Mr. Englin states that "Many members were also genuinely moved by hearing how Englin and his wife Shayna had talked to many residents of local public housing projects who had never been approached by political campaigns."

Nothing wrong with that, but it could be that this bill is a formal payback for public housing votes. Whether it is viable in the General Assembly remains to be seen.

FWTW, Del. Englin posted a comment this morning (on the previous posting) stating that "The Housing Authority Barment Due Process Act would not prevent ARHA or the police from barring criminals from ARHA property. However, it would ensure due process before a person who has not committed a crime can be barred from visiting their children and parents who live in ARHA housing."

But in looking over the text of the bill, the Growler fails to see where any distinction is made about those who are barred for bad behavior and those who are barred owing to an arrest or conviction. It would appear that the latter are equally protected by this bureaucratic process and can buy time by initiating an appeal.

In the meantime, if readers wish to express their concern about this measure they should E-mail Del. Englin directly at DelDEnglin@house.virginia.gov.

A little later ...

The more the Growler gives this legislation thought, the more alarming it appears. Not the requirement for written policies that are prominently posted and distributed. But the provision that allows appeal to the housing authority chairman. It would appear this bill is designed to weaken the power of a reforming housing authority chief executive officer (in ARHA's case Roy Priest) and give the chairman ultimate veto power on barment, as the appeal is to the chairman or his/her designate -- not the full housing authority commission.

As a reader commented, this may have its origins in the recent scuffle between Roy Priest and Melvin Miller over someone who was barred from ARHA property. And it doesn't look encouraging.