Commies in Congress

Oh, maybe that headline is too hyperbolic. Maybe it should read Democratic Socialists in Congress.  Hat tip to Gateway Pundit for posting “American Socialists Release names of 70 Congressional Democrats in their ranks”.  There are a whole lot of nasty people on this list:

Co-Chairs
Hon. Raúl M. Grijalva (AZ-07)
Hon. Lynn Woolsey (CA-06)

Vice Chairs
Hon. Diane Watson (CA-33)
Hon. Sheila Jackson-Lee (TX-18)
Hon. Mazie Hirono (HI-02)
Hon. Dennis Kucinich (OH-10)

Senate Members
Hon. Bernie Sanders (VT)

House Members
Hon. Neil Abercrombie (HI-01)
Hon. Tammy Baldwin (WI-02)
Hon. Xavier Becerra (CA-31)
Hon. Madeleine Bordallo (GU-AL)
Hon. Robert Brady (PA-01)
Hon. Corrine Brown (FL-03)
Hon. Michael Capuano (MA-08)
Hon. André Carson (IN-07)
Hon. Donna Christensen (VI-AL)
Hon. Yvette Clarke (NY-11)
Hon. William “Lacy” Clay (MO-01)
Hon. Emanuel Cleaver (MO-05)
Hon. Steve Cohen (TN-09)
Hon. John Conyers (MI-14)
Hon. Elijah Cummings (MD-07)
Hon. Danny Davis (IL-07)
Hon. Peter DeFazio (OR-04)
Hon. Rosa DeLauro (CT-03)
Rep. Donna F. Edwards (MD-04)
Hon. Keith Ellison (MN-05)
Hon. Sam Farr (CA-17)
Hon. Chaka Fattah (PA-02)
Hon. Bob Filner (CA-51)
Hon. Barney Frank (MA-04)
Hon. Marcia L. Fudge (OH-11)
Hon. Alan Grayson (FL-08)
Hon. Luis Gutierrez (IL-04)
Hon. John Hall (NY-19)
Hon. Phil Hare (IL-17)
Hon. Maurice Hinchey (NY-22)
Hon. Michael Honda (CA-15)
Hon. Jesse Jackson, Jr. (IL-02)
Hon. Eddie Bernice Johnson (TX-30)
Hon. Hank Johnson (GA-04)
Hon. Marcy Kaptur (OH-09)
Hon. Carolyn Kilpatrick (MI-13)
Hon. Barbara Lee (CA-09)
Hon. John Lewis (GA-05)
Hon. David Loebsack (IA-02)
Hon. Ben R. Lujan (NM-3)
Hon. Carolyn Maloney (NY-14)
Hon. Ed Markey (MA-07)
Hon. Jim McDermott (WA-07)
Hon. James McGovern (MA-03)
Hon. George Miller (CA-07)
Hon. Gwen Moore (WI-04)
Hon. Jerrold Nadler (NY-08)
Hon. Eleanor Holmes-Norton (DC-AL)
Hon. John Olver (MA-01)
Hon. Ed Pastor (AZ-04)
Hon. Donald Payne (NJ-10)
Hon. Chellie Pingree (ME-01)
Hon. Charles Rangel (NY-15)
Hon. Laura Richardson (CA-37)
Hon. Lucille Roybal-Allard (CA-34)
Hon. Bobby Rush (IL-01)
Hon. Linda Sánchez (CA-47)
Hon. Jan Schakowsky (IL-09)
Hon. José Serrano (NY-16)
Hon. Louise Slaughter (NY-28)
Hon. Pete Stark (CA-13)
Hon. Bennie Thompson (MS-02)
Hon. John Tierney (MA-06)
Hon. Nydia Velazquez (NY-12)
Hon. Maxine Waters (CA-35)
Hon. Mel Watt (NC-12)
Hon. Henry Waxman (CA-30)
Hon. Peter Welch (VT-AL)
Hon. Robert Wexler (FL-19)

The list includes (alleged) crooks like Charlie Rangel and Maxine Waters to useful idiots like ‘Baghdad Jim’ McDermott to FARC’s best friend James McGovern.

Public Housing HOPE VI Program

I looked into the HUD HOPE VI program that City Council candidate John Olshefski proposed at the SHCA forum.  HOPE VI is a pot of federal grant money available for “revitalizing” “severely distressed” public housing units.  The GAO published a report (GAO-03-555) in May 2003 that appears to form the basis for much of the discussion about HOPE VI, including the ExpectMore.gov program assessment website (which includes current data).

The Bush administration recommended “terminating the HOPE VI program” in 2004 – that was their “Ongoing Program Improvement Plan” (as it turns out that might have saved tens of millions of wasted, frauded, and abused tax dollars).  Note that the program seems to have improved somewhat since then.

As one might expect, the GAO reported that the program was over-budget, behind-schedule, and under-performing.  Housing authorities were 27% complete after having spent half of the money during the standard 54 month schedule.  The activities that were tracked included planning, relocation, demolition, construction, and support services.  The activity that housing authorities performed best was… wait for it… demolition (what an apt metaphor).

From the HOPE VI program assessment: “The program has been shown to be more costly than other programs that serve the same population… the housing-related costs of a HOPE VI unit were shown to be 27 percent higher than a housing voucher and 47 percent higher when all costs were included.”

On the left hand, the HOPE VI program has been criticized for reducing the public housing stock:  the program demolished more public housing (~80K units) than it created (~45K units), while subsidizing an near equal amount of private homes (~40K units). 

The 2009 funding level was $100 million and that amount is expected to be leveraged times six (that is for every tax dollar awarded, private developers are expected to invest at least six bucks, and recently as much as nine dollars).  Given the x6 or x9 leverage factor, I don’t see why a developer would participate since thay have to somehow develop some high value housing / commercial next to a housing development.

Note that the Huntsville Housing Authority is a ‘high performing agency’ – this improves the chances that a grant would be awarded.  However, one of the criteria used in the grant evaluation is a high crime rate (“demonstrate need”) – and we’ve been told all year that HHA properties are nearly crime-free…  Plus, the properties must be “severly distressed” and require an engineering certification saying so – but the HHA actually does a creditable job of maintaining their properties.  Ah, the irony…

To be fair to Olshefski, the HOPE VI developments in Louisville to which he referred (especially Park DuValle), seem to be award-winning successful projects.  However, The American Journal of Economics and Sociology published “Hope VI housing program:was it effective?” in 2007, which focuses on the Park DuValle project:

Mean household income for residents of Park DuValle is about $26,000 in a city in which the per capita income averages $29,300… Both figures are significantly greater than the $5,000 a year household income when the development was government housing (then called Cotter & Lang Homes) reserved for the very poor… However, less than 5 percent of the relocated public housing residents are currently living in the Park DuValle Revitalization Project. So whom does Hope VI truly serve?

Comparisons show that the cost of producing one housing unit is two to three times higher for the HOPE VI developments than for comparable community-controlled nonprofits. During the same time period as the HOPE VI project, the nonprofit Louisville Central Development Corporation was able to build units for as low as $49,500 for a three-bedroom, one full-bath apartment… Compare this to the $54,232,667 spent on Park DuValle to date, producing 320 residential units at a cost of $169,000 per unit… In 2003, 18,000 new homes were sold in the Louisville market. Seventy percent of home sales were priced for less than $150,000.

In conclusion, the research implies that HOPE VI enhances the lives of only a small number of public housing residents that it impacts, and that non-public housing residents seem to occupy a large majority of the housing units. A better way to spend federal money would have been to fund grassroots community nonprofits, building more housing at a significantly lower cost and achieving the objective of building within established urban areas near good jobs, services, and recreational opportunities.

Pew report on Underfunded Retirement Systems

The Pew Center on the States published the The Trillion Dollar Gap: Underfunded State Retirement Systems and the Road to Reform”:

$1 trillion. That’s the gap at the end of fiscal year 2008 between the $2.35 trillion states had set aside to pay for employees’ retirement benefits and the $3.35 trillion price tag of those promises.

Why does it matter? Because every dollar spent to reduce the unfunded retirement liability cannot be used for education, public safety and other needs. Ultimately, taxpayers could face higher taxes or cuts in essential public services…

To a significant degree, the $1 trillion reflects states’ own policy choices and lack of discipline:

  • failing to make annual payments for pension systems at the levels recommended by their own actuaries;
  • expanding benefits and offering cost-of-living increases without fully considering their long-term price tag or determining how to pay for them; and
  • providing retiree health care without adequately funding it.

The Pew Report says that the Alabama Retirement System “needs improvement” (Alabama doesn’t fund accrued liabilities at the GAO-recommended percentage – we’re at 77% instead of 80% making us a “laggard in state pension funding”).  Overall on the pension side, Alabama doesn’t rate as a “solid performer” in any category, but we’re not that bad, and we don’t rate “serious concerns” in any category.

The report notes that our 2008 State Retirement “latest liability” is $40,206,232,000.  Our “latest unfunded liability” is $9.2B.  Our “annual required contribution” and “latest actual contribution” was over a $1B  (we were one of the few States to meet the contributions to the penny – for example Illinois, which is in crisis, should have contributed $3.7B but only contributed $2.2B).

However, on the retiree health care side we don’t do as well:  the report notes that the State Retiree Health Care “latest liability” is about $16B with the “latest unfunded liability” at about $15.5B – this is bad.  The State’s “annual required contribution” is $1.3B and the “latest actual contribution” is $1.1B – that’s a couple of hundred million worth of bad.  Focusing only on the retiree health care funding we are in the seriously messed up category.

Some of the general recommendations Pew makes are:

“Keep up with funding requirements”
“Reducing benefits or increasing the retirement age”
“Sharing the risk with employees” (i.e, 401K)
“Increasing employee contributions”
“Governance and Investment Oversight” (i.e., Alabama’s RSA)

Some “structural issues” that “make it more difficult for states to keep up with the needs of current workers and retirees” are:

“Early retirement” (bad idea – like Huntsville’s buy-out)
“Cost of living adjustments”
“Sharing excess returns”
“Double dipping”
“Spiking final salaries”

Pew notes that dealing with public sector unions (i.e., AEA) make addressing the problem “a struggle”.  They also say that “Pension Obligation Bonds” are a bad idea (“use caution”) – think the JeffCo Sewer mess.  Another problem is that states use rosy “investment return assumptions” – Pew says Alabama assumes 8% return on investments.

Pew identifies four states as “models for success”.  Florida for “providing consistent funding”; Nebraska for “reducing risk through a cash balance plan” (like an IRA);  Iowa for “benefit caps and adjustable employee contributions”;  and Georgia for “understanding the impact of reform” (any legislation affecting retiree benefits requires an actuarial study of the long term impact).

The State pension plans included in Pew’s analysis are: “Teacher’s Retirement System”, “Employee’s Retirement System”, and “Judicial Retirement Fund”.  The State retiree health plans included are: “Retired State Employees’ Health Care Trusts” and “Retired  Education Employees’ Health Care Trust”.

The Pew report is a good read, but kind of scary.

Educate them

Me and several of my stereotypically ugly rancorous prejudiced nasty fellow citizens attended the Huntsville City Council working session tonight, where we were harangued by a sanctimonious ‘Fair Housing’ agitator.

City Councilman Will Culver arranged for Fair Housing ‘experts’ to address a working meeting of the Huntsville City Council, including George Jones of the Fair Housing Center of North Alabama (the group that threatened to sue the City over the Drummond Road house).   Jones launched into a thinly-disguised sales pitch for education programs and other services.  In my opinion he and his group are hustlers trying to shake down the City by threatening lawsuits with one hand and offering services with the other.

Jones said he “respects the opposition”, even as he uses phrases like “unfortunately”, “acrimony”, “rancorous”, “real ugly”, “nasty”, and the “heavy tinge of hostility”.  He presented his opinions as “very important” (many times) and his approach to opposing views was to “educate them” (I don’t think he realized that he was in a room with people who are ‘educated’ on housing issues).

The meeting ended prematurely because of the tornado – it passed over City Hall shaking the building – we evacuated to the basement after it passed.

City Councilman Sandra Moon was visibly agitated by Jones’ remarks, but she didn’t get to publicly respond to Jones.  If that guy comes back Moon is ready to ‘educate’ him on housing issues.

Several people approached Jones after the meeting was cancelled to discuss housing and his offensive mischaracterizations.  One questioner (and frequent commenter here) kept getting the same response from Jones regardless of his question:  Jones kept repeating “what have you done to further fair housing?”  Like paying for it doesn’t count…

Jones cited the Westchester case (“Housing as Busing”) in his speech as a reason to comply (or else!) with Fair Housing law.  Note that the Westchester case actually arose from “false claims” made by the County in its ‘Affirmatively Furthered Fair Housing’ certifications – so as long as the City of Huntsville doesn’t lie on forms sent to the Feds – they should be OK. 

Since I’m not a lawyer, my legal intepretation might be a bit shaky.  But since Mr. Jones is a “non-practicing lawyer” employed by a  lawsuit-happy “private non-profit”, his legal interpretation might be a bit shaky too.

I know that Councilman Culver had good intentions when he asked Jones to speak, but Jones is an agitator and he cares nothing about this City.  The other guest Culver invited, Michael Brown of Bradley Arant law firm in Birmingham, made a nice presentation about Fair Housing Law.  I understand that Culver wants to reschedule the meeting – maybe next time more “nasty” people from Huntsville will show up.  IMO Culver is doing the right thing by facilitating discussion of the housing issue, but if that guy represents the other side then nothing good can come of it.

***

Thanks to Mayor Battle, Deputy Mayor Rex Reynolds, and HPD Sergeant Mark Roberts for their response to the tornado – they reacted immediately and handled themselves professionally when notified.

Our Public Mansion Authority

Our friends at the South Huntsville Civic Association reported on the Huntsville Housing Authority Board Meeting last Friday (November 13, 2009) in the article “Our Public Housing Mansion Authority: The Wrapup on Friday’s HHA Board Meeting”.   Please follow the link and read the whole thing.  Here are some excerpts (to SHCA – I hope you don’t mind the extensive use of your article):

…Friday’s Huntsville Housing Authority board meeting was chock-full of newsworthy items, most of it sure to raise the blood pressure of anyone who pays taxes or cares about competent, responsive government.

The most provocative issue by far was the proposed redevelopment of the Brookside housing project… This project is so outrageous in so many ways, it’s hard to even know where to begin.  The architect and developer presented artistic renderings of the proposed development, and it is undeniably beautiful.  Designed as a collection of historic-looking cottages with many windows and Victorian details, the plans look like something out of Southern Living.  And they should:  With a proposed price tag of $17 million for 72 housing units, each unit will cost at least $236,000.  But as the developer helpfully noted, HUD guidelines would allow the HHA to actually spend up to $22 million, or $305,000 per unit.

…the median home value in Huntsville in 2007 (before the market tanked) was less than $140,000.  But now taxpayers are going to spend $236,000 – $305,000 per unit on a high-end public housing development which will replace existing housing that is currently performing its intended function. 

There are actually four reasons.

First, the HHA is like so many other government agencies in that it lives to spend our taxes.  With a torrent of “free money” flowing from Washington these days, the HHA figures it should get all it can.  HHA commissioner Tommy Beason made exactly this point during his public comments, saying:  “Somebody’s going to get this money, so why not us?”

Second, the HHA is fully onboard with the city’s agenda of downtown redevelopment.  The Lowe Mill area is a priority for cleanup, which is why the Downtown Rescue Mission was moved out two years ago.  Now comes the Brookside project, which the HHA sees as a catalyst for revitalization of the larger neighborhood.  Mr. Lundy on Friday bragged that the HHA’s actions will help lead to “long-term viability for the city of Huntsville.”

Third, the HHA – like housing authorities across the country – wants to do everything it can to increase the rolls of public housing.  Recall that after Stone Manor was purchased, the HHA urged the residents there to apply for public housing assistance so they could stay in their apartments.  To normal citizens, it is absolutely insane to encourage self-sufficient people to go on the public dole for no good reason, but that is exactly what the HHA did and continues to do.  Keep in mind that one-third of the Brookside units will be set aside for families making up to $53,000 per year. 

Fourth – …the HHA truly believes in the unsubstantiated and nonsensical notion that providing the poor with upscale housing will somehow lead them to seek self-sufficiency.  Just to be clear:  The plan is to give poor folks a low-rent deal on a $300,000 house and expect them to then become self-sufficient and move down-market to a house they can actually afford?  Good luck with that.

The HHA talked a lot on Friday about its Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) program, but it still remains a fact that less than 10% of all HHA residents (192 people) are enrolled in it, and the HHA refuses to divulge the program’s success rate. 

There is a term for such a lackluster effort:  Window dressing.

…During the public comment period, newly-elected state senator Paul Sanford took the HHA to task for the extravagance of the Brookside proposal and for the way the current Brookside residents are being treated.  Noting the forced relocations of Councill Courts and Stone Manor residents, Sanford said, “It just seems a little unfair to me that the Huntsville Housing Authority is getting into the business of displacing people.”  Haughty as ever, Mr. Lundy told The Huntsville Times that he wanted to have a meeting with Sen. Sanford and that, “His opinion may change as a result of a meaningful conversation.” 

…One of the most enlightening aspects of the meeting came at the end with the comment period for the commissioners.  Tommy Beason led off by throwing a temper tantrum, berating as malicious and uninformed those who dare criticize the HHA.  Dr. Phillip Redrick then said that he appreciated the interest (South Huntsville) people are now showing by attending the HHA board meetings, and then added sarcastically that he wished people had showed this much interest during the prior fifteen years he has been on the board.  It seemingly does not occur to Dr. Redrick that most people actually have jobs and, unlike college professors, cannot easily leave work for 2-3 hours to attend these sorts of meetings.  The only reason people are showing up now is because they are fighting to defend their neighborhoods from a predatory government agency.  But it is frankly outrageous that taxpayers should have to go to such extraordinary lengths to protect themselves from their own government.  Next came Dorothy Ford, the resident representative on the board, who summed up nicely the sort of entitlement mentality the HHA fosters.  She decried all the calls for openness and transparency, saying that the HHA should not have to announce to the public what it’s doing.  Said Ms. Ford, “We should have the privilege of privacy just like every other citizen in the city of Huntsville.”  She then said she didn’t understand why anyone would be upset about the high cost of the Brookside project because the residents deserve nice housing and, “I would like a new house, too.”  Apparently, the idea that someone has to pay for all of this extravagance and that nice things have to be earned are utterly foreign concepts to her.  Sometimes words simply fail.

This is valuable first-hand commentary from your friends and neighbors – thanks to these people for their time and energy devoted to making Huntsville a better City.

Housing as Busing

The Manhattan Institute’s City Journal published the article “Housing as Busing” by Howard Husock.  The issues we’ve been having locally with the HHA appear to be part of a larger national issue.  Read the whole thing, and here are some excerpts to whet your appetite:

“This is historic,” said Deputy Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ron Sims, who appeared personally at the announcement of the settlement, “because we are going to hold people’s feet to the fire.” Ever since 1974, localities have used CDBG money to upgrade their low-income neighborhoods. But now, places where “segregation” persists—as Sims claims it does in Westchester—may also have to use their CDBG funds to help relocate poor people to rich neighborhoods…

The reasoning behind building affordable housing in a place like Westchester is that moving lower-income, often-minority families to higher-income, often-white neighborhoods will prove uplifting; it’s the real-estate equivalent of busing black students to white schools. As Sims put it, wealthier communities are obliged to offer “choice” to those of lower income, so that the poor, too, can “enjoy what I call the fruits and benefits of an established neighborhood.”

But we should be skeptical, as research funded by HUD itself shows. Beginning in 1994, an experimental five-city program called Moving to Opportunity started doing exactly what Sims endorses: shifting public-housing tenants to private apartments in better zip codes. The results effectively contradicted the program’s working assumption that such moves would lead to better lives… “We did not find evidence of improvements in reading scores, math scores, behavior or social problems, or school engagement, overall or for any age group.” This finding… —reported: “We find no significant overall effects on adult employment, earnings or public assistance receipt.” The paper also reported no improvements in the subjects’ physical health.

Be sure to click through to the summary of Husock’s book, “America’s Trillion Dollar Housing Mistake – The Failure of American Housing Policy”.

In America’s Trillion-Dollar Housing Mistake, Howard Husock explains how, as with so many anti-poverty efforts, low-income housing programs have harmed those they were meant to help while causing grave collateral damage to cities and their citizens. Public housing projects, Mr. Husock writes, are only the best-known housing policy mistakes. His book explains how a long list of lesser-known efforts—including housing vouchers, community development corporations, the low-income housing tax credit, and the Community Reinvestment Act—are just as pernicious, working in concert to undermine sound neighborhoods and perpetuate a dependent underclass.

Locally unwanted land use

I had a tough decision to make this evening: should I watch NCIS or the premiere of V (starring Morena Baccarin of Firefly fame)?

Well, instead of making the tough decision, I went to Dr. Richard Showers’ Huntsville City Council District One Town Meeting.  The main topic of the meeting was the City’s proposed “Correctional Center Zoning”, which will be voted on this Thursday night at the City Council meeting.  This issue doesn’t seem to have a good solution, so unfortunately the City Council must vote on the least bad solution – a real-life tough decision that weighs heavily on our elected officials.

Some background:  in February 2009 the City received a letter from a Federal Bureau of Prisons contractor (described by Mayor Tommy Battle as a “litigious group”) asking for guidance on locating a “residential re-entry center” or “correctional transitional housing” in Huntsville.  As of that date the clock stopped in a way (and started in another way).  According to City Attorneys, the City is required to allow public or private (contracted) correctional facilities and can only deal with zoning that was in place as of February 2009 (clock stop).  The City asked for and received two moratoriums in order to develop zoning ordinances for correctional facilities – but the deadline is December 23, 2009 (clock running).  Notable quotes: City Planner Marie Bostick – “we didn’t go looking for this”; City Administrator Rex Reynolds – “we need a managed response”; Mayor Battle – “let’s control it”.

The City Council votes Thursday to approve or disapprove the Zoning Ordinance proposed by the Planning Department and approved by the Planning Commission.  The Ordinance allows for development in large areas around the airport, close to the Toyota plant, and close to A&M in Chase (among other areas – see the maps at the link above).  No one wants a correctional facility 500 feet from their backyard (NIMBY – or as the hip kids call it, “locally unwanted land use”).  Councilman Will Culver announced tonight that he and Dr. Showers will both vote ‘No’ on the Ordinance.

If the Ordinance fails, it will take months to develop and approve another plan, during which time a correctional facility could be constructed pretty much anywhere in Huntsville.  Keep in mind that the proposed plan has been in the works since February – and that the City tried very hard to minimize the impact on residents – and that the City must develop broad guidelines that can withstand a legal challenge.

So these are the bad choices: vote Yes to zoning rules that will restrict the unwanted development to limited industrial areas, knowing that some people in the community will be harmed financially (and that their safety will be at risk) - or vote No and potentially expose the City to an unplanned facility (basically hoping that the City can come up with a better plan before the Bureau of Prisons acts).

It’s a tough decision – but that’s why our Mayor and City Council make the big bucks…  It’s also why elections matter.

***

Now let’s get into some meeting details and notes.  There were more than a dozen City officials in attendance: Mayor Battle, Councilmen Showers and Culver, City Administrator Reynolds, Police Chief Henry Reyes, Fire Chief Mike Sublett, Public Works Director Terry Hatfield, Community Development Director Michelle Jordan, and Assistant Planning Director Marie Bostick.

There were about 80 people or so in the crowd, including about 20 students from A&M’s Department of Urban Planning.  Stephanie Beecken of WAAY 31 reported on the meeting.

Public Works Director Hatfield said that he’s hired about 30 temps to help with curbside leaf pickup (it’s easier and better to mulch or compost your leaves).  Chief Sublett said that the Fire Department has 16 stations and is building a new station in Greenbrier (and could use about five more).  Chief Reyes said that 33 new cadets started at the Police Academy.  Community Development Director Jordan said that there will be a public hearing on the HUD Five Year Consolidated Plan Update (I missed the time – be on the lookout).

Councilman Showers said that he has “concern” for those who “worked real hard and saved their money to buy in that area” and that people “didn’t move to Carter Gin to be impacted by this type of situation”.

Councilman Culver made a point of saying that the zoning was “not racially motivated” and that he would like to see the zoning “proportionally distributed” around the City.  He noted that most of the available land was in his district near the airport, and that most of the residents in that area were white (he didn’t say white, but that’s what he said).

There were about 25 questions from the audience during the Q&A – bottom line – people don’t want it – other bottom line – “we can’t prohibit them” (Planner Lisa Aleddo). Another bottom line is that if you live in Madison County (or maybe even Madison) you don’t have the zoning protections – this only covers the City of Huntsville.

 The meeting wrapped up about 9PM and the City Planners stayed to answer all questions (including mine).  On the way out, I had the pleasure of speaking with Will Culver.  He took the time to explain to me his decision to vote against the Ordinance and details of the issue, which I truly appreciate.  From what I’ve seen, Culver is doing a great job as Councilman.

Project phaseout

City Journal published “Project Phaseout” by Howard Husock, which contains some interesting observations about public housing.  City Journal is on my favorites list because they write great articles, usually with a New York flavor, but still applicable to us.  Here’s a taste:

Reformers once believed that publicly built apartments would be an improvement over the slums they replaced. Today we know how wrong those reformers were. Public housing has bred long-term dependency; in New York City, public-housing tenants remain in the system, on average, for 20.1 years, free from the time limits that apply to other forms of welfare. A perverse federal requirement that rent be set as a percentage of income discourages families from striving to earn more and better their circumstances, since that would just hike their rent. From a social-policy standpoint, public housing is rightly considered a disaster.

I don’t know that Huntsville Housing Authority can (or would want to) implement Husock’s idea for shrinking public housing.  I’m guessing that the HUD rules under which they operate actually encourage growth in public housing.

Sue Schmitz Facebook – Update

Marisa, one of Sue Schmitz’ supporters, found her way here and said that she didn’t find my commentary about her Facebook post even “moderately amusing”.  She believes that the point of my post was to make “random stale jokes here and there about her (Schmitz’) guilt”.  She thought it was “repugnant” to quote her public words without her “notification” or “opinion”.   Marisa also thought that making fun of people who defended Schmitz by claiming “injustice” was “skeezy”.  I see it as exposing the mental gymnastics and hypocrisy Democrats resort to in excusing the flaws of their politicans.

BTW if I were a newspaper editor following the ASNE Code of Ethics they suggest that people be given a chance to respond to a public accusal (I believe the comment section here suffices),  and I’m not accusing these people of anything more than willful blindness and poor judgment.

Marisa says that “Ms. Schmitz is the reason I was blessed with a strong understanding of government in high school, including that which is and is not corrupt”.  My original comment about Marisa was that “She must have missed the part about public corruption and the legal system” in school.  From her comments we can also assume she wasn’t taught much about the First Amendment (more “stale” humor – but certainly not “random”).

Marisa did make one valid point:  she said that Sue Schmitz did not create the page and that I should have pointed that out.  OK.  It seems that Sue Schmitz’ son created the page and posts using a picture of his Mom.

I would like to thank Marisa for taking the time to comment.   This provides an opportunity to update the post and highlight some of our neighbors who’ve publicly commented on Sue Schmitz’ son’s Facebook fansite.  Just like last time, those who offered prayers and support will not be mentioned, but those who rail against the “injustice” and their quoted words will be noted.

Meagan Imsand – “The injustice that surrounds you situation breaks my heart”.

J Ricky Sizemore – “What has happened is nothing more than a political persecution, a misuse of judicial authority and a travesty of justiice”.

Kelli Morgan – “I wish there was something we could all do about this ridiculous injustice”.

Susan Young Guffey – “I would just like to say, “this whole thing sucks big time. Its such bull crap! I don’t believe any of it… What I think happened is you stepped on some wrong toes and now someone has the opportunity to get you back”.

Elizabeth Moore Willingham – “What an injustice”.

Kristi Brown Combs – “Mrs. Schmitz is no criminal! I’m so upset over the ruling and sentencing”.

Daniel Lofgren – “This trial was nothing but a trumped up political witch hunt. In this state, if there is wrong doing in government, it goes unpunished. Only the innocent trying to affect change suffer”.

Jane Shrewsbury Hillis – “This was a witch hunt and you know it!!! This is a great idea..having a FB page!!!”

Yolonda Ary – “I have known you for many years and I know what they accused you of is absolutely absurd”.

Chris McGinty – “Mrs. Schmitz, what has happened to you is an atrocity, period”.

Sue Schmitz (who isn’t really Schmitz, but might be her son) – “First they came for the Communists... Then they came for me, and by that time there was no one left to speak up for me”.

Sue Schmitz (again) – “Please write Congressman Griffith, Senator Shelby, Senator Sessions, The Huntsville Times, and local media to show the power of the people of a democratic society and to shine the light of truth on this issue”.

Travis Large – “I wont stand for it and I damn sure dont believe all this foolishness!!!”

Kammie Bullen Lee – “I am very sorry for what has happened to you in this republican inspired witch hunt! The press and the U.S. attorney’s office have not treated you fairly. It is frightening to think we live in a country where a person can be tried, convicted, sentenced and threatened with seizure of family property on evidence that a few people have decided that person has not worked hard enough! Your true mistake was being a Democrat during a Republican witch hunt! I am glad to see that Alice Martin and the rest of her cohorts are going out with the rest of the Bush Administration!”

This update includes the willful blindness exhibited by these people through ‘yesterday’.  No stale humor this time – these people’s words mock themselves…

Good job Randy

State Representative Randy Hinshaw (D – 21) plans to introduce a Constitutional Amendment “to prohibit the imposition of an occupational tax in Madison County”.  WVNN’s Dale Jackson wrote about this saying “Kudos to Randy Hinshaw”.  WAAY-TV has the story “Hinshaw Wants to Prevent Jefferson County Problem in North Al”:

Hinshaw says he has the support of the entire Madison County House delegation. If passed by the legislature, the proposal would be put on the ballot as a special amendment in an upcoming election in Madison County.

Once again, Randy is on the right side of an issue, and he’s not only right – he’s a leader.  Disclosure – I like Randy and we went to high school together.

It will be interesting to see how he and the Madison County delegation votes during the special session on the occupational tax for Jefferson County.  It can’t be a good omen for the special session if the Madison County delegation opposes the occupational tax in principle (unless I’m giving them too much credit).  Will Laura Hall vote against the tax?