Huntsville City Council – 23 April 2009

I attended the Huntsville City Council meeting tonight – it would’ve been better than basketball and hockey put together… except for being so sad because of the tragedy of last Friday night when two teenagers were killed by an allegedly fleeing drunk illegal immigrant with a fake license.

Boy Scout Troop 400 led the Pledge of Allegiance. The troop mustered 17 young men under the leadership of Scout Master Al Farrar. One young man is on his way to Eagle Scout – I counted over 30 Merit Badges.

QUICKLOOK:

Mayor Tommy Battle started off noting that these have “not been good days” and reviewed the City’s response: 1) he told of his trip to Montgomery to meet with Governor Riley and the Huntsville legislative delegation – support HB260 to close a loophole whereby municipal court DUIs didn’t count in the three strike rules; 2) ICE has two agents for all of North Alabama (and one of them is on leave) – ask Congressman Parker Griffith for help getting more ICE agents; and 3) ask Municipal Court Judge Rodenhauser to review DUI guidelines.

HPD Deputy Chief Hudson (with Assistant DA Rob Broussard) reviewed the police response: “currently HPD does not have the capability to arrest illegal aliens just for being illegal”. Chief Hudson said about alleged murderer Felix Ortega that he is “confident he is here illegally” and “we are not certain of this offender’s true identity”. Hudson also said that Ortega would “stay in jail until his trial for murder” and that if he is convicted, after his sentence is completed he would be deported.

Councilman Will Culver assured people that “no one has dropped the ball in the municipal courts or the police”.

Moratorium on Correctional Facilities – the City Council voted to establish a temporary moratorium on correctional facilities – there is a proposal to build a Federal Residential Re-entry Center (kind of an alternate prison) in Huntsville – I appreciate that Councilman Culver asked insightful questions based on his Magistrate and Probation Officer experience – the more I see of Culver the better I think of him as a City Councilman.

Lowe Mill Neighborhood Revitalization – Community Development Director Michelle Jordan and Jerry Gallaway described the Lowe Mill project (er, development): public / private partnership funded by Communtiy Development Block Grants and GreenCiti, new homes and renovations priced about $100K to $150K with the “look” of the Mill Village, model for future developments.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Councilman Kling’s efforts to revitalize Lowe Mill, he has been fighting for this as long as I can remember.

Terry Heights, Norwood, and Lincoln were mentioned as follow-on projects, since they are the closest zoned neighborhoods to downtown. I’ve got an entire post about Terry Heights on the way.

COMMUNICATIONS FROM THE PUBLIC:

Me – I noted that HHA owns / manages 4% of the housing in Huntsville, Section 8 housing at Chaffee represents 6% of the neighborhood, add Stone Manor and public housing at Chaffee equals 12% (source: HHA). Challen Stephens in the Huntsville Times noted that the HHA numbers might not be good – which supported my point that the City needs to: research and analyze public housing by Elementary School district and present results to the public in order to make / support better decisions.

George Barry – ask City to meet with legislative delegation about illegal immigration; close workman’s comp loopholes.

Dale Jackson (WVNN radio god) – illegal immigration is a non-issue at the Federal level, ask for public hearing with City / County / State / Congressman; saying “we can’t do anything is not an appropriate answer”.

Ralph Timberlake – I’ve seen him a few times now and I’ve got to say that he makes some excellent points. I’m afraid that some in City Government marginalize him as they do Jackie Reed – but that is a mistake. He spoke about the HHA and Hospital Boards “flagrant abuses of open meetings law”. Timberlake also spoke to oppose a re-zoning request – he made the point that “Huntsville needs to be owners and not absentee landlords”. I agree. HSV currently has 60% owners and 40% rentals Citywide.

Dangerous Animal Ordinance – in response to a Jack Russell Terrier getting mauled by a pit bull (?) at the Dog Park (?), Animal Services is proposing an ordinance for dangerous animals.

Gotta stop now, more later (I keep saying that but don’t seem to catch up…) Love ya Huntsville.

Senate 7 GOP Runoff Details

Turnout for the Alabama State Senate 7 GOP Primary Runoff was 4,966 voters – or 84% of the GOP Primary turnout (the heuristic is 66%).  This implies a highly motivated base; the GOP Runoff turned out more than the Democrat Primary back in March (4,085).  Keep in mind that there are 96,302 registered voters in the Senate 7 district.

Paul Sanford won with 2961 votes (60%) compared to Sam Givhan’s 2005 votes (40%).  I must admit that this is not what I expected at all – Givhan was poised to win the runoff – but between Sanford’s hustle and the HHA blow up (which splattered on Sam), Paul was able to win by a large margin.  I saw both candidates on Monday – Paul seemed calm and confident, Sam seemed a little agitated – something was up…

The TOP FIVE boxes were Cove UMC (722 votes – 51% Sanford), Blossomwood (409 – 62% Sanford), Covenant (357 – 61% Sanford), Chaffee (304 – 80% Sanford), and Chapman (255 – 60% Sanford).

Sanford won 44 boxes, with his largest wins at Chaffee (186 vote margin), Trinity (116 vote margin) and Blossomwood (99 vote margin).

Givhan won 12 boxes, but his largest win was at Plainview Church with a margin of 19 votes.

After the Primary I thought that: ”Sanford, Hunter, and Richardson chased many of the same votes – if true, then Sanford may defeat Givhan in the Runoff”.

If this was a referendum on the HHA,  elected officials just got a wake up call.

Weatherly PTA – HHA

RCJ posted this comment on the “No area excluded by housing officals” thread.  Here is a first-person account of the Weatherly PTA meeting, which was one of the two PTA meetings (IIRC Mountain Gap PTA is the other) promoted as a ‘public hearing’ on the HHA plans:

I went to the Weatherly Heights PTA meeting tonight, but there was not much to it.  Lundy didn’t show, no questions were allowed, and principal Terri Stokes tried to do everything she could to limit the discussion exclusively to the impact on Weatherly.  Stokes did what most principals do — especially when their boss (Roy Ann Moore) is sitting there — she spun and spun and spun some more.  According to Stokes, the influx of housing projects will have “no impact” on Weatherly.  Uh-huh.  She backed this up by noting that the Weatherly students who currently get free or reduced lunches are, as a group, at or above state averages on their test scores.  But since Weatherly as a whole has very high scores and since we all know Alabama’s test scores suck, what her little statistical sleight-of-hand really tells us is that there is a HUGE difference in the performance of the free/reduced lunch kids and the normal students (shocker).  So how could it possibly hurt anything to add a few more?

One interesting thing I noted:  Sandra Moon and Mo Brooks seemed to go out of their way to moderate their previous rhetoric and try to play nice.  I don’t know if they were stung by The Times’ criticism or what, but both downplayed the significance of the changes HHA is forcing and both went out of their way to praise that politically loaded letter to the editor from several liberal SE Huntsville pastors that was published in the paper today.  If you didn’t read it, it welcomed “our new neighbors” and implicitly sent the message that anyone who has a problem with HHA is a bigot.

At any rate, the whole thing was not really worth much… except to further hammer home the point that we taxpaying citizens are the last ones who get any say in any of this.

Sanford Wins Senate 7 Runoff

Paul Sanford defeats Sam Givhan in the State Senate 7 Republican Runoff.  Sam called Paul to concede the race before 8PM.

Sanford won 60% of the vote, overcoming a Primary lead by Givhan.  Turnout was better than expected, with almost 5000 voters making their way to the polls.

Here’s how the situation looked in March:

…the Rule of Thumb is that the Primary Runoff turnout will be 2 / 3 of the Primary turnout.  Assuming 4,000 GOP voters turn out in April and assuming that the Runoff candidate’s supporters turn out again - Sam Givhan only needs to pick up 300 votes versus Sanford needing 700 votes.

What I find interesting is that Givhan picked up his 300 votes, and could have been predicted to win based on statistical modeling.  But real life has a way of acting outside of the model; I wonder if the HHA blow up hurt Sam.

I’ll also note that Sanford has been wearing his shoes out working for votes, plus he’s been at many local Government meetings listening and learning  (HHA Board, City Council, Tea Party, Chaffee – and that’s just the past week).

Congratulations Paul. Good race Sam.  You guys set the standard for how to conduct a campaign…

No area excluded by housing officials

Huntsville Times reporter Challen Stephens wrote “No area excluded by housing officials”:

The Huntsville Housing Authority made itself clear Monday: It will exclude no part of the city from public housing in the future.
Michael Lundy, executive director of the agency, has said for weeks that there are no plans to buy more apartments on the south end of town. But on Monday the volunteer board that oversees Lundy added a clarification…
“I guess we are all aware now we need to pay attention and attend your meetings,” said Carol Palermo, a resident of southwest Huntsville, who asked for a copy of the authority’s financial records.

IAW my personal policy to reward The Times for good reporting (after punishing them by cancelling), I’m going to spend the 75 cents to buy the newspaper – Thanks to Challen Stephens.  If The Times wants my money they’ll need to: get rid of (or at least balance) their Leftie editors and biased writers / columnists; quit paying the AP for slanted national news; and focus on their core competency – State / local news. 

The public can’t go to every City Board meeting and the City doesn’t post transcripts in a timely manner.  Transcripts take weeks, which is normal for such things. Stephens posted a good description of the HHA meeting and led with the most important fact surfaced during the meeting – this is not over.

HHA manages 1700 units of public housing and 1200 Section 8 housing vouchers for 2900 families in Huntsville.  HHA has a 98% occupancy rate.

Here’s what HHA Commissioner Redrick had to say about the public attendees at the meeting: “I get the impression that some residents want to exclude housing from certain areas”.

MORE:

In trying to get a feel for the scale of public housing in Huntsville (since “scalability” is a factor according the reports cited by HHA’s ‘Myths’), I found that there are 73,606 houses / condos / apartments in Huntsville (2007 data). Of these, 66,724 are occupied by 41,140 owners and 25,584 rentals.  That’s a 90% occupancy rate with 62% owners and 38% renters.

The HHA manages 2900 units, or 4% of all the housing in Huntsville.

IIRC  there are 50 Section 8 houses in the Chaffee neighborhood (50 to 80, according to Director Lundy) and there are 800 houses – then Chaffee is already SATURATED at 6% – not including the Stone Manor purchase of 50 units – which will bring the number to more than 12%.

Somebody needs to get the for real numbers and do some for real analysis before the City continues down this path…

HHA Board Meeting – 20 April 2009

I attended the Huntsville Housing Authority Board meeting today at Noon.  The meeting was conducted by Chairman Charley Burruss with Vice Chair Thomas Beason, Commissioner Dorothy Ford, Commissioner Leon Fountain, and Commissioner Phillip Redrick attending. HHA Director Michael Lundy and members of his staff attended, as well as The Huntsville Times Challen Stephens and one of the TV stations (no logo on camera, blonde reporter).  About 20 or so concerned citizens attended the meeting, which overflowed from the conference room into the hallway.  Senate 7 candidates Paul Sanford and Sam Givhan both attended (Givhan was there working as the HHA attorney).  The meeting lasted until almost 2PM.

The meeting was well-run and informative thanks to Chairman Burruss. 

Quicklook:

Board member Beason asked Director Lundy to clarify the HHA’s position on purchasing more apartments in South Huntsville.  I asked Beason to clarify the clarification after the meeting to ensure that I got this right:  “the HHA has no specific plans at this time to acquire more apartments in South Huntsville”, but “the HHA does plan to acquire more apartments”  and “South Huntsville is not excluded”.

The public comments ranged from highly critical of the relocation process (“doctored notes”, “specifically lying”) to critical of the public relations (“no community buy-in”) to detailed requests for information (demographics, annual statements, detailed description of services, etc. – much of the information was provided plus I got a copy of some of it – more on that later).

My favorite question was “why publically recruit currently self-sufficient people to public housing?” 
Lundy answered that if people are eligible under the regulations (80% of median income) then they could apply.
Follow-up question: “If people are already self-sufficient, why recruit them when some people are needier?”
I’d love for someone at HHA to answer that one…

I’ll post more on this later along with a link to The Times’ article.

Moon – Huntsville Housing Authority Status Report

Huntsville City Councilwoman Sandra Moon sent out the following email to her constituents:

April 20, 2009

I apologize to those of you who have phoned and sent me emails.  I have simply been overwhelmed beyond any ability to respond individually.

First, it is clear that the Huntsville Housing Authority (HHA) Board members are not going to resign and to continue to call for their resignation will be counter-productive.  Instead, I have been communicating with one of those Board members.  We have established a “relationship” of truth and, I believe, trust.  I choose these words carefully.  He assured me on April 14th the HHA Board has had absolutely NO discussion (and certainly no decisions) about purchasing any more apartment complexes in south Huntsville .  I believe him.  This was confirmed at the April 16th City Council meeting by Mr. Lundy when I asked him specifically if any more apartment purchases were in the plans.

This HHA Board member is very, very concerned by the divisive controversy erupting over the Stone Manor purchase.  The fact the HHA Board has not had any discussion about future purchases does not address the issues associated with Stone Manor.  He and I will continue to communicate on that issue, and we have pledged our best efforts towards seeking some kind of remedy, if possible.

I never felt that I got clear answers when I asked Mr. Lundy about the language used in their 1 and/or 5-year HUD planning documents.  Mark Russell asked him directly why they referenced “Southeast Huntsville” several times instead of Huntsville in the HUD plans.  Again, I never felt we got satisfactory answers.  I have been contacted by several of the Stone Manor residents who are in complete limbo about their futures.  I asked Mr. Lundy to communicate immediately with those residents.  He said he would and that they really wanted to work with the residents in everyway possible.  I will continue to monitor the situation.  Other than Mr. Lundy’s assurances they were not planning to buy any more apartment complexes in south Huntsville , I was not reassured by his answers to most of the questions I asked him.  I did feel, however, a lesson had been learned about submitting HUD plans which single out one section of Huntsville .

As many of you probably know, I got pounded by the Huntsville Times editorial board on April 12th.  That is O.K., it goes with the territory.  I was bemused by their stand when I read their front page story on the negative and mixed results of various public housing programs across the country.  I am not sure they read their own story.  In my rebuttal letter to the Times, I have challenged the HHA Board to do their research and find communities similar to Huntsville who have successful public housing programs.  HHA Board members and other community leaders need to visit these communities with workable programs that are positive for all members of their communities.  Among the questions we need to be asking are: how were the programs initiated, implemented, and managed.  It will be just as telling if there are no such successful programs.

Many of you have asked about the impact on our schools.  That is an area in which I have little expertise.  Dr. Jennie Robinson (District 3 school board member) and I have been in frequent contact, and she is researching the various issues connected to dispersed and clustered public housing.  I will defer to her on school issues.

Many of you have also asked about another public meeting, especially for those in the Weatherly area.  There are two PTA meetings to which Jennie Robinson and I have been invited, but I am not aware of any other meeting/meetings scheduled.  Jennie and I have talked about calling a public meeting, but nothing has been formalized yet.  I will keep you posted.

I applaud Representative Mike Ball and Senator Arthur Orr for sponsoring legislation curbing the Housing Authority’s powers.  Their bill, essentially, calls for three things.  It removes the power of eminent domain for Public Housing Authorities under state law; it requires approval of the local governing body prior to purchasing property; and it requires notice be given to each property owner within 500 yards of the property to be purchased, not less than 30 days prior to the City Council meeting at which the approval of the purchase will be on the agenda.

This bill will be tough to pass and both Mike and Arthur need your support.  Their email addresses are:

            mikeball@knology.net

            arthur@arthurorr.com

 Please contact any other state legislator you might know and ask that he or she support this bill.  I would urge you to contact our U.S. representatives, Senator Shelby, Senator Sessions and Congressman Griffith, and express your concerns over the absolute power enjoyed by these Authorities.

We can also attend the Huntsville Housing Authority Board meetings.  The meetings are open to the public and are held on the third Monday of every month at either 5 pm or 12 (noon) pm.  You can visit the Authority’s website for more information:

            www.huntsvillehousing.org

Mr. Lundy can be reached at 551-5635.  HHA’s Director of Development, Mrs. Carlen Williams, can be reached at 532-5623.

I am attaching a document I sent out several weeks ago.  It gives the legal description of the relationship between the City and HHA.  It also outlines what and when I knew about HHA’s plans in south Huntsville.

Again, I thank you for your support and patience.  I pledge to you I will continue to work on this issue and keep you informed.

Sincerely,
Sandra Moon

Here is the attachment:

From: Moon, Sandra
Sent: Tuesday, April 07, 2009 3:38 PM

Subject: Purchase of Apartments in Southeast Huntsville by the Huntsville Housing Authority

Due to the large number of phone calls and email I have received regarding Huntsville Housing Authority’s  purchase of several apartment complexes in south Huntsville, I am electing to respond by email to afford a speedier response to all.

First, let me give some background behind HHA and its relationship to the City.  I asked our City Attorney to write an explanation of the Huntsville Housing Authority (HHA) because I wanted any information I share to be completely correct.

The HHA was established pursuant to Sections 24–1-1, et seq. of the Code of Alabama (or its predecessors).  Under the law, the City Council authorized the creation of the Authority following satisfaction of certain procedural requirements.  HHA was established more than 40 years ago.  The Authority consists of five (5) members, each of whom is appointed by the Mayor of the City of Huntsville.  Other than appointment of these members, neither the Mayor, the City Council, nor the City of Huntsville as a corporate entity has any jurisdictional authority over the operations, finances, or actions of HHA.  HHA functions as an independent, public corporation, and has broad powers including, but not limited to, the power to acquire property (either through mutual agreement or eminent domain), borrow money, construct and manage residential housing, and receive grants from the federal government for or in aid of construction of any housing project or development.

The remainder of this email contains information from various sources which I believe to be true.  HHA bought some apartment units last year or early this year in an area I will call Mahogany Row.  These apartments are located behind the supermarket at the corner of Bailey Cove and Weatherly Road.  I do not know specific addresses.  I believe HHA “clients” have moved in.  I first heard “rumors” of the purchase about 6 or 8 weeks ago.  I have had no inquiries or complaints from anyone regarding the Mahogany Row apartments.

I have been aware for approximately 2 years that HHA was locating families (and individuals?) in various apartments throughout the city utilizing a system referred to as “section 8 vouchers,” but was not informed of specific apartment names or locations in south Huntsville.  Again, I have never had any other inquiries or complaints regarding this program or its clients.

I was not aware of HHA’s purchase of Stone Manor (off of Byrd Springs Road) until I read about it in the Huntsville Times on March 21, 2009.  I have no personal knowledge of anyone connected with City government who had prior knowledge.

I attended a Chaffee Neighborhood Civic Association meeting this past Monday evening.  A representative of HHA explained the purchase of Stone Manor by the HHA occurred on March 1, and fifty apartment units are involved.   It has been determined by HHA that approximately 50% of those currently residing in the apartments meet HHA financial requirements, and may elect to continue to live there.  HHA anticipates the remaining units will be occupied by senior citizens and “self sufficient workers.”  The HHA representative attending the meeting assured those present that HHA clients are carefully screened, and those with criminal backgrounds are rejected. 

Two Huntsville Community Relations Police officers at the meeting confirmed they work closely with HHA, and have successfully and legally ejected from HHA housing those clients not meeting HHA behavior requirements.

A point of contact at HHA is Mrs. Carlen Williams, Director of Development.  She may be reached at 551-5623.

Another public meeting concerning this issue will be held on April 6 at 6:30 pm in the Chaffee Elementary School cafeteria.  It is my understanding Mayor Battle and Michael Lundy, CEO of HHA, will attend.

I have been asked what can be done to stop this HHA effort.  I have asked the City Attorney for advice, and it appears anything the City could do to restrict or change our relationship with HHA will be superseded by state and possibly federal law.  I will continue to seek legal advice and explore other possible options.  There was talk about a class action suit at Monday’s meeting, but I have no more information on that.

I appreciate the opportunity to present what information I know in response to your concerns.

Sincerely,
Sandra Moon

Madison County GOP Breakfast – Big Luther

Saturday morning (April 18) I attended the monthly Madison County Republican breakfast, along with a couple of hundred other like-minded people.  I usually get there at 7AM or so, trying to time my arrival with the provision of coffee.  That gives me about an hour to chat with people, then we sit down to breakfast (Catering by Kurt).  When the front table finishes eating, the meeting starts.

A nice part of Saturday’s meeting was the recognition of Christie Carden, who organized Huntsville’s Tea Party – she was given a standing ovation when she was introduced.  A show of hands indicated that about 50 people present at the meeting attended the Tea Party.

Now on to the speaker – Luther Strange.  He told of attending a couple of Tea Parties in Alabama, then talked about his friend, retired Fox anchor Britt Hume and Bible study.

Strange then spoke about gambling.  He made the point that if gambling is so good for the people of Alabama, why are the places where gambling has been allowed for 20 years still the poorest in the State – look at Greene County or Walker County and see if gambling helps a community.  He said that only about six people directly benefit from the ‘Sweet Home Alabama Bingo Bill’ and described the ‘bingo machines’ as indistinguishable from casino slot machines (which is true).

Strange then said that the GOP has lost some credibility because of TARP and bailouts and immigration, but that we are poised for a comeback.

Audience Q&A:

Q – ACCR – Constitutional Convention?
A – not in favor, prefer article by article.

Q – Fair Tax?
A – Yes.

Q – Support photo ID to vote?
A – Yes.  Told of 50,000 voter cards that were returned in a followup mailout to people who ‘voted’ in the last election.

Time to put up the tables and chairs and mingle.  Officials and candidates attending:  State Representatives Howard Sanderford and Mike Ball, Huntsville Councilwoman Sandra Moon, Gurley Councilman Bob Sentell, State Senate 7 candidates Sam Givhan and Paul Sanford,  State House 6 candidates Frank Prabel and Glenn Watson.  Mike Marshall of the Huntsville Times did a good job reporting on the meeting “Strange sees ‘huge need’ in AG office”.

I also got to meet Lester Phillip, who was recently appointed ALGOP Director of Minority Outreach.  He’s a Naval Academy helicopter pilot businessman living in Madison.  He spoke at the Trussville Tea Party and was on WVNN with Dale Jackson last Friday.  One of the best people in my life graduated from Canoe U:  if Phillip is anything like my late friend, I expect great things from him.

IMO Big Luther is running for Attorney General.  He did well running against Little Jim for Lieutenant Governor, but lost in an extremely close race.  If I had one bit of advice for Strange, it would be to buy regular campaign signs instead of polybags (I had a Strange polybag in my yard last election – it blew away).

Huntsville City Council – 16 April 2009

The Huntsville City Council met April 16, 2009. On the Agenda – the Huntsville Housing Authority.

Before I get started, I’d like to request that Huntsville City Council Minutes get transcripted and published on the City’s website much faster than they are now – the latest City Council minutes are from February 26,2009.  I’ve got blisters on my fingers…

The meeting was scheduled to start at 6PM, and I got there a little early.  Boy Scout Troop 102 led by Scoutmaster Vern Spearman was drilling outside (one of the young men appeared to be on his way to Eagle Scout – sash full of badges).   

The security desk at City Hall is where you sign up to speak and pick up an Agenda (6 pages front and back).  The Council Room seats about 120 people – it filled up quickly and eventually about another 100 people or so rotated in and out – regular attendees noted that this was the biggest crowd they had ever seen.

Councilman Will Culver gave the Invocation, followed by the Pledge of Allegiance led by the Boy Scouts.  Then the Council got down to business: recognizing sports achievements and memorializing passed citizens.

At about 6:30, Council President Mark Russell asked HHA Director Mike Lundy to make a presentation. Lundy said that their mission is to provide ‘decent, safe, low to moderate-income housing with supportive services’.  Families are eligible for public housing if they earn less than 80% of the median income (for Huntsville that means eligible at $54,000).

Lundy explained that ‘the HHA manages two types of programs: public housing and Section 8 housing.  The main difference is that with public housing the subsidy stays with the property and with Section 8 housing the subsidy stays with the resident’.

HHA goal is for a family to become self-sufficient.  Case Managers work with each housing family on a management plan (budget) with a timetable.  Residents also build an “escrow account” out of their rent increases to provide a nest egg of $3,000 to $5,000 or so (I’m not clear on when residents can access the money).

Lundy then spoke about the TRANSITION FOR REDEVELOPMENT STRATEGY, which includes the Councill Court redevelopment.  Councill Court had 196 families, 56 families have relocated, and 140 remain and are scheduled to “move maybe this year”.

The centerpiece of the strategy is to sell Councill Court and build an 85+ unit state-of-the-art Senior Residence called “Gateway Place”.

Lundy said that HHA bought smaller housing developments (12 units at Mahogany Row and 50 units at Stone Manor) and that they were moving “self-sufficient residents” with “good records” to those areas.

Lundy said that HHA has “no intentions of saturating South Huntsville” (since Lundy and I don’t seem to agree on the definition of ‘self-sufficient’, I’m not sure what he means by ‘saturate’).

Lundy said that many current residents of Chaffee were probably eligible for public housing. He also said that HHA planned to buy about 20 to 25 single family houses in South Huntsville.

Huntsville City Councils members were then asked to question Lundy.

Council President Mark Russell referred to the HHA Annual Report and asked “‘why Southeast Huntsville” was  specifically cited as an area in which the HHA planned to buy housing.
Lundy answered that the Annual Report should have “most correctly stated all of Huntsville”.

Councilwoman Sandra Moon asked “when did HHA apply for funding from HUD for Stone Manor”.
Lundy answered that HHA “used proceeds from previous sales” and explained that federal regulations require that financial benefits from sales must be reinvested.

Moon re-asked “when did HHA make the application to HUD”.
Lundy asked the HHA Finance Director Williams for the date – she answered that HHA received approval in February 2009. Lundy said that HHA paid $3,000,000 for the Stone Manor property ($60,000 per unit but Stone Manor also includes about 2 1/2 acres of undeveloped woodland).

This next exchange was interesting to me, because it illustrates that Lundy is either a secretive bureaucrat or an evasive _____  (fill in the blank with a word that’s not mean or defamatory but which adequately expresses frustration with someone who is incapable of delivering a straight answer).

Moon relayed reports from Stone Manor residents that there were “changing rules” in their relocation.  Lundy said there were three notifications required.  Moon rephrased her question – “were rules changed”?  Lundy answered “No”.  Moon rephrased her question – “were any mistakes made in following HUD guidelines or process”? Lundy answered that there were “different interpretations of regulations, it could have happened”.  Less than two minutes later, Lundy said he “did talk to HUD and got differing interpretations”.

Later on in the meeting during the Public Speaking, Lynn Fortezzi of Stone Manor told how she had called the State and Regional HUD Offices and they told her that this was HHA’s “first redevelopment project” and that they had “used the wrong guidelines”.

I understand wanting to protect your agency, but Lundy isn’t doing himself or HHA a service by evading questions from elected officials or the public.

More later… we’re up page 3 of 11 in my notes… I -will- be leaving out some stuff…

2009 Plant Sale Weekend!

Spring is officially here!

The Huntsville Botanical Garden is hosting the Spring Plant Sale this weekend:

Spring Plant Sale
Public Sale: April 17-18, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.; April 19, 1-5 p.m.

A long-established Huntsville rite of spring and the largest in the state, the Spring Plant Sale offers annuals by the flat or pack; ferns, geraniums, a huge selection of herbs, cherished heirloom plants, houseplants, orchids, perennials, old-fashioned roses, vegetable plants, water plants, wildflowers, shrubs, vines, and trees. All varieties have been specially selected to thrive in North Alabama. Master Gardeners will perform soil pH testing. Vendors offer garden accessories.

This is a nice fundraiser for the Garden, one of the premier attractions in Alabama.  Lots of expert volunteers are available for advice on plant selection, planting, and care.  Plus, it’s a great place to visit with your neighbors.