Where does the monthly meeting of Richmond’s Housing Advisory Commission take place? The answer to that question will probably surprise many of Richmond’s citizens.
The meetings simply do not take place anymore.
The commission is generally supposed to take place on the second Monday of every month. However, without enough members to constitute a quorum, the commission has been forced to suspend all meetings since January.
The Mayor of Richmond is responsible for appointing the members of the Housing Advisory Commission. Since January, Mayor McLaughlin seems to have stymied the process. She has not brought a single appointee before the City Council for approval.
In the meantime, while the Housing Authority has been labeled one of the worst in the nation, the Hacienda and Nevins complexes are quite literally crumbling to the ground. The Housing Advisory Commission has had to stand by – completely impotent – and watch the deterioration take place all for lack of a single appointee to their quorum.
Under the law, there must be at least four members of the seven-member commission present at a meeting in order for the work of the Commission to be done. Currently, there are only three people serving on the Commission. Oddly, this has been the case in Richmond since January despite Richmond housing issues gaining national attention. Commissioner Jackie Thompson complained at the March 18th council meeting that Mayor Gayle McLaughlin has failed to do her duty and appoint a new member to the Commission. Still, no action has been taken to fill the seats.
Why has the Commission fallen so short of full membership over time? The answer seems to be obscured by political in-fighting and name calling at City Council meetings. However, the result is the same either way. The Richmond Housing Authority has no oversight and no accountability to the Commission. Without the Housing Advisory Commission, there is little communication between the Housing Authority and the City Council through the usual channels. This dire situation is strained even further by the lack of guidance that has arisen in light of the RHA’s current problems.
Just last week, the Mayor claimed that she is putting forward a new candidate for appointment to the Commission. She said she would put the appointee before the City Council for approval. Still, such an item does not appear on the May 13th City Council published agenda.
The only evidence that the issue is on the Mayor’s radar is an agenda item from Councilmember Corky Boozé (the Council’s liaison to the Commission) seeking a resolution that the Mayor put forth appointments on Council agendas in the future. The sentence following Mr. Boozé’s agenda item, however, is telling. It indicates that his resolution has been continued repeatedly since first being placed before the Council on April 1st of this year.
Whether withholding nomination is a tactic to stymie additional criticism to an already battered Richmond Housing Authority and defensive Mayor is the subject of debate. When the commission will resume meetings also remains an open question.