September 27, 2012

Champaign Teachers to Take Strike Vote

The union representing more than 800 teachers in the Champaign School District plans to take a vote to authorize a strike. The union is in the middle of contract negotiations with the school district.

The Champaign Federation of Teachers said its bargaining team met this week with a federal mediator, and failed to reach an agreement after two hours of negotiating.

Union President Cathy Mannen said the date of the strike vote hasn’t been set. She said the vote only means the union can strike, not that it will.

Mannen said her members are hoping for a contract that includes better pay and improved working conditions.

“We’d like to settle," she said. "We’d like to have a contract that is fair, and we’d like to have a contract that is respectful of the work that teachers have to do on a daily basis.”

Unit 4 teachers have been working without a contract since June 30. Bargaining started on April 4, and the two sides have been meeting with a federal mediator since Aug. 14.

School administrators released a statement, saying they are surprised and disappointed to learn of the union’s decision to authorize the strike vote.

"In our last two sessions, the district has twice modified its salary proposals, and these offers are above a step increase and exceed the increase in the cost of living," the statement said.  "We firmly believe that the issues on the table can be resolved through collective bargaining. We value and respect our faculty and staff and want to work with the CFT to come to a successful conclusion to these negotiations."

A call seeking comment from the Champaign School Board President was not immediately returned.

September 26, 2012

Reserved Housing Vouchers Raise Questions Among Community Members

Several community members plan to voice concerns Thursday over a set of housing vouchers that are being held in reserve while 400 low-income households are kept on a waiting list.The Housing Authority of Champaign County said earlier this month that it had 233 “housing choice vouchers” in reserve to provide assistance for those households displaced by redevelopment projects.

Opponents say that giving preferential treatment to those displaced households would further postpone housing assistance for people who already can wait up to five years to get a voucher.

But even with the reserve vouchers, more than 100 additional vouchers will be needed for those displaced by redevelopment projects, said Tonya Crawley, director of the housing choice voucher program for the authority.

“We need 335 (vouchers),” Crawley said. “They’ve designated a certain count for each property being built so it totals 335.”

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has awarded enough funding to the housing authority to finance 1,706 vouchers, but Crawley said only about 1,500 vouchers have been issued.

Meanwhile, the housing authority is also seeking public comment on its plans to amend the way the vouchers are awarded. The call for comment comes as the City of Champaign seeks help from the authority to relocate dozens of families in the Bristol Park area as a result of city redevelopment plans.

The Housing Authority of Champaign County board meets today (Thursday) at 3 p.m. at 205 W. Park St., C

Esther Patt, a housing advocate, said several people concerned about affordable housing will be attending today’s meeting to question the number of vouchers in reserve.

“With more than 300 homeless children in the county and more than 400 families waiting on the Section 8 waiting list, it’s unconscionable for the housing authority to be sitting on close to 200 vouchers and not putting them into use right now," Patt said.

Edward Bland, executive director of the housing authority, has said it can take from one to five years to go from the waiting list to receiving a voucher.

The waiting list is cut off at about 400 households and so some households have to wait just to get on the list.

“Having an open list ongoing would be a challenge to manage because you have people constantly calling,” said Crawley.  “It becomes an administrative burden.”

But officials noted the authority recently opened its waiting list for new applicants.

The housing authority oversees programs that provide housing for low-income households, people with disabilities and the elderly.  The initial value of a voucher is determined by what HUD sets as the free market rent value—the average monthly cost to rent an apartment.

Currently, that value is $645 for a one-bedroom apartment and $785 for a two-bedroom apartment.

The housing authority has the flexibility to change that value by 10 percent, which means the actual number of available vouchers could vary.

Earlier this month, the housing authority issued a public notice of its intent to amend how vouchers are awarded to incorporate a degree of preference.  With the change, some applicants will be selected from the waiting list in order of the number of “points” they get.

The notice states that “applicants that are involuntarily displaced from their permanent residence by a Federal, State or local governmental action” will be awarded preference.

If the authority adopted the point system, it could give preference to families displaced by new projects, such as the redevelopment of Bristol Park.

Public comment is accepted until 5 p.m. on Oct. 8 on the issue.

September 24, 2012

Graduate Workers File Unfair Labor Practice Charge

Graduate Employees at the University of Illinois have filed an unfair labor practice charge against the U of I, saying tuition waivers have been a cause for concern for about three years.

The Graduate Employees Organization says after a 2-day strike was settled in 2009, university administrators agreed to signing a ‘side letter’ in a new contract, ensuring that tuition waivers would not be changed.

But shortly after that settlement, the GEO says the College of Fine and Applied Arts withheld waivers from many graduate assistants.

Jon Nadler, a local field representative with the Illinois Federation of Teachers, says the problem was originally confined to that department.

"But this year, it's widespread," he said.  "It's across many departments, and many of them are union leaders, which has us really concerned because who the grad students elect for participating in their union, and then they're getting singled out for losing their tuition waivers. That's a big concern for us."

This academic year, the union says more than 30 graduate workers in many departments not getting a tuition waiver this semester – and some aren’t receiving their paychecks as a result. 

Nadler says the state’s Educational Labor Relations Board will hold a hearing on the matter next month.  The recent unfair labor practice charge follows another last year, when Nadler says U of I administrators failed to follow the actions ordered by an arbitrator. 

Nadler also alleges the university’s administration is retaliating against the GEO, interfering with the operation of the union.  The university’s collective bargaining agreement with the GEO expired August 15th.

UPDATE:  University of Illinois spokeswoman Robin Kaler says administrators want more information about the GEO's claims about problems with tuition waivers and paychecks.

But she says there could be a variety of reasons why graduate workers haven’t been paid, including an I-9 Employment Eligibility form that hasn’t been signed. 

Kaler says with 5,400 graduate assistance jobs, some of them won’t get processed, but there are procedures in place to correct those issues.  

She says the U of I runs pay adjustments weekly with both campus appointments and tuition waivers. 

Kaler encourages graduates workers having trouble with the tuition waiver and pay to contact Academic Human Resources.

September 20, 2012

Champaign County To Set Up Vets Assistance Aid Program

Champaign County will soon join the list of Illinois counties with veterans assistance programs. Resolutions setting up the program are in the consent agenda at Thursday night’s Champaign County Board meeting.

The program has oversight from the Champaign County Veterans Assistance Commission, which is made up of members of local veterans groups. Commission President Ron Hubert says those organizations had helped needy veterans in the past, using money left over from funds raised in the 1990s for the Champaign County Veterans Memorial --- and later, money which the groups raised on their own. Now, with the Veterans Assistance Commission, Hubert says they’ll work with funds provided by the county.

“We can assist veterans and their families for whatever their needs”, said Hubert, “if it happens to be power bills or roofs or appliances, or maybe even doctor bills or a social worker.  Anything that we can possibly help them with if we can.”

Champaign County Administrator Deb Busey says temporary financial aid will be available to veterans’ families with incomes that are up to 250% above the federal poverty level. Busey says the Champaign County budget for Fiscal Year 2013 includes $80,000 for aid money, as well as about $40,000 for the salary of Brad Gould, the program’s superintendent.

Gould says that besides financial aid, he’ll be helping veterans deal with the red tape of agencies serving veterans.

“I will also help veterans work with the Veterans Administration to get them the compensation or pensions or the spouses their burial benefits”, said Gould. “And actually, that will help eliminate the need part of it, and also it will bring money back into Champaign County.”

The Veterans Assistance Commission program office will be located in the Champaign County Brookens Center in Urbana. It’s scheduled to open at the start of the county’s new fiscal year on December 1st.

September 17, 2012

Strike Continues as Teachers Weigh Contract Proposal

As the Chicago teacher's strike entered its second week, union members spent less time on the picket line Monday morning as they shifted their attention to dissecting the ongoing contract negotiations with CPS.

A group of teachers from McAuliffe Elementary School met at Township, a Logan Square cafe.

Dressed in red shirts, they ate breakfast and drank coffee as they flipped through the latest contract proposal. CTU delegate Scott McNulty said being here and talking with one another was part of their picket.

“Essentially this is democracy at work. We made sure we were at a place that was in the community and supporting local businesses. And we wanted our staff to really know what they were making a decision on and then telling me how they want to proceed.”

The teachers were having a lively and contentious conversation with one another. McNulty encouraged them to "act like teachers and take turns."

Before heading off to the ten other schools that oversees as a strike coordinator he said, “[It’s a] massive amount of pressure to make this kind of decision this fast. I mean we are about 350,000 students being out for two more days. You have to think before you do something. And that’s what we tell our kids think before you act.”

Meanwhile, standing along 69th Street in Englewood, Robeson High School teachers were also flipping through pages of a document. It summarized the terms of a possible agreement between the teachers and the school district—a pay raise, a freeze on health-care premiums and hiring priority for laid-off teachers.

The latest proposal is roughly 180 pages long and the exact language is still being hammered out by negotiators. But Robeson's union delegate Jeremy Peters said a lot of people are disappointed because there’s little commitment to reduce class sizes, increase the number of social workers and limit school closings.

“We didn’t get anything for our kids. We didn’t get the wraparound services. We didn’t get more resources and that’s what, I felt like, gave us the moral credibility throughout this whole struggle,” said Peters.

The Board of Education is not required to negotiate over those issues. A state law passed last year limits collective bargaining in Chicago Public Schools primarily to compensation. Peters says that’s frustrating because it makes teachers look greedy.

Music teacher LaDonna Myers said she would rather be teaching, but she doesn’t trust the board. She wants to know exactly what the agreement says before she goes back. “What person in their right mind signs a contract you have not read? That’s just common sense,” said Myers.

Myers said the delay in getting back to class shouldn’t be blamed on the teachers. “We told you in May how we felt, clearly and unequivocally. If you didn’t get in in November when you first started sitting at the table. In May, you should’ve known you had a problem.... What happened to all the months in the summertime? What happened from May up till the end of summer?”

Union delegates are scheduled to vote again on Tuesday over whether or not to end the strike. Meanwhile, the school district is seeking legal action to force teachers back into the classroom immediately.

September 17, 2012

Chicago Mayor: Court Must End Teachers' Strike

Mayor Rahm Emanuel has asked a state court to force Chicago school teachers back to work, ending a week-long strike he calls illegal.

City attorneys asked the circuit court Monday to force Chicago Teachers Union members off the picket line and back into classrooms.

In a statement Sunday, Emanuel said the strike is illegal because it endangers students' health and safety. Also it concerns issues such as evaluations, layoffs and recall rights that state law says cannot be grounds for a work stoppage.

The union and school leaders had seemed optimistic late last week that they would reach a resolution allowing children back into class by Monday. But teachers uncomfortable with a tentative contract offer said Sunday they needed more time to review a complicated proposal.

September 14, 2012

U of I Trustees Approves Operating Budget

The University of Illinois’ Board of Trustees on Friday approved a nearly $5.5 billion operating budget that includes less money from the state.

It applies to more than 77,000 students and 23,000 employees at the university’s three campuses in Urbana-Champaign, Chicago and Springfield.  The budget is lager compared to last year, but it also includes employee health care and pension payments.

U of I Chief Financial Officer Walter Knorr said the state currently owes the University $325 million dollars in unpaid bills.

“I think the big concern is essentially the cash flow of state,” Knorr said. “I think we need to continue to plan for the worst and hope for the best as far as the state’s situation is concerned. I think there is a big concern about continuing to make these Medicaid payments, and also there’s this big pension draw that the state has to deal with.”

University officials say the budget includes $612 million in state appropriations, which is down by $42.5 million. University President Robert Easter said the reduction was expected, but he said the university’s finances are strong.

“The University’s financial footing remains strong, despite the challenges of a long and lingering economic downturn,” Easter said. “Through prudent financial planning and operating efficiencies, we are continuing to advance the academic and research programs that have made the University of Illinois a world leader in education and innovation.”

Trustees met on the Urbana campus for the first time since Easter took office. He replaced Michael Hogan, who resigned after faculty complained about his unpopular enrollment management plan.

Urbana Chancellor Phyllis Wise said Hogan’s resignation coupled with lagging state support have created challenges for the U of I, but she said the university is moving forward.

“I really believe that this is a year of opportunity, particularly on this campus,” Wise said. “I’ve started to go around talk about it as a year of opportunity. You know, the distractions that we had last year are over, and we can’t blame anyone else. We have to sieve the moment, sieve the year, and make the very best of it.”

Wise said the U of I has given nearly $360 million in aid to undergraduate students this year, and plans on increasing that by $8.5 million. Enrollment on the Urbana campus grew by 12 percent over the last decade, and Wise said the need for financial assistance has also increased.

September 13, 2012

Chicago Schools Still Out, but Progress in Talks

Chicago public school children missed their fourth day of school on Thursday since the start of the strike by Chicago public school teachers Monday.

But the leaders of the teachers union and Chicago Public Schools board of education say progress is being made.

Teachers union president Karen Lewis said Wednesday’s long day of negotiating ended with some real progress, especially around the thorny issue of teacher evaluation. She said the school district’s negotiating team is starting to hear teachers' concerns.

“We definitely have a lot of work to do, but it does seem like we are coming much closer together than we were, certainly this (Wednesday) morning,” Lewis said outside the Chicago Hilton and Towers on Michigan Avenue around 11:30 p.m. on Wednesday.

But Lewis isn’t ready to declare victory.

“No, no, no. Progress. Significant progress. It has not been checked off yet, plus you all have to remember we have a larger bargaining team that we have to talk to. We would like to get this done. Let’s hope for Friday,” Lewis said.

School board president David Vitale also acknowledged progress on the contentious issue of teacher evaluations and recall of laid off teachers.

“We had a very productive evening,” Vitale said. “Really good discussions and proposals on the most difficult issues that we face. I really think we shared a lot of back and forth and what really needs to get done to solve those difficult issues. I think we all go away hopeful that we can come together on this.”

But Lewis said the union remains concerned about the potential closure of schools.

“As soon as the ink is dry on this contract, the board plans to close 100 schools. The board seems to be wedded to proposals that will lead to thousands of experienced and dedicated teachers being replaced and having their careers destroyed,” Lewis said. “The closings of schools is something that we have been serious about for quite some time. Our concern is that it destroys communities.”

Vitale told reporters outside the Hilton last night there are no plans right now to close schools. But he said that going forward the district will have to deal with the problem of having more classroom seats--some 130,000 he said--than it needs.

“That doesn’t mean we’re going to be able to take 130,000 seats out, but we certainly have to put a dent in that and it’s a very complex process,” Vitale said. “There isn’t a plan on the table so there is no number.”

Vitale said that reducing excess capacity could help to pay for any salary increases for teachers under a new contract.

“Compensation is essentially 80 percent of budget … so anytime we are trying to compensate our people well, we have to find the money because we don’t know that revenues are going up,” Vitale said. “Yes, can we look at this and see if dealing with that excess capacity will yield some of the money that we need to run the system going forward, obviously.”

Despite progress on contract talks and happier, even some smiling faces on Wednesday night following contract talks, Chicago’s 350,000 public school children are still not in class today.

“Plan for something for your children tomorrow (Thursday). Let’s hope for Friday,” union president Lewis said. 

Board president Vitale essentially echoed that suggestion. “Obviously they are not going to be in school (Thursday) and we’ll hope for Friday,” he said

August 29, 2012

S&P Lowers Illinois Credit Rating over Pensions

Standard & Poor's Ratings Services downgraded Illinois' credit rating on Wednesday, citing concerns over the state's inability to address its massively underfunded employee pension plans.

Less than two weeks after a special session where Illinois lawmakers failed to reach an agreement on changing the state pension systems, S&P downgraded Illinois' credit. It still ranks 49th among the states, better only than California.

S&P credit analyst Robin Prunty acknowledged Illinois has made improvements in its overall budget picture, like this year's huge cuts to health care for the poor, elderly and disabled, but she said it has not been enough. She sees the main problem as lawmakers' failure to reduce pension costs.

"Their pension funds are in a very weak position relative to virtually every other state," Prunty said.

Lower credit ratings can cost the state by raising the interest rate it must offer when borrowing money for things like road construction projects.

Illinois politicians from both political parties rushed to say "I told you so." Treasurer Dan Rutherford is at the Republican National Convention in Florida.

"I've said this before: That if Illinois does not substantively act, particularly on its pension situation, that this downgrade will come," Rutherford said.

Gov. Pat Quinn said he wants to meet with legislative leaders next month to continue trying to find a compromise on reducing pension costs.

"I made clear that if we do not act on pension reform, the state of Illinois would suffer the consequences. Now it has," Quinn said. "Eliminating our $83 billion unfunded pension liability is vital to getting our financial house in order."

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker said the bad news shows the "stark contrast'' between Illinois and Wisconsin.

The Republican governor said Illinois leaders failed to take action, while Wisconsin balanced its budget and made long-term reforms.

Walker has tried to use Illinois' economic problems to lure businesses to his state. Last week, though, Illinois landed an aerospace company that Walker was courting.

June 11, 2012

Future of Danville’s Public Housing Remains Uncertain

Over the past decade, communities across the country have demolished or sold hundreds of thousands of public housing units. Danville is aiming to be such a community.

Though it has yet to redevelop a single public housing unit, city officials and housing authority administrators are grappling over the future of Fair Oaks, the area’s largest family-occupied public housing complex, and plans for its own public housing stock. 

What’s more, city officials have also been slapped with a housing discrimination complaint based on a city plan to reduce public housing by more than half. 

This plan also prompted federal officials to halt nearly $1 million in community development block grant money for the 2012-2013 fiscal year until city officials revised it to include “revisions that do not call for decreasing public housing and steps Danville will take to affirmatively further fair housing,” according to federal housing officials in a response to a request for information from in May.

City officials complied by e May 25 deadline to revise their plan to federal requests and officials confirmed the approval of the upcoming year’s funds earlier this month.

Danville uses the money to fund home improvement projects and neighborhood improvement projects. The largest portion of money funds economic development projects.

The housing discrimination complaint and subsequent federal investigation remain open.

Public Housing and Danville

Public housing was established by the federal government to provide decent and safe rental housing for eligible low-income families, the elderly and persons with disabilities. Today, there are more than 1.2 million public housing households nationwide.

Low-income housing advocates estimate that about 10,000 public housing homes are demolished or sold every year.

“This level of loss of homes affordable to the lowest income people tears a big hole in the American safety net,” said Sheila Crowley, president and chief executive of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, in a release issued earlier this year.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development clarified its process for selling or demolishing public housing properties.

Fair Oaks is the largest public housing complex in the city of Danville and represents the densest part of the city. Built in 1942, the complex contains 326 family units packed in uniform red brick townhouses on more than half a square mile of land.

The Fair Oaks complex is surrounded by factories and warehouses – some vacant. There’s only one convenience store within walking distance and it’s at least two miles to any schools or grocery stores.

Fair Oaks resident Corey Dorsey doesn’t think this is fair.

“It’s inhumane, if you ask me, you know what I’m saying,” said Dorsey. “We separated from all the stores, we not around anybody, we have really nobody but us.”

Dorsey was homeless in Chicago when he decided to come to Fair Oaks. He had heard from friends that it would be easier to survive.

Fair Oaks is disproportionately populated by unmarried black females raising children on extremely low incomes.

Dorsey’s girlfriend Kiki Jones is one of those women.

She is 24, and raising her five-year-old son Pierre in a Fair Oaks housing unit. She came to Danville in 2008 from a women’s shelter in Crystal Lake, Ill., a suburb of Chicago. She said Fair Oaks is not a place she wants to raise her son.

“It’s kind of crazy because I don’t let my son outside like that because the kids are corrupted too,” said Jones. “I really am leery with Fair Oaks.”

Though she has worked at a Wendy’s restaurant and at the local factory in the past, she currently makes money doing other people’s hair. She said right now, money is not a problem for her, partly because of the price of rent at Fair Oaks.

Since moving in together last year, Dorsey and Jones have been paying $17 a month to live in a two-bedroom apartment.

Properties like Fair Oaks are just like other big public housing projects in that they represent what bad public housing looks like, according to Danville community development manager John Dreher.

“Almost every city in American realized over the last twenty years that model doesn’t work very well,” said Dreher. “It becomes a dead-end trap for the residents. And they started replacing it with more scattered site, or uplift it. Our housing authority didn’t do that. So we’re kinda like the last kid on the block to modernize.”

Danville Housing Authority Director Greg Hilleary agrees that the current setup of Fair Oaks is not ideal, and realizes that the city is behind the curve on developing better housing. But, he said, change can’t happen all at once, which is what he believes the city is proposing to do.

“I don’t disagree that redevelopment should happen,” said Hilleary. “I think we’re just disagreeing on how. And I truly believe that additional housing needs to be in place before we start knocking down buildings. We’re going to have to prove to HUD that we can house folks before they give us permission to tear anything down.”

Fair Housing Lawsuit

Since 1970, the population in Danville has decreased more than 25 percent, from about 42,000 in 1970 to about 32,000 in 2010. Several large companies like GE and GM shut down factories and moved elsewhere, taking well-paying jobs with them. In 2010, approximately 21.4 percent of the Danville population was living in poverty, compared to about 13 percent in Illinois and 14 percent in the country.

One of the City of Danville’s future plans include reducing public housing by more than half, primarily by demolishing Fair Oaks, 85 percent of which is made up of black residents.

The proposal to shut down public housing has come under much scrutiny and debate, some citing racial discrimination.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development, more commonly referred to as HUD, is investigating in response to a housing discrimination complaint case filed by four women who lived in Fair Oaks. Three have since dropped out since the complaint was filed in 2010.

Attorney Katherine Walz of the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law is represented the women.

“To use affordable housing as a cover for racial discrimination is particularly abhorrent,” said Walz. “And we hope that the city can turn towards a new path or being accepting, and inclusive, and a welcoming community not just to long-term existing residents that may or may not be white but to all members of its community.”

Danville Mayor Scott Eisenhauer said someone’s race or where someone is from has nothing to do with it. 

“I don’t care where people come from when they move to this community, Chicago, Indianapolis, St. Louis, Los Angeles, New Yorks,” said Eisenhauer. “But we have to make sure that the programs we offer in this community are successful programs within our community.”

The mayor said he disagrees with how public housing currently operates. He thinks longtime residents of Danville should be able to receive priority over other applicants.

The Danville Housing Authority provides 537 subsidized housing units and administers 525 housing choice vouchers, otherwise known as Section 8.

Of the 537 housing units, 377 are for families while the other 190 are for the elderly or disabled. Until recently the city recommended that the Danville Housing Authority to reduce public housing units to 211 and vouchers to 397.

Section 8 vouchers are used to supplement a person’s rent. In other words, the tenant would pay part of the rent, and the Housing Authority that provided the voucher would pay the remainder. With the voucher, someone can move anywhere in the country where there’s a landlord willing to accept the voucher as payment.

There is currently a waiting list for both vouchers and public housing in Danville. Black persons make up 80 percent of the voucher wait list, and 89 percent of the public housing wait list.

The lawsuit claims that reducing public housing assistance will mostly impact black individuals in Danville.

Fair Oaks resident Corey Dorsey said that decreasing public housing and section 8 vouchers should be out of the question.

“There’s a lot of people out here that need this public housing, a lot of people that depend on it,” said Dorsey. “I don’t think it’s a good idea to decrease public housing but I think it’d be a better idea to expand it. Stop isolating us. We isolated out here. It’s just like being in jail.”

Former Chairman of the Board for the Danville Housing Authority Mike Puhr said he told investigators from HUD that he didn’t think the city was necessarily discriminating against anyone.

“I told them that I did not feel that there was any intent to discriminate, it was more the mayor’s concerns about can his community continue to sustain with the limited resources with the number of public housing units and the number of section 8 vouchers,” said Puhr.

Plans for Redevelopment

Danville community development manager John Dreher said that the undeniable trend in Fair Oaks isn’t fair to its residents.

“Fair Oaks has 320 something units and although no one intended it this way, it has ended up being 80 percent African American, female under the age of 25 with children, no husband,” said Dreher. “It’s a singular demographic, and that’s not good for them or anybody else. It’s also gotten a reputation where, I know there are some very nice people that do live there, but nice people don’t want to live there.”

City and housing authority officials disagree on how public housing should be redeveloped, under the city’s push to close Fair Oaks and decrease the number of housing choice vouchers. Danville Housing Authority Executive Director Greg Hilleary just doesn’t see how that’s possible.

“It doesn’t make sense to me that we can just arbitrarily kick 300 families to the street, not house them, because that’s illegal, we’re going to have to house them,” said Hilleary. “But in order to do that there’s going to have to be changes either on the Section 8 side for funding to issue those vouchers or we’re going to have to have someplace else to house them. And I think that’s the philosophical difference that we seem to have that we need to work out.”

Both the city and the housing authority agree that the high density, one demographic public housing complex is not ideal. Instead, they hope to move on to what they call a mixed income model of public housing.

A study commissioned by the Danville Housing Authority concluded 466 additional units of public housing are needed to meet current demand.

But Dreher said that that figure is just unacceptable.

Expanding public housing, he said, is not the right direction to take. Instead, helping people move out of public housing should be the city’s main goal.

“We just happen to think that the expansion of more and more and more free housing doesn’t really help anyone,” said Dreher. “I know that sounds awfully rough when you’re the person out there who needs it, but we’d rather lift that person to productivity than just park them in an apartment and walk away and leave them for 50 years, and that’s kind of what the housing authority has been doing.”

At the time of this interview, Corey Dorsey had been living in Fair Oaks for a year, but he understands why people would end up staying for an extended period of time.

“People done fell into the comfort of 17 dollars a month for rent or light/heat program, or programs to help pay your bills, you know,” said Dorsey. “And it takes responsibility from people of getting up and getting out and getting their own. It’s technically almost baby-fying them. They almost robbing us of our will to live, robbing us of our survival skills almost, by baby-fying us.”

Danville Mayor Scott Eisenhauer said that the housing authority’s reasons for not pursuing funding for redevelopment are just excuses.

“What’s been so frustrating to me however is the long delay after delay, excuse after excuse as to why we can’t move forward in a direction of providing a far more successful housing environment than what we provide today,” said Eisenhauer.  “There’s no question in my mind, and while I recognize it’s going to take time and money, we should already be moving in the direction of having hired and architect, laid out what a mixed income living arrangement should look like. We should be out knocking on doors, looking for funding, finding out what state and federal program exist. We’re not doing any of those things. And again that’s a charge that the housing authority has been given by this administration that unfortunately they just haven’t picked up the ball and ran with.”

Hilleary said that this discussion should have started a long time ago.

“I think one of the important things that needs to happen is much more communication,” said Hilleary. “We need to work on this problem together. It hasn’t been that way. It’s been tear it down and then deal with it later. That’s not how we need to work on this.”

The housing discrimination investigation is ongoing. For now, there are no direct plans to demolish Fair Oaks.


Page 9 of 9 pages ‹ First  < 7 8 9