Housing board may be remade

The Baltimore Sun

After months of public wrangling over crime with Annapolis Housing Authority officials, Mayor Ellen O. Moyer will get the chance this summer to remake the agency's board of commissioners.

Trudy McFall, who has served as chairwoman of the seven-member board since 2002, announced last week that she would not seek reappointment, and the terms of two other commissioners expire in July.

For Moyer, the vacancies create an opportunity to tamp down on what she described as its recent tactic of "divide-and-conquer politics."

The board has criticized the city for not providing enough of a police presence on the authority's 10 properties after a rash of shootings, several involving Annapolis High School students. She and police Chief Joseph S. Johnson have countered that that authority has not cooperated with the city.

"There are members of the board that continue to blame the city," she said. "Any new rap that a couple of people want to put on the city for political reasons doesn't serve anybody."

Moyer said she wasn't sure how many of the three appointments she would make come July, only that she'd be looking for "a real leader and someone who understands something about housing."

Moyer, who lobbied to expand the board from five to seven members in 2002, leading to McFall's appointment, praised her for "bringing the communities to where they are now."

During McFall's tenure, the agency completed $8 million in capital improvements to the properties - mostly interior upgrades to floors, kitchens and bathrooms - and reopened dormant community centers. The agency also began charging residents in February for excess utility usage, a plan put in place after energy rates soared. And late last year, the board approved a plan to redevelop two of the agency's older properties.

In response to rampant crime on the agency's properties, which are home to about 2,200 people, under McFall's direction, the agency implemented a public safety initiative in 2004, hiring a public safety director, stepping up community policing and expanding the list of people banned from the complexes.

"I think we've done well, but I don't kid myself. I know people in Annapolis are very concerned about state of public housing, and I share that in regards to issues of crime," said McFall, who founded and chairs the nonprofit Homes for America.

Patricia Holliday, who was initially appointed as a resident, no longer lives in a public housing community, and that could complicate her reappointment, Moyer said.

Phyliss Gibbs, a Glenwood resident whose term ends in July, holds the senior citizen slot on the board.

Holliday did not return calls seeking comment, and Gibbs declined to comment.

Eric C. Brown, the fifth executive director of the authority since 2002, said the board was excellent and made his job easier, and hoped Moyer would appoint people of similar caliber and commitment.

He gave high marks to McFall.

"I personally hate to see her go," he said. "I think her leadership, her vision, her clarity and her energy has been good for this agency."

Democratic insiders have speculated that McFall has her eye on the mayor's seat, a notion that McFall did not dismiss.

"We'll see," she said about a run for the office. "I have a job to finish, and I'm thinking about what I want to do next to serve Annapolis."


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