Moyer wants more say on funds

The Baltimore Sun

Annapolis public housing officials failed to spend nearly a third of the money allocated by the city for public safety, prompting Mayor Ellen O. Moyer to announce yesterday that the city wants a bigger say over how the agency uses the funding.

Moyer, who has been quarrelling for years with the Housing Authority of the City of Annapolis over funding for crime prevention and its direction, said she was surprised to see a July letter in which housing officials said they used $136,000 of the $200,000 the city had provided in the past fiscal year.

Yesterday, she called for establishing a new partnership to better manage the agency's operations and jump-start initiatives, including opening police substations, installing surveillance cameras and assigning undercover officers.

"They have spent the last year beating up on the city," Moyer said. "I think we need to go back to the drawing board and start over. I think it'll force a partnership of shared responsibility and stop the finger-pointing and the rhetoric."

But the authority's executive director, Eric Brown, said that for more than a year, the agency has been advocating the same proposals Moyer called for yesterday -- but has been rebuffed by the city. Brown's report that detailed the unspent funds discussed the success of undercover police operations, the need for police substations and a push for homeownership programs.

"It appears to me, at least from what I've seen, that we're a little bit ahead of where the mayor is on these issues, and I'm elated that she's catching up," said Brown whose agency runs 10 communities that are home to about 2,200 people.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development gave the agency a score of 38 points out of 100 in its most recent review, finding "substandard" physical, financial and management components and designating it as "troubled."

Amid funding cuts from HUD, the agency and the city contributed $200,00 each last year to a public safety budget.

But after a spate of violent crime last fall, the agency's board of commissioners began criticizing the city for not providing a sufficient police presence or adequate funding. Moyer appointed three new commissioners -- including a new chairman -- last month.

This year, three of Annapolis' five homicides and about 35 percent of drug arrests have occurred in public housing communities, statistics show.

Brown said the unspent funds were a result of the agency's difficulty in attracting officers to moonlight as housing authority security. Though many Annapolis police officers work in such positions, an increase in the hourly pay has not brought in a significant number of officers from other jurisdictions.

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