Monday, April 14, 2008

Demolishing and Redeveloping Alphonso Jackson: Part 2

See Part 1 Below

Alphonso Jackson joined the Bush Administration in 2001 as Deputy Secretary and Chief Operating Officer of HUD. He became Secretary of HUD in 2004.The Housing Authority of New Orleans was taken over by HUD in 2002, though the writing was on the wall well before then.

In fact, officials from HUD had withheld funds from HANO on several occasions over the last few decades. During the Clinton Administration, HUD Secretary Cisneros negotiated a cooperative agreement between HUD and HANO officials to try and hammer out a better management plan. When HANO failed to live up to that agreement, Cisneros renegotiated.

Historically, the rift between HANO and HUD had to do with HANO's inability to implement national housing standards with the federal funds provided. In one despicable incident in 1988, the Smith family of the Desire Housing Projects, including four children, perished in a fire. Two weeks earlier, HANO had failed to cash in on a federal grant to install smoke detectors. While the Smith children burned to death, the smoke detectors that could have saved their lives sat unused in a New Orleans warehouse.

(In an unfortunate aside, the head of HANO, Jessie Smallwood had this to say regarding the fire: "I don't want to belabor that we could've or should've. . . I don't feel anyone should be blamed." Jessie Smallwood now works in Ed Blakely's Office of Recovery Management.)

Now I don't want to belabor the deterioration of HANO's ability to maintain quality public housing because there is a limit to what is available online from that era. Nonetheless, it is clear that as the Clinton Presidency came to a close, HUD officials continued to be frustrated with HANO's handling of funds. Thus, when the Bush came to power, the political will was in place (Fascinating hearing in New Orleans attended by Congressmen Vitter and Jefferson) for a complete takeover of HANO.

Readers, please help me in the comments section. I would like more information about HUD's takeover of HANO in 2002. If you have a good memory, let me know what you recall. If you have stacks of old copies of the Times-Picayune, scan some relevant articles for me. If you have three or four hours to burn, go to the library for me tomorrow. Seriously though, can anyone recall which politicians were on which side during that debate. I know that Mayor Morial had tried to get a judge to appoint a manager for HANO from outside the ranks of HUD but that the courts rebuffed that plan. I am under the impression that Congressman Jefferson supported autonomy for HANO while Congressman Vitter did not. Give me a hand here if you can. Anyone?

Or if you don't remember the HUD takeover in 2002, I'm also interested in HANO's failures during the '80s and '90s. Perhaps you remember news stories from that era. Perhaps you remember the tragic fire that killed the Smith family in 1988. Perhaps you've heard anecdotal hearsay about inefficiency. Paint a picture for me. I'll have more on Alphonso Jackson, HUD, and HANO as the week progresses. (You can bet there will be a Philadelphia connection)


mominem said...

I recall that there were many scandals over HANO's management.

I have known several people who tried to work at HANO all became frustrated with the intransigence of the entrenched attitudes and eventually left.

There were several management schemes tried over the years and they were all frustrated by a combination of local political influence allied with activist residents.

Every "reform" was met with prefessional resident objections supported by local politicians.

Rather than seeking documentary evidence I suggest you seek out the people involved. They are still here.

Sarah Elise said...

I don't have any first hand memories of the take-over. To be honest, I probably wasn't paying much attention at the time. That was long before I became ubercitizen.

I agree with Mominem that you might look toward contacting those who were involved and ask them first hand. Like Jesse Smallwood, many of them are still around screwing things up - I mean helping.

I thought you might like to see this video, though, which I took while the first building of Lafitte was going down.

Sarah Elise said...

Hmm. The link didn't come thorough all the way. Here it is:

Anonymous said...

i have heard of HANO employees pulling up the wood floors from nicer units they were supposed to be repairing, and taking the floors for their homes in Gentilly.

I thought HANO was in receivership of HUD due to a letter from ray Nagin, and that he could revoke it at any time?