Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Housing Authority looking for 'respect'

Board committed despite recent turbulence

Express Staff Writer

Transition continues to dog the Blaine-Ketchum Housing Authority, which is searching for a new executive director, a fifth board member, and respect from the county's municipalities.

Furthermore, Drew Sanderford, the Housing Authority's associate director, announced that he will be leaving his position by the fall of 2007 to attend graduate school.

That announcement came on the heels of Executive Director Michael David's decision to resign, which became public last week.

David, who has served as the Housing Authority's executive director since 2002, has not discussed his reasons for leaving, saying only, "It's just time for a change."

Sanderford said he will stay on to assist the Housing Authority's board, which was in need of a complete rebuild after all five former members resigned in protest March 1, 2006, during this transitional period.

"My goal is to be as good a steward of the organization as I can as we transition," Sanderford said. "I want to see this through to the next phase."

Just what that next phase is remains to be seen.

"On Sept. 14, we will be discussing how we will move forward into the next period," Sanderford said.

On Monday night, Housing Authority board members expressed frustration over their minimal involvement and consultation in the cities' housing decisions.

The frustration was compounded by board member Virginia Egger's comment that the cities are currently too busy to worry about the Housing Authority. Egger, who is also the city administrator of Sun Valley, said the cities are scrambling to pass land-use ordinances in the face of Proposition 2, a citizen initiative seeking to enhance private property rights while minimizing government.

Egger, whose appointment to the board last February spurred the mass resignation—former board members said it violated state statutes—recently failed to notify her fellow board members of a Sun Valley City Council meeting that included a housing discussion.

"You seem to be missing the point," board member Michael Roos told Egger. "What I want to do is have this entity aware of what is going on. As (board member Susan Passovoy) said, the train is going right by us."

Since 1997, the Housing Authority has been committed to providing affordable housing throughout the county.

Rebekah Helzel, founder of Advocates for Real Community Housing, said she resented the implication that the Housing Authority "is not respected or needed by all these cities, because in my experience that is not the case."

Board member John Flattery said that during a recent meeting with the Bellevue City Council, it was apparent that the Housing Authority was viewed as a sub-par organization.

"We don't have a lot of respect, we don't have a lot of trust," he said. "We're gonna have to work hard to earn that."

Flattery said he wants city councils to recognize the Housing Authority's qualities.

"I'd like them to say, 'Oh, Flattery's in the audience; he was a developer for 30 years; maybe he knows something,'" Flattery said.

The Housing Authority will distribute advertisements for a new executive director this week.

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