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Public housing defended after council vote
Nov 01, 2012 3:30 pm
Larry Hubbard, chairman of the Lebanon Housing Authority, has taken exception to Ward 6 Councilor Kathy Warmath's comments made as she voted no to the city paying half the cost of a second officer to patrol Lebanon's public housing neighborhoods.
Warmath's no vote came at an early morning special called meeting Oct. 22, when the measure was up for a second reading. It was passed by the council on first reading, with Warmath abstaining on the first vote.
"She abstained on the first vote; five voted in favor of it. At the special called meeting, not everyone could be there. She knew the wishes of the other councilors. Why did she vote no knowing the other five, including the one from that ward, had agreed to this?," Hubbard said. "Generally, if the person from that ward votes for something, unless it's too costly, the others will do so, too. That's part of the lack of cooperation we've had difficulty with the last few years."
Hubbard said adding a second officer in public housing neighborhoods is just one thing the Housing Authority wants to do to make those neighborhoods safer for residents and less of a burden on Lebanon police.
"I think we've had a lot of good positive things happening. We're still trying to sort out who does not need to be in public housing right now," he said. "When I first went into this position, I said let's create a plan for us to work toward as a group to provide better housing. It started with IDs. When I walked around the neighborhoods the first thing I heard from everybody was that the trouble starts with people who don't live here. I asked if they would be offended if they had to have some kind of identification to say they live here, they said no. My son goes to Tennessee Tech and he has to have ID to be on campus. With this, we held people accountable for whoever is coming to visit what unit. That was one of the first things we instituted."
Hubbard said the LHA has made other moves to make public housing better, including creating a list of people who had a "bad move" from public housing because they committed a felony or owe money for their housing. The various public housing authorities in the surrounding area share their lists in order to avoid having a person who has been kicked out of one public housing neighborhood in another county turn up here.
"Before, you'd have a bad move out of Davidson County and they'd just come to Lebanon," he said.
Hubbard also said he felt Warmath's comments reflected poorly on for public housing as a whole.
"That was not very nice," he said. "I've learned from the people I've met who live in public housing - teachers, police officers, firemen - that it's just a place that people sometimes have to have to be able to have affordable housing over their head."
Hubbard said he has heard from people in public housing who didn't care for Warmath's characterization of their neighborhoods.
"We had a lot of people upset in public housing about Warmath's comments," he said. "That offended a lot of people."
Hubbard also said Warmath seems to have the wrong idea about taxes and public housing.
"She's under the impression we don't pay property taxes - we do," he said.
He said the Housing Authority pays property taxes just as other citizens who receive police protection paid for with their taxes. Hubbard said the LHA pays as much as the neighborhoods of Mayfair Meadows and Fairfield Place combined or the apartment complexes of Greentree or Rollingwood apartments, and that none of these entities or neighborhoods have to pay additional funds for police protection.
Hubbard said Warmath's comment in that she doesn't think the citizens/taxpayers should be subsidizing the federal government is off base. He noted that the city has around 15 officers funded by the federal government that are not dedicated to public housing on the force today.
Hubbard said he thinks when the full city council meets the funds to pay half the cost of a second officer in public housing will be approved.
"We've been doing good things. I think we'll get the other officer," he said. "We're trying to be a cooperative neighbor and say we realize you spend a lot of your efforts in housing."
He said the support of LPD Chief Scott Bowen for the second officer.
"It's a win/win for the police department and the city," Hubbard said.
He also said public housing has been a good financial neighbor to the city. Hubbard noted that through September the LHA's vendor list to local merchants, attorneys and service providers, shows over $344,000 has been spent in Lebanon. This does not included the money spent by the residents of public housing for groceries, supplies and services that adds to the local tax base through sales tax revenue.
Hubbard said that singling out one part of the city for criticism is counter productive to the health of the city as a whole.
"Lebanon is a very benevolent community," he concluded. "Our community is only as good as the whole community. We have to have that attitude."
Staff writer Mary Hinds may be reached at 615-444-3952, ext. 45 or firstname.lastname@example.org.