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HA consolidation pilloried; Mariano: Well intentioned, but a `catastrophe'.

Byline: John J. Monahan

BOSTON - Gov. Deval L. Patrick is proposing to replace the state's 240 local public housing authorities with a system of six regional housing authorities, arguing that consolidation would produce better management, reduce political corruption In broad terms, political corruption is the misuse by government officials of their governmental powers for illegitimate private gain. Misuse of government power for other purposes, like repression of political opponents and general police brutality, is not considered political  and save tens of millions of dollars that could be used to improve housing for tenants.

The sweeping changes, already triggering a harsh backlash from some housing officials around the state, was prompted in part by fraud and corruption uncovered at the Chelsea Housing Authority last year, Mr. Patrick said.

The Chelsea Housing Authority director, Michael E. McLaughlin, had been giving himself an inflated and unreported $360,000 salary. He is under investigation for misusing millions in federal housing funds to benefit himself and others.

The governor's plan calls for the regional housing authorities to take over ownership and operation of the local housing projects and apartments that provide 83,000 homes for seniors and low-income residents around the state.

Mr. Patrick pointed out that California, with five times the population of Massachusetts, has only 118 housing authorities, less than half the number in Massachusetts. While many Massachusetts housing authorities function well, he said, some do not.

"A number of recent incidents have exposed the need for more transparency and accountability, better performance and greater efficiency," the governor said, adding that his proposals would "modernize mod·ern·ize  
v. mo·dern·ized, mo·dern·iz·ing, mo·dern·iz·es

v.tr.
To make modern in appearance, style, or character; update.

v.intr.
To accept or adopt modern ways, ideas, or style.
, simplify and professionalize pro·fes·sion·al·ize  
tr.v. pro·fes·sion·al·ized, pro·fes·sion·al·iz·ing, pro·fes·sion·al·iz·es
To make professional.



pro·fes
" the housing system.

"We owe the residents and the public no less," Mr. Patrick said.

Worcester Housing Authority Executive Director Raymond V. Mariano said Thursday he believes the governor's intentions to improve housing authority performance and operations have merit. However, he believes the plan is unworkable and will likely be widely opposed around the state.

"The governor's desire to raise the bar for housing authorities is appropriate," Mr. Mariano said, adding that smaller housing authorities stand to benefit greatly from sharing expertise and management resources available in larger municipal housing authorities through a regional approach.

But he said, "As this was explained to me, it's a catastrophe. You would eliminate any local participation on boards, and I think the local housing authority boards can be a real asset in terms of keeping their fingers on the pulse of the community."

Another problem, he said, is that the proposal would require all local housing authority employees to lose their jobs and have to reapply Re`ap`ply´   

v. t. & i. 1. To apply again.

reapply vivolver a presentarse, hacer or presentar una nueva solicitud

 for those jobs through the newly-established regional state administration offices.

In Worcester, he said, that would affect all 200 housing authority employees who work at the city's 24 housing projects.

"We are talking about thousands of employees who would lose their jobs and have to reapply for their jobs," around the state, Mr. Mariano said.

"You can have a more regional approach - I don't disagree. But the way they are going about it is so clumsy. There are regional housing authorities that exist now, and that is a model that exists that would allow you to do this," Mr. Mariano said.

The governor's plan calls for the proposed regional housing authorities to take ownership of all state and federal public housing assets and take responsibility for oversight and operation of them. Six regional housing authority boards, which Mr. Patrick envisions as having some local representation and being appointed by the governor, would oversee regional authorities headed up by an executive director.

The governor said recent housing agency scandals revealed a lack of accountability, patterns of misrepresentation misrepresentation

In law, any false or misleading expression of fact, usually with the intent to deceive or defraud. It most commonly occurs in insurance and real-estate contracts. False advertising may also constitute misrepresentation.
, and a lack of oversight of local public housing management that needs to be addressed.

He said Lt. Gov. Timothy P. Murray, whose public image has been smudged by his previous close association with Mr. McLaughlin, approved of the proposed reforms. Mr. Murray's relationship with Mr. McLaughlin included frequent consultations and allegations that Mr. McLaughlin was improperly involved in fundraising for Mr. Murray's political campaigns.

"He (Mr. Murray) feels as betrayed, indeed, I would say more betrayed, than anyone. Here is a guy who misrepresented, as I say, with the federal government and state government," the governor said of Mr. Murray's view of the need for reforms.

Mr. Murray did not attend Mr. Patrick's Statehouse state·house also state house  
n.
A building in which a state legislature holds sessions; a state capitol.


statehouse
Noun

NZ a rented house built by the government

Noun 1.
 press conference Thursday, but did issue a statement endorsing the plan.

"The plan builds on the administration's agenda to increase regionalization regionalization Managed care The subdivision of a broadly available service–eg, a blood bank, into quasi-autonomous regional centers, capable of making decisions and providing more cost-effective and/or faster service to hospitals and health care facilities,  of services at the local level and allow housing programs to better meet local demands," Mr. Murray wrote. "Housing authorities are an important part of the state's housing infrastructure, and we need to provide solutions that will improve the effectiveness of these facilities for the long term."

Mr. Patrick said he expects the changes will be politically difficult, but he believes they are necessary. He said he expects many issues raised by the changes, including the transition of local housing workers to the new regional authorities, will be worked out over the next year before the plan would be implemented.

Building managers and custodial and maintenance staff would remain at public housing facilities, answering to the regional authority. The more than 1,000 locally appointed housing authority board member positions, some of which are paid, would be eliminated.

Mr. Patrick said legislative leaders have told him they will keep an open mind in reviewing the proposals.

The governor said the legislation will allow municipalities to develop local advisory boards.

The plan is expected to run into strong local opposition by housing officials and possibly lawmakers who would have to approve it.

ART: PHOTOS

CUTLINE: (1) Worcester Housing Authority Executive Director Raymond V. Mariano believes the governor's plan to improve housing authority performance is unworkable. (2) Worcester Housing Authority Executive Director Raymond V. Mariano, left, speaks to U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development New England New England, name applied to the region comprising six states of the NE United States—Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut. The region is thought to have been so named by Capt.  Regional Director Richard A. Walega at the Worcester Housing Authority in 2010.

PHOTOG pho·tog  
n. Informal
A person who takes photographs, especially as a profession; a photographer.
: (1) T&G File Photo/MARK C. IDE (1) (Integrated Development Environment) A set of programs run from a single user interface. For example, programming languages often include a text editor, compiler and debugger, which are all activated and function from a common menu.  (2) T&G File Photo/TOM RETTIG
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Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Geographic Code:1U1MA
Date:Jan 11, 2013
Words:965
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