After 32 years, the federal government decided to return the East St. Louis Housing Authority to local control, an occasion so momentous that it drew U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson.
There will be a local board overseeing the authority whose members received “extensive training” in what to look for, meaning the kind of political high jinks and contract padding that turned the city’s housing projects into crumbling hellholes to lead to the federal takeover. There will be a HUD oversight monitor and an oversight committee advising for two years.
Which might explain Carson’s quote: “I don’t think we’re going to see any of those problems anytime soon.”
We’ll generously interpret that as the two years of oversight.
But to be fair, even federal control didn’t stop the city’s housing authority from being a playground for cheesy contracting for fun and profit. Remember, former East St. Louis Township supervisor Oliver W. Hamilton did $628,966 worth of drywall work for the authority, supposedly paying his workers the mandated $40.66 an hour. The contract was awarded to him by his baby mama, and those workers said that pay was closer to their daily rate rather than the hourly rate.
So excuse our skepticism.
We will hope for a new day at the East St. Louis Housing Authority and hope the needy among us benefit from the $1.9 million to be spent on new housing. We will hope that all of that money goes toward building quality housing that is safe, dry and comfortable as residents work towards their own homes.
But we’ve been fooled before, and plan to closely watch this latest incarnation of trying to shelter the city’s poor.