By David Pendered
Any niceties that ever existed between Atlanta’s public housing chief and Mayor Kasim Reed’s strongest appointee to the housing board evaporated Wednesday.
The two sparred over just two aspects of the housing agency’s budget – the use of outside lawyers and a communications firm. But the real issue was an open challenge to Renee Glover’s ability to lead the Atlanta Housing Authority, as she has since 1994.
At stake in this contest are the homes and future living conditions for about 50,000 residents in some 20,000 households. Plus, there is a myriad of contracts to be awarded and paid through an annual operating budget of just over $256 million.
Here’s a taste of the conversation:
“You constantly try to manage us,” housing Commissioner Daniel Halpern told Glover. “There’s no collaboration. I’m trying to be as polite as I can. It’s disingenuous and I’m tired of it.”
At another point, Glover responded to Halpern:
“Give us leeway to the July meeting. We could provide greater detail with more itemized spending, so we don’t throw ourselves into chaos.”
Halpern carried the day in the adoption of a $256 million budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1. The new budget includes the cut Halpern wanted.
Halpern had the votes to reduce the communications budget from $750,000 a year to no more than $84,000 a year. He had no immediate recommendations for redirecting the money and later said the money could go to the reserve fund.
Programs that Glover said will be affected by the cut of almost 90 percent will include academic roundtables where housing policies are discussed; website management; annual reports for the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the public; internal communications; crisis management and media affairs.
Halpern also had called for about a 90 percent cut in payments to lawyers who work under contract to AHA to about $180,000 a year from just over $2 million a year. Halpern agreed to postpone that request until further talks can happen in August.
In a sense, the sparring involved two national figures who appear to be dancing around the idea of who will control the Atlanta Housing Authority – City Hall, or Glover and a board of mayoral appointees that for nearly 20 years has been somewhat insulated from City Hall.
Glover has a reputation in the national realm of public housing as a reformer who demolished ghettos and built mixed income communities. She is a director of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.
Halpern served on President Obama’s National Finance Committee and now is a Georgia representative to the Democratic National Committee. He is known as a successful entrepreneur in the food service industry who grew the business from subsidized contracts in airports to the street. He was co-chair of Reed’s 2009 campaign.
Both can claim former Atlanta Mayor Maynard Jackson as their reason to be at AHA.
Jackson appointed Glover to the AHA board and convinced her to take over as president and CEO after a previous leader had proved to be a disaster.
Jackson and Halpern opened Jackmont Hospitality after Jackson left the mayor’s office. Jackson made a run for the DNC chairman in 2001, but lost to Terry McAuliffe – who was backed by Bill and Hillary Clinton.
Renee Glover is out of a job once it becomes politically advantageous for the Mayor.
Actually, Bill Campbell made Glover the head of AHA.
Yes, thanks for your good memory and observation.
Mayor Jackson appointed Ms. Glover to the AHA board and urged her to accept Mayor Campbell’s request that she take the helm of AHA.
Glover succeeded Earl Phillips, who resigned as executive director a few weeks after Campbell’s inauguration, according to a report by Research Atlanta.
David, does the AHA publish an itemized annual budget anywhere? I’d be interested to see how they spend that $256M. Is that mostly used for their mission of providing low-incoming housing to families? If so, then they’re spending $12,800 annually per household. $1066 a month rents a fairly nice apartment.
Sure, there are overhead costs involved… I’m curious where the overhead is going.
My reaction is Kasim Reed wants to control all aspects of Atlanta.
The public schools, (ignoring) NPUs, (railroading) city council, airport contracts, the city’s (his) national image by appearing regularly on national talk shows, etc etc
Absolute power seems to absolutely corrupt absolutely faster these days
I do not know Daniel Halperin and the specifics of the issue he raises, but I have known Renee Glover for many years. I run a nonprofit affordable housing company, and I was around during the Earl Phillip days, when it was impossible to overstate how abysmally managed AHA was. Even now, despite the plaudits, most Atlantans have no idea of the miraculous transformation Ms. Glover and her team have wrought at AHA, which benefits arguably have done more to re-energize in-town Atlanta than any other factor, including the Olympics. She has done this through sheer will, an insistence on quality, hard work, and a positive vision for people and community, to dramatic impact–starting with AHA’s residents. All this is to say that she has earned one huge benefit of the doubt from your readers, the citizens of Atlanta, and, yes, the Mayor himself.
I was Renee Glover’s general counsel during her early years at AHA. A more dedicated , intelligent and honest leader could not be found for the thankless job of running AHA. She is insulated to some degree from mayoral control because the Board of Commissioners, who have the power to appoint her and approve her contract ,serve staggered terms. The budget is almost all federal funds and regulated by HUD, so local politics tends to focus on the potential for patronage in contracting,
We have a Nationally respected executive in Renee Glover who with past minimal political interference from City hall has the admiration and respect of the Atlanta Business community , the Secretary of HUD , the Obama Administration , Warren Buffett, previous AHA Board appointees , the 20,000 households whose lives and that of the surrounding Communities and larger Atlanta city have been improved and changed due to her leadership and executive ability .
Mayor Reed and Daniel Halpern his hand picked co-chairman of his election campaign now his hand -picked appointee to the Atlanta Housing Authority – and new chairman who is also involved as one of the vendors in the solicitation of contracts at the previously corrupt Atlanta Airport should be under increased public review.
They now say they want to go in a new direction -seems to me when you appoint political & Financial supporters like Mr Halpern including a previously employed AHA employee ( James Allen ) to the board and they now want to micro-manage the hiring , firing and promotion along with the selection of vendors and use of out side lawyers and the awarding of contracts we are going back to the dark days of the old ,incompetent ,corrupt AHA and the Mayor should remember that he works under a contract with the taxpayers and voters which is up in two years
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