During a tense City Council meeting Monday, including uncommon flare-ups from a few members, Melvin Miller was reappointed to the Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority after Council declined action on his reappointment at a meeting in January.
Council also instructed the city attorney to prepare an ordinance that would restructure ARHA most notably by reducing its members from nine to seven for Tuesdays legislative meeting. Though Miller was reappointed, he is not guaranteed a seat should the reconstitution be enacted; the former nine members would have to reapply for the positions, competing with first-time candidates for the advertised seat.
The board could go through a broader makeover, but only after the vetting process of public discussions and a public hearing, according to Mayor Bill Euille.
We could even possibly appoint a City Council member to the board, Euille said. We just dont know yet.
Millers reappointment comes after eight years on a board that has waded through various development projects like Chatham Square and is involved in current development projects like the Braddock East Plan. ARHAs dominion over public housing has been speckled with what some officials call success (tending to the housing projects that remained in The Berg, now the Chatham Square mixed-income development, and constructing new units outside of Old Town) and what some residents call mismanagement (going weeks without hot water, as one resident complained).
Miller has served as both chairman and commissioner in his time on the board. The decision over whether to reappoint Miller (Councilman Gaines was the only one who did not abstain, voting yes at the original meeting) evoked controversy among his supporters and detractors, but also a conversation over what Councilman Justin Wilson said Council danced around for years: the citys effectiveness in dealing with public and affordable housing.
Were having a conversation about the quality of the housing we provide to our working poor and how we need to improve that, said Wilson after apologizing for his lack of transparency during Millers original reappointment date. I think as a member of Council, we dont build homes we dont arrest criminals, we dont put out fires. We appropriate money, appoint and hire people and thats how we set policy.
Disagreements between Council members ensued over whether to separate Millers reappointment from the reconstitution, or package the actions together what Gaines called political expedience.
After a slight hubbub between Gaines, Councilman Paul Smedberg and Councilman Tim Lovain, the ordinance was packaged and forwarded to the next step. Gaines said he only voted for it because it included Millers appointment.
Separate the two motions, Gaines said. Vote up or down. Dont tie baggage to a vote for one person. Why do it?
The motion will be introduced at the Councils legislative meeting Tuesday, followed by a public hearing February 21. Meanwhile, Miller will take his seat on the ARHA board.