Mulcahy dealings expose flaws of revised Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority board
As a former board member of Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority (and former resident of Burlingame), I have been both dismayed and disappointed to watch the latest saga surrounding Lee Mulcahy unfold.
While I understand that our elected and appointed officials had good intentions as they reviewed alternative options, this was nothing but a specious argument — in simple English, it was an attempt at pure extortion by Mr. Mulcahy. In engaging in this process, these representatives put the entire affordable-housing program at risk by potentially setting a precedent that could have negated the deed restrictions that are the foundation to the program. It also sent the very wrong message to the current owners/renters in APCHA housing, in essence saying that if you make threats, of violence or otherwise, you can flaunt the rules of the program with no consequences and possibly even receive a payout from taxpayer funds.
Luckily, due to public outcry, our public officials backtracked and realized that any negotiation with Mr. Mulcahy was anathema to the rule of law, law that has been upheld in numerous court rulings, all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
In April of last year, the previous APCHA board issued an open letter calling on both the BOCC and City Council to hold off on revising the IGA (inter-governmental agreement) that governs APCHA. Unfortunately this call fell on deaf ears, and the long-standing citizen board was effectively disbanded, with the newly reconstituted board having a much more political agenda.
At the time, BOCC and City Council argued for a new IGA so that the board could focus on policy, and remove themselves from enforcement actions. However, in the previous six-plus months, the new board has failed to address any significant policy issues, nor have they have created a five-year strategy document as called for by the IGA.
As I did at the time, I would like to again call for a truly independent housing board, elected by the citizens (similar to the school board). Until APCHA becomes an independent housing authority, the organization will continue to be a political football, buffeted by the prevailing winds, whatever those may be. Affordable housing is at the heart of community, and is always touted as a top priority for public policy. It is time the organization is treated as such, which will only truly be accomplished once the organization is fully independent.