Revised Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority board spins wheels

As a long-time resident and taxpayer of Aspen and Pitkin County, I was very disappointed to read in our papers Thursday that members of the newly organized Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority Board are expressing frustration with their lack of progress. Over six months ago the APCHA board was reconstituted by City Council and county commissioners with the goal of improving the work effort and speeding up the decision-making process. In recent weeks we’ve also read stories about behind-the-scenes negotiations with Lee Mulcahy on behalf of the public without prior approval of the APCHA Board.

Now the APCHA board is planning a second strategic planning retreat in April — I guess the first one last fall didn’t work! Only then will they begin to engage with the public about necessary policy and enforcement changes. So we’re looking at a year, at best, before meaningful changes might begin to happen.

Our public housing authority comprises nearly 3,000 housing units, divided between deed-restricted owned units and rental units. Thousands of our residents are affected by how this complex situation is managed (or not managed). Rules are being violated. Unqualified people are living in these units. Staff positions remain unfilled. Capital reserves for necessary upgrades, repairs and maintenance are nearly nonexistent. These issues have required policy and enforcement changes for years, and here we sit still waiting.

I suggest City Council and county commissioners both review the situation they’ve created and decide if we are on the right track. Perhaps this board should be completely independent of politicians and comprised of elected board members — the same way our Aspen School District board is comprised. Maybe then we’ll see the positive impact that truly independent-minded board members have on managing this situation.

Peter Louras