Backing the Wrong Horse

One of the things that happens with a change of administrations in the executive branch of any government is that key personnel who are up for reappointment are not reappointed. That’s the case in Annapolis, where Mayor Mike Pantelides promised that he would not reappoint Carl Snowden to the Annapolis Housing Authority. And he didn’t. Which is when the Housing Authority decided that they would go into business for themsleves:

The Annapolis housing authority created a new position for Carl O. Snowden, whom the city’s mayor decided not to reappoint to the authority’s board. 

Snowden’s five-year term as chairman of the board of the Housing Authority of the City of Annapolis is due to expire at the end of July. Mayor Mike Pantelides declined to reappoint Snowden. 

The housing authority board voted on Monday night to create a new position called “chairman emeritus” and appointed Snowden to the position. 

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In a complete and total insult to Mayor Pantelides, the Housing Authority created a brand new position specifically for Carl Snowden in order to allow him to continue to have influence on Housing Authority matters, albeit no vote on them. It is the exact kind of influence that the Mayor wished to eliminate by replacing Snowden on the council in the first place.

Snowden, never known for having any class or decency, then decided to lambaste that Mayor in racially tinged tones at a City Council meeting last night:

Snowden announced his new position later Monday at the Annapolis City Council meeting, after lambasting the mayor. 

Snowden claimed Pantelides reneged on a promise to not criticize one another publicly. The mayor’s announcement earlier this month that he would not reappoint Snowden came while Snowden was out of town. 

“Mr. Mayor, you cannot select our leaders,” Snowden said. “You cannot tell us who we should be supporting and who speaks for us. When you attempt to do that, you display an insensitivity to the African-American community.” Snowden is black; Pantelides is white.

Snowden has long-claimed to speak for the African-American community in both Annapolis and in Anne Arundel County, though nobody has elected to him to any office quite a long time, and the extent of his political influence seems to be based on whatever Democratic elected officials he has attached himself to over the years. Most of Snowden’s more visible work has been that of a staffer for former Anne Arundel County Executive Janet Owens and as the “Director of Civil Rights” in the office of Attorney General Doug Gansler.

The other thing that Snowden is relatively well known for is for his myriad of legal troubles through the years. Snowden has been convicted of driving under the influence at least three times, and was most recently busted for pot possession, which landed him in jail for 10 days due to violating his 2010 conviction, and to his firing from Gansler’s office. Oddly, none of that shows up in his official biography, but alas.

Snowden’s replacement was not confirmed by the City Council last night, so Chairman Emeritus Snowden will be Chairman Emeritus and Chairman for a few more months. But Snowden is not really the soruce of the outrage here; Snowden’s reputation proceeds him and everybody knew it. And everybody knew that Mayor Pantelides, in his quest to change the way that Annapolis is run, was not going to tolerate Snowden’s presence on the Housing Authority any longer than he had to.

However, it is the Housing Authority itself which deserves scrutiny. So what it is? Here’s how they describe themselves:

The Housing Authority of the City of Annapolis (HACA) was founded in 1937 to provide affordable housing in the City of Annapolis for families who lacked the means to purchase or rent housing at market prices. HACA’s mission is to achieve excellence by providing housing, and self-sufficiency opportunities, and by promoting customer satisfaction to enhance the quality of life for low, very-low, and moderate-income residents. 

HACA is an independent agency chartered by the state of Maryland, funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development under the direction of a Board of Commissioners who are appointed by the Mayor of the City of Annapolis.

So it is in fact the public housing agency in the city; they provide housing to 2500 residents. That, incidentally, is about 6.5 percent of the entire population of the city. And the waiting list to get people into public housing is pretty long, up to three years depending on the number of the size and income level of the family.

We could have an entire philosophical discussion about the utility of an agency providing free or subsidized housing to anybody. It’s certainly not an idea that I support, but let’s leave that for another day. The fact that remains is that the Housing Commission is not performing up to the standards that one would expect an agency to perform at if the the goal of the agency was to “provide affordable housing in the City of Annapolis for families who lacked the means to purchase or rent housing at market prices.” Let’s face it, the minimum wait for a public housing unit in the City of Annapolis according to Agency date is at best three months and in most cases is a year or more. Why is the Housing Authority unable to provide the necessary accommodations to those folks whom they are supposed to be serving in a timely manner? Why is it impossible for the Housing Authority to get an individual or a family into public housing for at least one full year?

And that’s the question and the stands on which the Housing Authority should be taking action. But instead of focusing on those issues, the Authority decided to stand tall in support of a political hack with extensive record of abusing alcohol and using illegal drugs. Instead of working with the City Council or the Mayor in order to try to fulfill their mission and reduce the backlog of those in need of public housing, the Housing Authority decided to give Mayor Pantelides the middle finger instead. The Housing Authority decided to serve a political agenda instead of their customers by backing Carl Snowden and picking a fight with the Mayor.

What the Housing Authority hacks fail to realize, however, is that all their political stunt does is strengthen the Mayor’s hand. When Mike Pantelides was elected Mayor last fall, his campaign slogan was to “Sweep Annapolis Clean.” And he’s in the process of doing that. Just look at the budget, where he worked successfully with Democratic Alderman to produce a budget that is fiscally responsible and fits his campaign promises. Pantelides is showing that somebody can both win and govern in Democratic strongholds as a fiscally responsible conservative Republican. When the Housing Authority acts in a belligerent manner as they have done in this Snowden case, they are doing little more than proving the Mayor right.

The focus of the Snowden reappointment drama should not be on Carl Snowden, it should be on the remaining Housing Authority Commissioners who would rather try to score political points instead of adequately doing the job to which they were appointed.

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