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Compassionate letter to Elected-Official about his vote to accept HUD grants

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Introductory email with letter attached:

Donald, you should recognize most of the people on this email as friends and longtime supporters.  Each volunteered comments and spoke at the June 27, 2017 BOCC meeting objecting to Jefferson County accepting HUD grants.  All have contributed to the content of the attached letter either in writings, discussions, and editing by email which has evolved into this personal letter requesting you for an explanation of your vote. 

For a variety of reasons to include political, conflict of interest, and in one case the tone of the letter, not everyone signed the letter.  However, everyone is in agreement on the content, the facts, and the message. 

August 14, 2017

Subject:  Requesting an Explanation for your vote to accept HUD grants

Ref: BOCC Meeting, June 27, 2017

Jefferson County Commissioner Rosier,

Thank you for your service to the residents of Jefferson County.

Many of us who are working diligently on the HUD/CDBG & HOME Grants issue were disappointed and surprised that you voted in favor of accepting these federal funds.  Our understanding was that you would vote “no” and that Commissioner Szabo was the swing vote, however, by her questioning during the meeting it became apparent that Commissioner Szabo would vote in favor of accepting HUD’s HOME and CDBG grants.   Because of conversations and presentations that you gave, we understood you would vote to decline the funds.  What changed your vote?

Accepting HUD’s CDBG & HOME grants money opens up Jefferson County to tremendous potential legal risks and to the federal overreach of HUD on the authority of local government. Additionally, these grant programs squeeze and contract the dreams of the American middle class, our young people and our seniors.

There were a number of mis-statements, mis-truths and mis-interpretations presented by staff and others at the hearing which may have persuaded you.   We were surprised regarding Commissioner Szabo’s continued reference to Westchester County as a fraud case even commenting from the dais that Westchester lied.  It’s a mystery why she took that position after receiving an excellent brief, upon her request, from Frank Francone addressing why it was not a fraud.  A copy of Frank’s brief was also presented to you that provided evidence proving that the Westchester case was anything but a fraud case.  Brian Connoly, an attorney, not a consultant, trained to win arguments was given a disproportionate amount of time at the meeting to make his case for accepting the grants.  (Fyi, as recently as 24 July the Wall Street Journal in an editorial “Westchester Beats Obama” reports on a recent memo from HUD Regional Director now accepting the Westchester County’s report demonstrating that that their local zoning laws are race neutral and the WSJ concluded that “The misuse of federal regulatory enforcement to impose its liberal policy preferences was one of the worst excesses of the Obama Administration.”)  Commissioner Rozier, you just voted to support it.

You were also incorrectly informed about HUDs Housing Choice Section 8 Vouchers only being available to Jefferson County residents.   A voucher can be used anywhere; it would be discriminatory for the county to prioritize Jefferson County residents.  Dubuque, IA, is now paying retribution to HUD in an out-of-court settlement for discriminating against section 8 voucher holders coming from Chicago.

It does not appear that you were fully informed by your staff that HUD’s certificate for a grant renewal requiring you to agree and sign that you will uphold an “Excessive Force” policy, a policy that is only within the jurisdiction of the sheriff, not the BOCC.  Did you ask Sheriff Shrader to present his perspective to the board after discussions he had with Douglas County Commissioner David Weaver, a former Douglas County Sheriff?  Commissioner Weaver is on record clarifying that a commissioner does not have authority over the sheriff’s policies.  What procedures will you and your fellow commissioners approve to the Excessive Force policy you signed?

The following quote from businessdev.com is an example of a misinformed half-truth messages repeated in many different ways by several people making comments:

“HOME [grants], additionally, can be used for ground-up construction or for converting existing housing into subsidized housing. CDBG [grants] cannot support new construction, but can be put toward acquiring properties.”

Two points about this statement provide a very different perspective.  HUD narrowly defines HOME and CDBG grant eligibility requirements for what developers refer to as “Ground-up construction” which is a very different, if not a completely misleading way of describing the “financing” of home purchases provided by the HOME grant.  Then too, financing home purchases for homeowners has nothing to do with “subsidized housing”.  Also, although it can be put toward acquiring properties, CDBG cannot support new construction.

Upon careful reconsideration of the above statement, businessdev.com has since retracted and replaced it with:

“Both CDBG and HOME can be used for property acquisition.  HOME can also finance building and rehabilitating housing, matching every dollar of HOME funds with 25 cents from nonfederal sources.  CDBG funds can support new housing by acquiring and preparing property for new construction.” 

Commissioner Szabo has publicly stated that most of HUD’s grants are used to support seniors, not housing.  She seems to be confusing HOME and CDBG grants with HUD’s very specific Section 202 program supporting housing for the elderly, however, the Section 202 program is not a grant that Jefferson County receives.  Section 202 is the grant that expands the supply of affordable housing with supportive services for the elderly.  Could misinformation about supporting seniors have been the reason you changed your vote?

You were informed by your staff that the cost of terminating and exiting HUD’s grant program would be extremely costly, a one-time expense.  This was not the case for Douglas County suggesting that the staff must have included indirect costs associated with HUD’s Public Housing Authorities (PHAs) who receive a significant proportion of the Jefferson County grants for managing low income housing properties.  These costs however are not associated with running the county government and the housing authority employees are not county employees nor are they the responsibility of the county government.   Could being misinformed about these costs to exit HUD’s grant programs, i.e., not county government costs, have been the reason you changed your vote?

Please realize that unlike the multitude of people who provided comments requesting you to accept the grants, those of us who oppose accepting HUD grant have nothing to gain personally by your vote.  We’re citizens fighting against big government programs that squelch the free market and dreams of individuals to thrive and prosper.  What we, who are against accepting the HOME and CDBG money have in common is that we represent property owners, protecting property rights – and we see AFFH and HUD’s grants in particular as a threat.  An important factor for you as a county commissioner to consider is the difference between property owners and renters, and that property taxes are the primary source of revenue to the county – largely paid by an employed population who depend on elected officials to represent their best interests and who are unavailable to attend and participate at BOCC meetings.

It was an interesting strategic political move on your part to “kick the can” down the road and ask staff to start to work on proposals to wean these non-profits and developers off government funds.  Due to term limits you’re not going to be around to follow up on the staff’s work so it’s an empty request.  While everyday Americans depend on you to represent us; politicians, bureaucrats and administrators are fully aware that everyday Americans are so busy with their lives, raising their families and that it is difficult to attend meetings and hearings.  We trust you to be our voice and represent all citizens, but in this case you disappointed us.

Contributing to this letter are several meeting participants who made comments.  We would greatly appreciate your response explaining your “yes” vote on accepting HUD/CDBG & HOME funds.

Sincerely

[Names removed]

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Name: Smith Young

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