Maryland state senator, exploring possible U.S. Senate seat, speaks out on behalf of the ‘voiceless’
On Friday, this Examiner exposed the investigation into Baltimore’s Housing Authority, which came to light based on a ranking Republican in the United States Senate Judiciary Committee, Senator Chuck Grassley; who chose to begin an investigation into possible corruption allegations made against Paul Graziano and Baltimore’s Housing Department. This has now led to a Prince George’s County state senator, who chairs the state senate’s Joint Committee on Fair Practices and State Personnel Oversight, to speak out against the silence of his own party’s leadership and those elected officials who have not spoken up on behalf of the ‘voiceless’ – who are the very people they were elected to serve.
The issue at hand is based on years of questionable practices performed by Baltimore City’s Housing Authority, which combined with the city’s Department of Housing and Community Development; receive Federal dollars by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for urban renewal and housing programs – which seem to be in question in terms of how the money was spent? The investigations targeted issues seem to have come forth in the past few years, as it is said that the combination of these programs may not have been permitted, while also focusing on how these agencies spent the $67 million in federal stimulus funds issued by HUD? The recent court-ordered judgment of $12-million to be paid to former public housing residents – who were illegally exposed to lead paint poisoning and ignored by the city’s Housing Authority – has led city official to balk on the monies owed, even while its recently come to light that since 2006, this same agency has paid outside law firms at least $4-million (a third of the judgment) to represent the city in these lead paint cases. This gross negligence has led some to wonder how the city could spend so frivolously when defending against such allegations, yet once found guilty decline to pay the necessary financial obligations to those persons who suffer from this debilitating disease decades later.
“This issue, and the continuing situations surrounding it, is a real tragedy; for it seems as though, at least from public perception based on the information revealed, that governmental officials who were elected, or appointed by those elected, to represent the ‘voiceless’ victims in this case, have ignored the court-ordered judgment even when found guilty of clear cut negligence,” said 26th district State Senator C. Anthony Muse. “What does it say to this voiceless class of citizens when they cannot even count on their elected representatives to properly represent their interests, even when the courts have advocated on their behalf?” The second term Senator from PG County – which is Baltimore’s sister jurisdiction and the only other locality in Maryland with a majority of African American citizens – spoke strongly against such a travesty and pointed out to me that this is the reason behind his possible candidacy for US Senate in 2012. “It certainly is not this issue alone Hassan, however it is things like this, when Party officials pick politics over the people; advocating for their ‘brethren’ over those who actually elected them to serve their best interests, not the interests of their party colleagues,” said a very adamant Muse.
The Baltimore born reverend, who attended Morgan State University and served in the House of Delegates for years before being elected to serve this PG County district as their Senator, has since organized an ‘exploratory committee’ to examine a possible US Senate run next year against fellow Democratic colleague Ben Cardin. His local appeal and down to earth approach to policy, as well as his constituent service and common sense campaigning; makes him an immediate threat to the first term US Senator. “It’s not personal, I just see a lack of service to the people and believe that I will be a different type of Democratic representative that all the citizens of Maryland can count on,” says Muse. He would face an uphill battle, the likes witnessed by the last person to challenge Cardin for that seat, Kweisi Mfume; as no black has ever won a statewide seat in Maryland, at least on their own! “We’ve seen Michael Steele in 2002 and Anthony Brown in 2006, run as Lt. Governor’s and win from both parties; however that is a big difference compared to running as a singular candidate vying for a seat like US Senate, as the people who voted for Steele and Brown were actually voting for Ehrlich and O’Malley – they just happen to benefit from the combined ticket,” said GCOMM Media strategist Shaun Louis.
When reflective of how the Senator felt about a Republican calling for the investigation, especially a Senator from Iowa; nowhere near Maryland and Mr. Muse said: “I’m just pleased that someone stepped up and did the right thing for the voiceless victims in this case, who have suffered for years based on the illegality of the City and these lead-based houses! Party politics has crippled this country and if Democrats are going to continue to say that we are the ‘Party of the People’, then we need to begin to act like it and challenge one another to step up and be that Party, or the People will eventually get fed up and elect someone else, of another Party, to be their representative!” When asked about his possibility at winning the Senate seat held by a fairly popular representative and Muse says that he too is fairly popular and at this point he is only exploring whether or not that ‘possibility’ is viable or not? It should also be of note that in 2006, when Cardin first won the US Senate seat, he ran against two black candidates; as the black Democratic challenger of course was Kweisi Mfume (mentioned earlier in this article); and the black Republican was former MD. Lt. Governor Michael Steele, as Cardin barely beat Mfume and only received 52% of the vote against Steele! FMI on C. Anthony Muse, you can find more about his efforts at: museformaryland.org
Since the release of Friday’s article, the City’s Housing Authority (HABC) has issued a Press Release involving this investigation, initiated by Iowa US Senator C. Grassley; which can be found in full below.
HABC Executive Director Responds to Claims of impropriety
U.S. Senator’s claims are baseless
BALTIMORE, MD (September 30, 2011) – The Housing Authority of Baltimore City (HABC)
takes seriously any allegations of misconduct or impropriety directed at the agency. We will,
therefore cooperate fully with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
(HUD) in responding to the request made yesterday by Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa)
regarding our financial and business affairs. There have been a number of unfair
accusations made against HABC. We are confident that there has been no wrong-doing.
Sen. Grassley has inappropriately compared HABC with the Philadelphia Housing Authority
(PHA) and its recent turmoil. The association with the PHA is simply unjust and unfounded.
Under the prior Executive Director, PHA dismantled its law department. As a result, PHA
expended $33 million dollars since 2007 in outside legal fees. In contrast, HABC retains an
experienced and competent internal legal staff and uses outside counsel only when
specialized legal expertise is required, such as complex development deals and major
defense litigation. HABC expended only $6.3 million since 2003 for outside counsel. Of the
$6.3 million spent by HABC, $4 million was spent over 8 years to defend against lead
litigation, saving taxpayers over $400 million in unfounded claims.
Currently HABC is faced with over $12 million in judgments that the agency is prohibited from
paying without HUD approval. HABC is also faced with approximately 170 additional
claims, valued at more than $800 million and at least another six-year timeframe for
additional claims to be filed. HABC is working diligently with its federal partners (whose
approval is required) to resolve these cases in a fair and equitable way.
While we have great sympathy for families affected by lead exposure and continue to
seek equitable solutions, we must also consider the great responsibility of providing
housing for 25000 families, seniors and persons with disabilities. We remain committed
to providing safe and affordable housing for the citizens of Baltimore.
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