On Monday the Department of Housing and Urban Development sent a letter to Rockford Mayor Larry Morrissey stating that the feds were starting an investigation against the city council for possible violations of the civil rights act and the fair housing act, along with breaking HUD’s new affirmatively furthering fair housing rules WREX TV and the Rockford Register Star report.
HUD is unhappy that the city council, the Winnebago county board, and Rockford residents have been attempting to block, or at least voice their extreme displeasure with the Rockford Housing Authorities plan to build a new public housing project on New Towne Dr. on the city’s East side near Rockford University.
Wisconsin based developer Gorman’s and Company in the Summer planed to put a 69 unit housing project at the site to replace some of the housing units at the RHA”s Fairgrounds housing project on the city’s West side as Fairgrounds is scheduled to be demolished and eventually replaced.
Due to public pressure and a lack of support from the city council and county board Gorman’s pulled their plans and resubmitted a smaller 49 unit plan to the city council a few weeks ago. Gorman’s structured the new public housing project proposal in such a way that it would be nearly impossible of the city council to block it, effectively guaranteeing the project would go forward despite intense opposition from residents of the New Towne area.
The city council’s codes and regulations committee two weeks ago voted to hold off on approving Gorman and the RHA”s plan; they voted on Monday to approve the plan and send it to the full city council.
The HUD letter announcing the investigation into the city alludes to that committee hearing and what council members said about the New Towne project as being one of the driving reasons for the probe into the city that could see it lose federal funding and possibly have the Justice Department bring criminal charges against the city and its elected officials.
For months HUD has been threatening to launch such an investigation into the city should any steps be taken to delay or derail the New Towne project. The Feds have been adamant, along side RHA president Ron Clewer, that none of the alternatives that Rockford residents have offered or the reasons for wanting to block the New Towne project are acceptable.
Residents of the New Towne area have particularly been worried about the public housing project bringing crime into the area and depressing home values. The neighborhoods around the Fairground housing project, along with most of the RHA’s other housing project, are surrounded by some of Rockford’s worst neighborhoods both in terms of poverty and crime, those neighborhoods in turn are some of the worst in the nation.
While the Fairgrounds residents themselves, mostly single mothers, aren’t necessarily the problem, the fact is undeniable that gangs target the children who live with them, and the drug trade inevitably follows.
Together Rockford, an organization started to combat the New Towne project, and others have offered to do anything from rehab blighted neighborhoods, to a habitat for humanity style home ownership program, to using the city’s hundreds(if not thousands) of vacant and foreclosed homes as alternatives to the building of a new public housing project.
Following Monday’s vote Winnebago county board member John Sweeney told WTVO/Fox39, “You have tons and tons of vacant houses, single family dwellings the solution should be based around filling in the vacancies that we currently have and allowing people to have dignity where they live,”
HUD is being heavy-handed with the city of Rockford because of President Obama’s new housing rules deliberately put federal bureaucrats in charge of the racial and economic makeup of every neighborhood in the country and attempt to render local governments obsolete when it comes to who lives where(and how many).
The fact that HUD is launching this investigation almost solely upon the comments elected representatives of the residents of Rockford made during a public committee hearing is shameful.
Debate, discourse, registering ones objections to stupid government boondoggles, offering up alternatives are bedrocks of a Democratic Republic and for the federal government to do what it is doing to the Rockford city council is absolutely no different from the safe space and speech code Nazis who are wrecking havoc across college campuses all across the country.
Attempts to silence debate and discourse, the effort to criminalize free speech, because one person doesn’t like it, is tyranny plan and simple.
The Rockford city council would be well advised to fight back against HUD, and fight back hard.
The full city council is scheduled to vote on the New Towne project on December 7th.