Schewel urges seeking more applicants for DHA post

Existing choices not "up to the task," he says
Oct. 04, 2013 @ 01:45 PM

City officials ought to look for more applicants for an upcoming appointment to the Durham Housing Authority board, instead of giving it to one of the two women who's applied for the post, City Councilman Steve Schewel says.

Schewel, the council's liason to DHA, emailed fellow Councilman Eugene Brown late last month to seek Brown's support for "re-advertising" the opening. The term is one council members use when they want City Clerk Ann Gray to solicit additional applications.

He told Brown neither of the people who have applied, Lanea Foster and Cathy Gebhart, look to him to be "up to the task that we need done" as DHA deals with federal budget cuts and the need to renovate or redevelop some of its major public housing complexes.

Foster, a former staffer at the Durham Affordable Housing Coalition and protege of Councilwoman Cora Cole-McFadden, was involved at the nonprofit in coordinating programs designed to combat homelessness. She clashed with city officials after the city and the county opted to take the coordination role away from the coalition and give it to the city's Community Development Department.

She turned down the subsequent offer of a job in Community Development, deeming it a junior post beneath her skills. Supporters of her advocated for restoring the coordination job to a new nonprofit headed by Foster; council members ultimately blocked that, enforcing their decision in 2012 by removing one of Foster's allies from Durham's Homeless Services Advisory Committee.

Foster has since dabbled in electoral politics. She tried unsuccessfully last year to put together a petition candidacy for a County Commissioners seat, and urged another supporter who ran in the Democratic Party primary for commissioner to mount a public attack on the People's Alliance, one of Durham's big-three political groups. Schewel is a prominent member of the People's Alliance.

Gebhart's application indicates she's a real-estate broker. She says she's organized efforts to educate first-time homebuyers.

The impending vacancy on DHA is the long-time seat of Ike Robinson, a former city councilman and N.C. Central University sociology professor.

Schewel told Brown the council needs to find someone for the post who's "really capable in the fields of finance or development, things that the DHA really needs now as it goes into a period of major change because of the federal funding and policy realities."

The council controls appointments to the seven-member DHA board but otherwise has no role in ts operations or finances. The authority answers mainly to its chief funder, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.