Collateral Damage

When a natural disaster strikes a community, it does not discriminate – wreaking havoc on the rich and poor, just and unjust, people of every race, religion and social status. Southeast Texas was ravaged by two killer hurricanes in the past decade – Rita in 2005 and Ike in 2008.

The scope of the damage and its human toll were staggering, and the region is still rebuilding today. The latest flashpoint is Concord Homes, a housing project on the north side of Beaumont in the shadow of Jaguar Stadium.

The Beaumont Housing Authority is proceeding with plans to replace damaged units on the project site but has run into opposition from an Austin nonprofit, Texas Appleseed, an organization that has done some good work in the past but has proved tone-deaf to the needs of the Beaumont community in its misplaced attempt at social engineering. They claim rebuilding Concord Homes at its present site is a racially motivated attempt to perpetuate segregation. That allegation is completely untrue, but the do-gooders from Austin think they know what is best for Beaumont.

When executive director Robert Reyna came to the Beaumont Housing Authority in 2003, the agency was in turmoil, fresh off being taken under HUD control for lack of oversight and fiscal responsibility. In the dozen years since, he has built a commendable record for competence, fairness and inclusion, and has been a visionary leader able to bring the community together to address what have proved to be contentious issues in other cities.

That is why an impressive collection of business, political and religious leaders representing all segments of the community are backing the Beaumont Housing Authority – and Director Reyna – in their plans.

On the other side is the Southeast Texas Regional Planning Commission (SETRPC), a quasi-governmental entity contracted to administer the federal funds for the project. That contract expires in December (also the HUD deadline), so the SETRPC is spreading the word the funding will be lost and is attempting to grab the funds and allocate it to projects in other towns.

That is contrary to an official letter from HUD in Washington to BHA that specifically states their $12.5 million for the project is secure, funding needed to make repairs to the hurricane-damaged housing under BHA control.

The Examiner is calling on the SETRPC to seek approval on behalf of BHA rather than in opposition, and calling on the community to let SETRPC officials know they are in support of returning our city housing base to pre-hurricane conditions.


The opinions that appear directly above are the official views of The Examiner and its publisher/CEO, Don J. Dodd. Opinions expressed elsewhere on these pages are the views of the writers only and not necessarily those of The Examiner.