Public Has A Right to Know

More than a year ago, Rep. Bill Johnson met with government and community leaders from Steuben-ville, along with U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development representatives, to discuss crime in public housing complexes. Johnson, R-Ohio, is eager to learn whether progress has been made in curbing illegal activities.

To that end, a follow-up meeting has been scheduled for Thursday. HUD representatives and local officials, along with Johnson and a member of his staff, will attend.

Neither the public nor the press will be present. “At the request of HUD, the meeting was closed to the media in order to have an open, honest and productive discussion,” explained Ben Keeler of Johnson’s Marietta office.

In other words, HUD officials don’t want dirty laundry aired in public.

Prior to the meeting in June 2012, local officials and residents had complained that some HUD-affiliated public housing complexes were serving as havens for violent criminals. Jefferson Metropolitan Housing Authority Executive Director Joe Costantini had said HUD regulations sometimes made it difficult to keep thugs out of the complexes.

Things did change after that meeting. For one thing, JMHA and city officials began meeting twice a month to exchange information about potential problems.

Unfortunately, there has been no let-up in violence on Steubenville streets. Five people have been murdered this year.

A press conference will be held after the meeting on Thursday. Steubenville residents have a right to expect local officials and others at the gathering will take that opportunity to fill the public in on what was discussed at the gathering. A report on whether efforts to keep violent criminals out of public housing complexes have worked also would be nice.

HUD may not want to let the press and public in on what is happening – but local officials have a duty to do so.