For what it’s worth

By DANNY McGILL

“We simply assume that the way we see things is the way they really are or the way they should be. And our attitudes and behaviors grow out of these assumptions.” – Steven R. Covey

I am the current elected vice chair of the Dunkirk Housing Authority serving my third five-year term. I’m known by just about everyone in this community as I have been involved in several community endeavors.

Contrary to what is said or believed, I do know the definition and meaning of volunteer having served for the past 30 years with the Dunkirk Cable TV Communications Board and Public Access Channel 12. I’m also with the Dunkirk Joint Veterans Council, involved with Memorial Day activities, Vietnam Veterans Chapter Secretary and an original member of the CAC (Citizens Advisory Committee).

It is really sad and unfortunate the OBSERVER does not have a Bill Dill anymore, God rest his soul. If they did I’m sure the Housing Authority issue would have been written and stated much better and understood as he was always a “digger” and on top of things. There would not be what appears to be something of a vendetta.

Since the OBSERVER appears to be inciting the public regarding the reinstatement of Dunkirk Housing Authority stipends from the April 16 Common Council meeting via news articles, a “question of the day” and an editorial in the Sunday OBSERVER (April 21) and not understanding the full picture or knowing all the facts, I feel compelled to issue a rebuttal to set the record straight. Even that “question of the day” was misleading to what this is all about.

The Housing Authority is not a board or commission per se it is known as the Dunkirk Housing Authority. It has its own counsel, seal and auditors. Five members are appointed by the mayor and two are elected for two-year terms by the tenants pursuant to Articles 482 and 483 of the Public Housing Law of the state of New York. Members of the Authority are known as Commissioners.

As an appointed commissioner, I (as all others) are required to sign an Oath of Office document at the City Clerks office at the time of appointment and each time of re-appointment which I’m pretty sure those other various boards/commissions people speak about, don’t have to do. This is the same Oath of Office signed by all elected officials. The DHA is semi-autonomous which means the authority acts independently under the guidance of existing federal, state and HUD regulations in agreement with the city of Dunkirk.

It should also be understood we are audited by HUD and I’m sure you haven’t read anything wrong about us on any misappropriations, yet we seem to be linked into this fiasco on the basis of needing money to pay back the wrongs of others. We feel we have done the city of Dunkirk proud.

Just for the record, it should be understood that the City of Dunkirk is not even required to have a DLDC, IDA, Planning Board, Harbor Commission or many other boards or commissions. They can obviously establish it by local law but it is mandatory to have a Housing Authority.

It was approved by The New York State Legislature back in 1965 and signed by Gov. Nelson Rockefeller. The Dunkirk Common Council did not have the authority to establish the Housing Authority but could oversee housing which is why we were given a stipend to monitor city’s interests as well making sure all HUD’s rules under Section 483 of the Public Housing Law are adhered to providing safe, decent and affordable housing to low and moderate income families in the city. There was also a 1979 lawsuit by the local NAACP citing various violations of federal civil rights law.

The suit was settled and the settlement provided for these scattered housing unit sites you see throughout the city. The Dunkirk Housing Authority now oversees The Joseph Steger High-Rise, Bell Towers, Court Apartments, and Smith Court by Point Gratiot, apartments on East Second Street, Park Avenue, Main Street and small homes on East Chestnut Street.

We also play a strong part in making sure the city gets it proper PILOT money which has been roughly $45,000 in fiscal year 2012. The payment in lieu of taxes is determined on many factors and may vary so we do our best to maximize.

Because of its mandatory nature and strong responsibilities plus a required signing an of Oath of Office document – a stipend has been given to the commissioners for the past 45-plus years.

It is small but deserving. Its removal in the 2013 budget was based on the assumption that this stipend should come from the Housing Authority budget which of course could not be done based on federal and HUD laws.

There probably is no resolution but simply a specific understanding as to what is being accomplished and/or done for the city.

Every year there has been a line item for this purpose and over the years no one has objected and it has been fully understood. This has gone way back to Mayor Neil Chaffie. Looking at the word stipend meaning “a form of monetary payment which is usually less than a formal salary, and is normally issued for services rendered” or “a sum of money allotted on a regular basis; usually for some specific purpose,” this reasoning falls into place. As the editorial has stated $2,760 for seven commissioners – five appointed and two elected – is “small money but is also a principle.” Yes, it is OBSERVER, yes it is – and it goes the other way of your thinking too.

Once again it should be noted that the appointed commissioners were “asked to serve,” appointed and to do a job for the city of Dunkirk and oversee a million-dollar budget and at the same time sign an Oath of Office document which in my opinion goes further than your typical volunteer status everyone speaks about.

What was reinstated was just what’s been there for some 45-plus years and there was obviously reasoning involved. It is a matter of past-precedent and if we were given the courtesy of an in-person budget review like other departments this could have been explained better and quite possibly this issue might not have existed at all.

This is not something in which to offer to volunteer by the normal vein by news article or a room full of people who raise their hand and wish to volunteer and say I do, I do -such as CAC members, public Access Channel, church senior activities etc. People need to fully understand there is a difference here.

The OBSERVER editorial also has given a “bad rap” to Councilman Adelino Gonzales. Andy has served as a commissioner for about 14 years and basically been in a “been there, done that” role and has been in a position to fully understand and explain to others what the authority entails. His work with us should not be downplayed or condescending.

In conclusion, it seems the OBSERVER as well as the general public, should have been looking into further what this is all about instead of relying on OBSERVER stories and comments which have not been fully accurate in giving full information.

It is time to explain all complexities and better yet understand before. On behalf of me as a commissioner, appreciation goes to councilmen Michael Michalski, Gonzales and William Rivera for studying, understanding and fully examining the situation and giving a vote of confidence and reinstating the stipends.

Danny McGill is a Dunkirk Housing Authority commissioner.