Differing over Housing Center funding

Opinion: Letters To The Editor

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Respectfully, I take exception to statements made by Athena Williams at the village's Oct. 28 Finance Committee meeting. She is the newly appointed executive director of the Oak Park Regional Housing Center. Ms. Williams and two members of the Housing Center's executive board made a presentation to the committee. While I was not present that evening, I did view a video recording of the meeting, after the fact. 

I have worked as a pro bono IT/business consultant on multiple projects at the Housing Center over the past few years. Most recently, I was engaged by Michele Rodriguez Taylor in October 2018 to streamline business processes and procedures, as well as work on several technology initiatives, both tactical and strategic. Michele was the interim executive director from May 2018 until her departure in January 2019. 

I am currently retired after a 38-year career in IT. I spent the latter half of my career as a senior project manager and business solutions architect at the Northern Trust Company. I have managed many highly visible, mission-critical, multimillion-dollar projects, bringing them in on-time and on or under budget. All throughout my career, I enjoyed a sterling reputation for the quality of my work and the level of my integrity. 

In the course of my work with the Housing Center, I automated critical reports that were previously tabulated by hand, including regulatory reports required by the village of Oak Park. (Note: The village provides funding to the Housing Center and in turn requires quarterly reporting.) 

At the Oct. 28 meeting, Ms. Williams stated that reports created by the pro bono consultant who was previously with the Housing Center (me) were wrong.

Respectfully, Ms. Williams is mistaken. I worked closely with the Housing Center's staff on the automation project. The executive director and staff approved the results. Once we shook out the bugs in the code, the only errors we found were those made entering the information into their rental software application from the paper form. I can confidently say that the staff's error rate was considerably less than 15 percent. 

I would suggest that perhaps Ms. Williams' dissatisfaction with my work has less to do with the quality or accuracy of that work and more to do with the public stance I took at the Oct. 24 Finance Committee meeting advocating de-funding of the Housing Center by the village. Ms. Williams was present at that meeting and was clearly troubled by my remarks. 

For the record, during the public comments section of the meeting, I said that, unlike some citizens calling for de-funding, I am not a Housing Center detractor. In fact, I am a past volunteer. However, my property taxes have gone up nearly nine-fold in the time I've owned my home. Further, high property taxes are a deterrent to diversity. 

I concluded with a comment that I know the good folks at the Housing Center very well, and that I am confident they can ramp up fundraising from other sources and continue their work without funding from the village. (Note: The Housing Center also receives a community development block grant from HUD by way of the village. That funding is not in jeopardy for 2020.)

Louise Mezzatesta

Oak Park

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Tom MacMillan from Oak Park  

Posted: November 8th, 2019 9:09 AM

Mistaken is a very polite way of saying that the leadership at the OPRHC lied about the numbers. Our hard earned tax dollars are wasted on salaries for the person doing the lying. Trustees are either afraid to be name called for finally cutting funds or they are part of the gleefully woke who will spend every last dime they can grab for their pet projects. If you think your property taxes are too high, look no further than the millions of dollars that have been poured down this Housing Center rat hole over the last decade for evidence that you need to vote next election.

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