A bill that could sway the political power of the Wilmington Housing Authority is moving on after little discussion in the Senate Housing and Land Use Committee Tuesday.
If passed, more than five commissioners or interim commissioners of the agency could be of the same political party, something that is currently banned.
“One of the things that is evident and is a goal of ours is to maintain a strong board, a knowledgeable board and a board that is engaged and able to come to meetings,” said Jane Vincent, chair of commissioners.
Part of the challenge in doing that, she said, is when the board has a vacancy, it often takes a lot of time for an appointment to be made to fill the open spot.
“At times it’s because of coordination between the appointing members,” she said, “but almost always the political affiliation is an issue. With certainly the city being majority Democrat, sometimes it’s very hard to find someone who does not meet a political affiliation.”
This, she said, has resulted in the board struggling to make quorum, being able to conduct business and delays to resolutions that come before the board each month.
Having a quorum means the board has enough members present to hold a formal binding vote. Often, a simple majority of board members being present constitutes a quorum.
Of the nine commissioners of the agency, seven are appointed by the Wilmington mayor (Mike Purzycki), one is appointed by the governor (John Carney) and one by the county executive of New Castle County (Matt Meyer).
Each commissioner serves a three-year term unless replaced by an interim commissioner.
The Wilmington Housing Authority’s mission is to develop, provide and manage safe and affordable housing for low-income families in the city. It aims to provide well-maintained, decent and safe housing in a professional, efficient and fiscally responsible manner.
The current board of commissioners includes Chair Jane Vincent, Vice Chair Maureene LaFate, Steven Washington, Ben Cohen, Rachelle Grimes, Thomas Moyer, Mimi Rayl and Azeez Weeks.
Sen. Eric Buckson, R-Dover, wanted to make sure there were no parties that expressed concern or pushback as Lockman was crafting the bill. Lockman said that was not the case.
Vincent said that she has spoken with Purzycki and Meyer and they are supportive of the change.
“They have shared that there are times where they need help finding an appointment for the Wilmington Housing Authority and of course, as they’ll point out, this is not the only board that they have to fill,” Vincent said.
The Senate committee did not have a quorum, which means they didn’t have enough members present to hold a formal vote. It seems likely to pass because the majority of the committee are Democrats and there was no opposition expressed.
Senate committees do not hold public votes.
The vote on the bill will be published later on the bill tracker, once all legislators have signed the backer with their vote.
If released by committee, SB 177 will next be discussed by all 21 senators on the Senate floor.
Update: SB 177 was released by committee and will head to the full-body Senate.
Raised in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, Jarek earned a B.A. in journalism and a B.A. in political science from Temple University in 2021. After running CNN’s Michael Smerconish’s YouTube channel, Jarek became a reporter for the Bucks County Herald before joining Delaware LIVE News.
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