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Council postpones AHA vote

Updated: October 27, 2012 6:12AM

The Aurora City Council postponed its approval of two additions to the Aurora Housing Authority Board on Tuesday night, pending a court hearing that, for now, effectively puts the development of new public housing in the city in a holding pattern.

On Tuesday, the council was set to appoint businessman Scott Voris and Realtor Shauna Wiet to the AHA board. They would have replaced AHA Chairman Al Schuler and member Bill Burns.

But on the advice of counsel, the council voted to table the appointments, with nine in favor and Seventh Ward Alderman Scheketa Hart-Burns abstaining.

The AHA has challenged Wiet and Voris’ appointments.

According to AHA attorney Jennifer Soule, the board terms held by Schuler and Burns do not expire until 2013 and 2014.

According to City Assistant Chief of Staff Rick Guzman, both Schuler and Burn’s board terms expire this month.

The question is a matter of whether Aurora’s home rule authority trumps a law in Illinois code that sets five-year terms for the housing authority board. A hearing is set for Oct. 3 to settle the matter.

But what hangs in the balance is public housing development at either Jericho Circle or elsewhere in the city. The AHA is barred from awarding contracts to rebuild Jericho Circle until the Oct. 3 court date, and the new appointments — should they happen — would likely take the Housing Authority in a new direction for public housing.

Schuler and the AHA board have been pursuing a plan to rebuild a mixed-income development on the Jericho Circle site.

But Mayor Tom Weisner has said that rebuilding at the isolated Jericho Circle site would continue to perpetuate segregation and that he wants to take a different approach to public housing in the city, better integrating subsidized housing in the community.

Should Wiet and Voris be appointed, the mayor would likely get his wish. Voris has said that the Jericho Circle site “fell short”; and Wiet has said that Jericho “doesn’t seem like a very good location for public housing.”

Including Wiet and Voris, Weisner has appointed six new board members to the seven-member AHA board since May 2011.

The Aurora City Council meets again to approve the appointments Oct. 9.

Meanwhile, the Housing Authority will introduce a new executive director 4:30 p.m. Thursday. The board is also expected to vote on a contract to demolish the buildings that still stand at Jericho Circle.

Staff writer Stephanie Lulay
contributed to this report.

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