An angry, sometimes shouting crowd confronted D.C. Del. Walter Fauntroy at a town meeting he called on housing issues Wednesday night.
Fauntroy convened the meeting, held in the Commerce Department auditorium, to sound community reaction to a housing and community development "action plan" he has proposed.
Many in the audience questioned whether Fauntroy's motives were more political in nature than indicative of any concern for the problems caused by housing inadequacies in the city.
The anger of many apparently was triggered by a reference in Fauntroy's draft plan to a "lack of leadership" on the part of unnamed senior city officials in dealing with housing problems. Fauntroy has attacked Mayor Walter Washington's leadership of the city in the past and has publically supported D.C. City Council Chairman Sterling Tucker's bid to unseat the mayor.
Several speakers told Fauntroy that by attacking the leadership of the city in his plan he was attacking himself. One accused the congressman of trying to be a political "kingmaker."
Fauntroy, who later characterized the hecklers in the audience as being part of a "goon squad," denied that there was anything political about the meeting.
"I've poured 20 years into working for housing in this city," Fauntroy said. "I don't state it on the basis of being able to rap. I state it on the basis of being able to produce." He said that he considers himself responsible for nearly 1,000 units of housing built in recent years in Washington's major riot corridors.
The biggest applause of the night from the audience of about 100 persons came after the remarks of Marie Nahikian, a member of the city's rental accommodations commission, one of nine panelists Fauntroy had asked to appear on the stage with him.
Nahikian told Fauntroy that his proposal "doesn't address the emergency . . . We must stop the evictions that are happening. The housing market in the District of Columbia has got to be cooled off.A serious moratorium may be necessary." Nahikian said she has seen elderly people in the city have heart attacks and die when they are about to be evicted.
Fauntroy's 16-page draft housing and community development proposal was put together with the assistance of 31 organizations, he said. The plan identifies the problems facing the city as a lack of leadership, housing shortages and displacement, housing deterioration and abandonment, the need for full development of community stores and services, and an inability on the part of the city to take full advantage of federal government resources.
The plan calls for an influx of imaginative leaders, a restructuring of the city's planning process and the establishment of an urban finance plan involving the city, private industry, and labor, all working together to create a housing finance agency to provide low-cost loans.
Fauntroy said he plans to meet further with the panelists and community leaders to amend his draft proposals.