Playing Dead

Tht NAACP abandons its watchdog role over Hollman

The original idea behind Hollman, though, was that financing for the project would finish the low-income housing first. And as plaintiffs, the NAACP and Legal Aid Society have been entitled to ask for fines against the city for any missed deadlines. But so far, it's never happened, and members like Larry Tucker say the NAACP won't hold the city accountable because the group has never understood its power. "The NAACP didn't know what to ask for," claims Tucker, who has been in real estate development for 30 years. "Nobody there understood anything about housing."

Legal Aid Society attorney Tim Thompson agrees with Tucker--to a point. "I don't think the NAACP's had any real oversight," Thompson concedes. "There have been varying levels of enthusiasm over Hollman." Thompson notes that Legal Aid is siding with the city in the current round of negotiations with HUD, arguing that while the project has been beleaguered, he wants to see it completed.

The city has until October 2004 to complete the rest of the low-income units. If that doesn't happen, he says, Legal Aid will seek financial compensation for the original plaintiffs. But because White's withdrawal means the end of the NAACP's ability to revisit the suit in any way, for this to happen, Legal Aid would have to take a far more aggressive role.

None of which pleases Tucker. Legal Aid was supposed to advocate on behalf of Hollman's Hmong and Asian tenants, he notes, while the NAACP was supposed to advocate for blacks. By walking away, the NAACP has made it clear where its interests lie. "This is another example of a civil rights group siding with the city," Tucker argues, "with no regard for African Americans."

Tucker and others believe the end result will be that the city will never fully replace the 770 homes demolished under the Hollman settlement. "They can make the case, for any number of reasons, that the replacement housing is not needed," Tucker concludes. "People have been hollering at the city on this, when they should have been hollering all along at the NAACP."

 

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