Johnson discusses public housing, Ukraine during stop

STEUBENVILLE – U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson said a private meeting Monday with the Fort Steuben Hotel management team went well.

Johnson originally wanted to meet with the hotel owner who notified the congressman’s office he was out of the country.

“We met with the management of the hotel regarding housing and tenant issues and they want to be a good community partner,” said Johnson, R-Marietta.

“They also want to be included in our next public housing and Section 8 rental housing meeting scheduled for late April. There is absolutely more work to be done on the public housing issues in Jefferson County but I believe we are making progress,” said Johnson.

“Section 8 housing serves as housing for families in a transition. There are opportunities out there for people in transition. We just want the Section 8 housing to be clean and safe,” noted Johnson.

Johnson started a series of meetings in Steubenville last year with key stakeholders aimed at getting criminal activity under control.

“This issue has got to be addressed. We are seeing the impact on the business community and on enrollment at Franciscan University. There is very serious crimes but I come away from today’s meeting optimistic we can make a difference,” Johnson said during an August press conference at City Hall.

His meeting in August came 14 months after Johnson met publicly with city officials during a roundtable discussion regarding crime in public housing and Section 8 housing assistance properties.

That meeting in June 2012 led to Johnson calling upon HUD to investigate alleged criminal activity in public housing units in Steubenville.

During his press conference Monday afternoon at Damon’s Restaurant, Johnson also addressed the crisis in Ukraine.

“The president needs to understand a strong domestic economy means a difference in making foreign policy. Putin thinks he holds all the cards in this debate because Russia has a strangle hold on the Ukranian economy. It’s time to hurt Russia in its wallet. We have to reign in the Environmental Protection Agency and the Office of Surface Mining and Regulations from slowing down our oil and gas industry,” said Johnson.

“The first thing the president needs to do is approve the Keystone XL pipeline project. That would move us toward independence as far as oil and natural gas. We also need to let our friends and other nations know we are open for business for oil and natural gas. They don’t have to depend on getting their supplies only from the Russians. We have one of the largest fields of Utica shale oil and natural gas in the world. We have the opportunity of a strong export that is currently selling for $13 (per barrel) on the world market. When we enter the competition that oil and gas will sell for $5 to $7,” explained Johnson.

“That will mean the Russian price of $13 for oil and natural gas will drop from $13 to $5 to $7. Russia will no longer have the clout they now have,” said Johnson.

“I’m not going to put our military at risk over the Ukraine. This is clearly a failed foreign policy. We have Russia in the Ukraine and Iran getting closer to building a nuclear weapon,” he said.

Johnson said he was meeting with Jefferson County Commissioner Dave Maple to discuss job opportunities and economic development in Jefferson County.