STEUBENVILLE - Two years after U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson initiated an investigation into violence and drug activity in public housing and federally subsidized rental housing, Johnson said he has seen, "significant improvements."
The Marietta Republican discussed public housing, new leadership in the U.S. House of Representatives and Iraq during a Friday evening visit to the 28th-annual Greek Food Festival.
"I have seen significant improvements as far as the different agencies and organizations working together. There was a shooting incident at the Heritage Place apartment complex that resulted in a quick and efficient investigation. The apartment residents involved in the incident were identified and eviction proceedings were started immediately. The safety and security of the public was paramount," declared Johnson.
DISCUSSING PUBLIC HOUSING ISSUES — U. S. Rep. Bill Johnson, R, Marietta, left, discussed the improvements he has seen regarding security and safety in the public housing units in Steubenville with 1st Ward Councilman Gerald DiLoreto. Johnson also discussed political and international issues during a visit to Steubenville. -- Dave Gossett
Tahj Jackson, 23-year old city man, is accused of shooting Torrance Lyda, 21, of Steubenville in the Heritage Place parking lot as well as a 35-year-old apartment resident and his 5-year-old son a week ago.
Johnson is scheduled to meet with public housing officials and city officials on July 1 as part of his quarterly review of violence in public housing units in Jefferson County.
"The criminal groups will push back against our efforts to stop violence and illegal activities. But, if they think we will stand down, they are very wrong. Steubenville is on the mend and we will continue to assist in any way we can," Johnson added.
Johnson started his quarterly meetings on public housing issues in June 2012 when he was asked to start a congressional investigation.
"A federal investigation started today when I came in here. We will review the documentation and we will determine how best to proceed. There is a pretty serious problem and it is not a short list of issues. When you have local officials asking for help, it is a pretty serious matter. We will take appropriate action," Johnson said following the June 2012 meeting.
"I am a results-oriented guy. We need to give serious consideration to these issues. I will stand with and beside these local officials on this issue. My office will be involved. And there is a sense of urgency surrounding these issues. We will be moving forward on this," Johnson added.
Johnson was scheduled to meet in April with Jefferson Metropolitan Housing Authority officials and representatives from the U.S. Housing and Urban Development Cleveland field office, but that meeting was delayed at the request of the HUD Cleveland office acting director.
"The delay will permit JMHA's board time to hold the meetings it needs for these purposes. I am cognizant the public may have additional questions about these operational deficiencies. In addition, your office has forwarded to me several letters from tenants raising concerns that similarly extend beyond safety and security issues. Constructive dialogue with JMHA tenants and the broader community on these matters is clearly warranted. To that end, I intend to work with JMHA to ensure that additional tenant meetings, town halls and similar events are held in the interim." Ray Keyser, acting director of the HUD Cleveland field office, said in his April 21 letter.
First Ward Councilman Gerald DiLoreto agreed with Johnson and said, "progress is being made on the public housing issues."
"We are moving slowly. but are moving in the right direction and I thank Congressman Johnson for his help," DiLoreto said.
Johnson also discussed other issues during his visit to Steubenville. including the shake-up in the Republican leadership in the House of Representatives.
The surprise defeat of U.S. Rep. Eric Cantor of Virginia last week had several Republican congressmen campaigning for the soon-to-be-vacant majority leadership post.
"The dust is still settling on that upset election and I am not sure how it will all work out yet. I am keeping my powder dry at this point. I have worked well with California Congressman Kevin McCarthy, and if he is elected to the majority leader's position. I am sure he will give it his best effort. And, there will be Republicans ready to offer advice if needed," Johnson stated.
Johnson was critical of the Obama's administration response to the growing turmoil in Iraq and said it is time for the president to step up as a world leader.
"What we are seeing in Iraq is an indication of a failed foreign policy. Neither our friends nor our enemies trust us. The president's lack of a coherent foreign policy is allowing leaders like (Russia's Vladimir) Putin to act the way he wants in Ukraine. Iran's leadership is moving toward building nuclear weapons, and we have the problems growing in Iraq," noted Johnson.
"President Obama need to come before the Congress and the American people to details his objectives and needs. He has to work with the Congress to fund a responsible reaction to these events in the world. He needs to find ways to work with us to cut unnecessary costs in order to fund the national security of our country," continued Johnson.
"I am very concerned about the president's subtleness. If you are a leader you need to be out front and act like a leader," declared Johnson.
(Gossett can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.)