Republicans are giving a swift kick to the departing Andrew Cuomo administration at HUD, blasting his use of $750,000 for a colorful promotional book on what a great job he's done at the big federal department, money they say "could have provided housing assistance for hundreds of poor families."
The book is entitled, "A Vision for Change: The Story of HUD's Transformation." It's a 150-page, full-color book that comes with an attached computer disk that provides a full multi-media presentation.
"I am concerned," says Rep. Robert Ney, R-Ohio, "that as we approach a change in administration, HUD is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on what may appear to some to be a flagrant political public relations document. These funds could have provided an entire year's worth of housing assistance for hundreds of poor families across the country."
Over the past few years Cuomo and the Clinton-Gore administrations have taken credit for boosting home ownership in America to record levels. There have been other successes as well. Insiders at HUD, however, have complained that Cuomo rarely misses an chance to turn agency successes into personal political opportunities.
Throughout the Gore campaign for president, Cuomo was often seen at Gore's side as he stumped nationwide.
While it is generally accepted in Washington that cabinet positions are filled by those whose political agendas rival their public agendas, Republicans are complaining that HUD's book about Cuomo goes too far.
Ney, vice chairman of the House Subcommittee on Housing and Community Opportunity, said numerous housing industry and non-profit organizations had contracted the Subcommittee to express concern about the book.
Ney quotes a letter from Andrew Sperling of the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities Housing Task Force, which stated the group, "is disappointed that HUD has decided to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on a publication promoting (Cuomo's) tenure at the agency, rather than on efforts to make its programs more responsive to the housing needs of low-income people with severe disabilities.
"It is of little surprise to CCD that (the book) does not contain a single reference to housing for people with disabilities in recounting the Secretary's years at HUD, given his lack of attention to the issue."
Ney also quotes Timothy Kaiser of the Public Housing Authorities Directors Association, who notes that HUD is claiming its Public Housing Assessments System is a success.
"All of HUD's recent publications fail to note, however, that the program is deeply flawed and has come under severe criticism from housing authorities (and) both (Democrat and Republican) sides of Congress. They fail to mention as well that the Department has repeatedly had to apologize to its clientele for all of the 'inconvenience and frustration' caused by its system."