April 12, 2008

The Silence Of The Dems On Their Slumlord Legislator


Incredible, isn't it, that the local Democrat bloggers have remained so silent about this story. Could it be that they are trying to cover up the evil and corruption in their midst? After all, the saga started on April 2, with this article in the Houston Chronicle.

City building inspectors on Wednesday issued several safety citations against an East End apartment complex owned by state Rep. Hubert Vo.

The citations to the Courtyard Apartments on Villa de Matel allege eight structural and electrical problems, including rotting wood, missing balcony railings, loose boards and broken windows, city officials said.

"There were the kinds of things you'd see in a building that has not been well-maintained," said Susan McMillian, a senior staff analyst in the city's Public Works and Engineering Department. "It needed more intense maintenance than what had been done."

Homeowners in the nearby County Club neighborhood have complained about the property for years, calling it a visual blight and a magnet for crime.

"It's really a deplorable situation, and the sad thing is that people are actually living there," said Charles Mayfield, a member of the area's Super Neighborhood Council. "It's really disheartening to see, and surprising, to say the least, that anybody no matter who they are would let the property get into such a condition."

Vo, a Democrat running for re-election to his southwest Houston seat in the Texas House, has owned the four-building, $2.8 million property under one of his companies, Newlink Investments, Inc., since 2002.

His campaign issued a statement late Wednesday:

"At the property in question, work was started a month ago to correct items the city has concerns about," the statement read.

"The city understands I will make all the necessary repairs because I want my properties to be a safe place for my tenants and an asset to the neighborhood."

Interesting, isn't it, how one four-building complex could get so bad, especially with an "upstanding citizen" like Vo -- a Democrat lawmaker and all that -- as teh owner. After all, he would certainly be quite concerned about the welfare of the "little people" who live in his property, wouldn't he? After all, he's part of the so-called party of the little guy, standing against all of us mean-spirited Republicans. Certainly he couldn't be a slumlord.

But then the story went a little bit further earlier this week, when it came out that it isn't just one complex -- it would appear to be many of the apartment complexes owned by the Houston Democrat.

Residents in local apartments owned by state Rep. Hubert Vo live in conditions that appear to violate numerous health and building standards, a Houston Chronicle review of the properties has found.

In recent days, the Houston Chronicle documented exposed electrical wires, rotting wood, broken and boarded-up windows and other potential violations of the city's "minimum standards" for occupied buildings.

After seeing the Chronicle's photographs, inspectors from two city departments pledged investigations into properties owned by Vo, D-Houston, saying the conditions could lead to misdemeanor criminal citations.

"There was nothing in those pictures that wasn't a violation," said Jodi Silva, a spokeswoman for the Houston Police Department's neighborhood protection division. "You have to keep your property to certain minimum standards, and that's what these are falling under."

The Chronicle's inquiry began last week after city inspectors, acting on complaints, cited Vo for conditions at an apartment complex he owns in the East End. There, inspectors found open electrical boxes, loose wiring and inadequate balcony railings all misdemeanor violations.

Vo's other properties, in varying degrees, showed similar problems, though one complex was outside the city limits and not subject to post-construction inspections.

Among other potential city violations at three complexes were overflowing Dumpsters, damaged parking lots and an algae-filled swimming pool all conditions that could prompt criminal fines.

Vo, who has owned the properties for years, took blame for the problems Wednesday, saying he had not done enough to ensure the complexes were maintained. He said he would improve the conditions, pledging personal inspections of individual units, cooperation with city officials and outreach to residents to encourage them to report concerns.

"It's not my intention to have those apartments like that," said Vo, a 51-year-old Vietnamese immigrant who founded a computing business and became a millionaire before seeking public office. "I don't want to blame anybody. I take full responsibility."

Now please note that quote that I highlighted. "It's not my intention to have those apartments like that." He did, of course, have them like that and profit off them like that for years -- including his entire tenure in the Texas House of Representatives. But he's getting them fixed up, don't you know - so that makes it all better, right. But somehow it doesn't explain how most of his properties unintentionally became slum properties that are unsafe and unfit for human habitation. Any explanation for that, Hubert? Nah -- I didn't think so.

And the city took even more action against Vo the next day.

City inspectors on Thursday ordered structural and electrical repairs at an apartment complex owned by state Rep. Hubert Vo, the latest action against his properties in recent days.

The city issued a notice giving Vo a month to make the changes, except for a few electrical issues that must be fixed immediately, said Tony Balay, a code enforcement chief inspector.

Vo, who had one of his East End complexes cited last week for similar issues, hired contractors to address the problems, many of which were documented Wednesday in the Houston Chronicle.

Misdemeanor citations could result if the work is not completed, but Balay said Vo appeared serious about the work.

"I'm convinced Mr. Vo is trying to get this done," he said. "To me, he's working in good faith."

Vo, who is seeking re-election to a third term this fall, could not be reached for comment on Thursday, but his campaign issued a written statement.

"I have talked to the city officials, and we are working to correct all the issues they pointed out," the statement said.

Vo, D-Houston, has owned the property, the Northpoint Apartments on Lyerly, since 1996. Residents interviewed by the Chronicle said poor conditions have been a chronic problem.

"Working to correct all the issues." That is great -- though the properties should never have gotten into that condition in the first place. And city officials are even being very careful to indicate that Vo has been cooperative with these efforts. That's good -- after all, one would hope that a lawmaker would make a good-faith effort to stop being a lawbreaker, especially when his violations of the law jeopardize the lives and safety of his tenants. Never mind the possibility that management of one of Vo's complexes appear to have engaged in retaliation against one of those who complained about the problems -- another violation of the law, I might add.

So what we have is Hubert Vo, a Democrat elected official, unaware for years that his properties were a shambles and that he was making profits while endangering his tenants -- but he's going to make everything right. After all, now that he knows about the problem he is on the case.

Not so fast. Read this letter from Vo -- written weeks ago, on his official legislative letterhead, seeking to intimidate the Houston Police Department for harassing the management of one of his complexes over non-structural violations of city ordinances!

A month before complaints about problems at his apartments were disclosed publicly, state Rep. Hubert Vo used his government letterhead to complain to Houston police commanders about the department's scrutiny and accuse officers of harassment.

"What I am concerned with is the appearance that the NPC officers are using their authority to harass and issue tickets instead of working with the apartment managers to remedy any deficiencies," he wrote in the Feb. 25 letter to Assistant Chief Dorothy Edwards, who heads the Houston Police Department's Neighborhood Protection Corps.

"The word 'harass' is a very strong word and I use it very cautiously, but the conduct of the officers involved in this situation leads me to no other conclusion."

The three-page letter, which goes on to complain that the manager at the Villa De Matel apartments was not treated fairly and "taunted," was obtained from HPD by the Houston Chronicle late Friday under the Texas Public Information Act.

Vo's campaign manager, Karen Loper, said he was not available for comment.

A spokeswoman for the corps, which issues citations for blight such as illegal trash dumping, graffiti and nuisances on private property, but not structural problems handled by city code inspectors, denied any mistreatment.

Interesting, isn't it, that "Mr. Responsibility" is unavailable for comment when he has been caught trying to avoid responsibility for the conditions of his apartment complexes? Especially when he is engaged in what is clearly unethical behavior in using his official position to cover his personal ass in this manner.

So what do we have here? A Democrat slumlord seeking reelection using his office to get preferential treatment form those charged with enforcing the laws that protect his tenants. And interestingly enough, the local Democrats are all notoriously silent about this situation. Could it be that they are more interested in holding on to the legislative seat in question than the protection of the residents of Hubert Vo's personal ghettos?

Oh, and there are a couple of questions I'd like the Houston Chronicle to report on:

1) What percentage of the resident's of these properties are receiving federal housing aid (Section 8) to pay for their apartments, and how much money has Hubert Vo been paid over the years from these programs?

2) Given the amount of government assistance given to our permanent guests from New Orleans , how much money has Hubert Vo received for housing victims of Hurricane Katrina in his slum properties?

After all, if Hubert Vo is willing to rip-off and endanger his tenants by renting them apartments in such deficient properties, doesn't it also stand to reason that he would have no scruples against ripping off the taxpayers while doing so?

UPDATE: I just found one Democrat blogger who dares to speak out on this issue -- and even he notes his own silence and that of his fellow Democrats.

OPEN TRACKBACKING AT Stop the ACLU, Outside the Beltway, Rosemary's Thoughts, WayWard Fundamentalist Christian, Right Truth, DragonLady's World, Shadowscope, Leaning Straight Up, InvestorBlogger, A Newt One-punking the global warming cult, Adeline and Hazel, Pursuing Holiness, Chuck's Place, D equals S, Woman Honor Thyself, A Newt One- Coverage of Vets on the hill!, Pirate's Cove, Celebrity Smack, The Pink Flamingo, A Newt One- Don't miss this show!, A Newt One, Dumb Ox Daily News, Rant it Up, Stageleft, Right Voices, A Blog For All, 123beta, Adam's Blog, Maggie's Notebook, The Christian Nationalist, Cao's Blog, Diary of the Mad Pigeon, Nuke Gingrich, Allie is Wired, McCain Blogs, The World According to Carl, Blue Star Chronicles, Oblogatory Anecdotes - Photoshop Montage/Open Trackbacks, Beagle Scout, Tilting At Windmill Farms, and The Yankee Sailor, thanks to Linkfest Haven Deluxe.

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