2011 Advocacy Award Winners
James Coleman (Individual)
James R. (Jim) Coleman has served as the Executive Director of the Camden Housing Authority, Camden, Arkansas for the past 36 years. For more than 20 of those years, he has been a leader in legislative advocacy for NAHRO on the local, state, regional, and national levels. His efforts to spearhead legislation from the grassroots level to positively affect public housing across the nation have been tremendously successful, causing other states to now consider Arkansas a pioneer state in housing advocacy. In an attempt to restore economic stability and to create major revitalization in federal housing, he has created and maintained a legislative network and has annually authored position papers to help guide legislative decision making. Mr. Coleman has willingly shared his leadership expertise by serving as President of Arkansas NAHRO, President of Southwest NAHRO, NAHRO Board of Governors, and Vice Chairman of HART’s (housing retirement) Board of Trustees.
“Jim is a very strong Advocate for housing, not only in Arkansas but for the entire Southwest region and at the National level,” said Barbara Suber, Executive Director of the Monette (Ark.) Housing Authority. “In my opinion, it would be hard to find a more worthy or deserving housing advocate in our nation. His commitment to improve our industry through legislative advocacy and involvement are unsurpassed.”
Mr. Coleman’s accomplishments are many; some of the ones that have had the greatest impact were:
- Developed and authored the first legislative position paper for presentation at the annual National Legislative Conference and has continued annually,
- Lobbied successfully to amend state statute which now allows Arkansas PHAs to access State tax refunds due from past or present residents resulting in thousands of dollars collected each year by PHAs for bad debt; other states in our region have followed this example,
- Testified before the congressional sub-committee on housing issues while serving as Arkansas State Chapter President,
- Instigated the first reception for all elected Congressional members and staff at the Monocle Restaurant in Washington which has grown more successful each year,
- Successful in receiving an opinion from the Attorney General concerning statues that would allow a housing representative to serve on the Arkansas Department of Finance Authority and
- Promoted the development of the State Housing Trust Fund which passed in 2009.
Before 2010, there were three organizations in California to which the state’s housing authorities could belong: the Northern California/Nevada Executive Directors’ Association, the Housing Authority Association of Southern California, and the California Housing Authorities’ Association. In 2008, unbeknownst to the housing authorities and without any consultation with them, a bill was introduced in the State Assembly to prevent housing authorities from disposing of and redeveloping their public housing. Although the bill had already been approved by one committee and was quickly moving to the State Senate by the time the housing authorities found out about it, the authorities were able to negotiate a bill satisfactory to them. But it became apparent that a strong, coordinated approach was required and that a statewide organization should be forged to respond to, and advocate for, state and federal housing legislation and funding beneficial to California.
Each of the three existing organizations appointed members to a transition team that met several times over the course of the next year to work out details and develop a “Practices and Procedures” document that served as the basis for the by-laws. At the same time, the organizations decided that, for the first time, they would jointly prepare a “Legislative Focus” paper for distribution locally and at NAHRO’s Legislative Conference. Each of the three organizations then adopted the by-laws as drafted by the transition team, and the officers of the California Association of Housing Authorities (CAHA) took their seats as of July 1, 2010. Now, though not even a year old, CAHA has already coordinated the state's delegation to the NAHRO Legislative Conference and has held its first California Legislative Conference with accompanying calls upon California legislators.
In Sacramento, just one month after formalizing its existence, CAHA held its first Legislative Advocacy Days conference. During the Advocacy Days, directors of various state agencies/departments expressed delight that California housing authorities had organized themselves.
Most recently, CAHA has partnered with other organizations in California in response to the Governor’s 2011-2012 budget, which proposed the elimination of redevelopment agencies. CAHA members completed surveys describing the projects they have developed using redevelopment funds and detailing the number of jobs created. The organization was invited by the state legislature to testify at legislative committee hearings about the importance of redevelopment dollars in their projects/communities. Although the budget process is still underway, and even though redevelopment agencies may be eliminated, CAHA has raised the level of understanding at the state about the abilities of housing authorities and the numerous services they provide.
Senator Patty Murray
Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) is serving her fourth term in the U.S. Senate as the chair of the Senate Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations subcommittee, which oversees the nation’s transportation and housing budget. In her role overseeing HUD’s budget, Murray has worked to increase free, effective housing counseling services and has supported funding for Community Development Block Grants, and HOPE VI. She has supported various Section 8 housing initiatives, including the VASH program, which provides safe and affordable housing for the nation’s homeless veterans. Senator Murray is also a supporter and co-sponsor of legislation to create a National Housing Trust Fund.
“We are facing some difficult budget problems in Washington, D.C. and some of the programs that are critical to housing authorities are under attack, but I am fighting everyday to make sure my colleagues understand these programs that represent so much more than just a number in a budget,” Sen. Murray said. “They are about real people, with real lives, and about families who desperately need these programs to continue.”
Among her many legislative interests and concerns, Murray has also worked to improve opportunities for Washington’s rural communities. She has worked to open new agricultural trade markets overseas, strengthen the farm safety net, and assist farm workers. She was instrumental in passing the 2008 Farm Bill that invests in rural jobs, ensures more families put a nutritious meal on their table, and, for the first time, provides meaningful support for Washington state fruit and vegetable growers. Murray has also initiated an effort to bring hi-speed Internet access to rural areas that commercial providers have neglected.
Watch Senator Murray's acceptance speech: