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Johnson to hold housing meeting

December 18, 2013
By DAVE GOSSETT - Staff writer ( , The Herald-Star

STEUBENVILLE - U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson will meet with local officials Thursday to hear an update about a crackdown on alleged criminal activities in public housing and Section 8 subsidized rental properties in the city.

A press release issued Tuesday afternoon from his Washington, D.C., congressional office said Johnson, a Marietta Republican, will meet with key stakeholders in Steubenville as a follow-up to a meeting held in August aimed at getting criminal activity under control.

"I'm anxious to hear what progress has been made on some of the action items that came out of our meeting in August. Cracking down on criminal activity in the city is critically important to growing the local economy, and some of that crime has taken place in public housing facilities. I am looking forward to having a constructive conversation will all the stakeholders involved," Johnson said in the release

The meeting is expected to be open to the press and will be held at the Earl Rodgers Plaza public housing complex on South Fifth Street.

Johnson met behind closed doors in August at City Hall and later told reporters violent crime in public housing units in Steubenville is affecting enrollment at Franciscan University of Steubenville and hampering attempts to attract new business business from moving into the city.

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

"We had all of the stakeholders at the table here today and we came away with several things we need to collaborate on as we move forward. We agreed to hold monthly meetings of the local stakeholders and every three months I will return to hold a meeting with the stakeholders," Johnson said following the 90-minute session.

"There are also plans to put in more security services. What I heard today is we are going to move forward aggressively. I want to stress not all public housing residents are involved in crime. But we have a few who are creating a very serious problem," Johnson said after the August meeting.

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.

After that meeting in June 2012, Johnson called upon HUD to investigate alleged criminal activity in public housing units in Steubenville.

"Clearly, there are problems, but we also think there are solutions and we look forward to working with local leaders to help effect those solution," Ray Keyser, the acting field office director from the HUD Cleveland office, said following the August meeting.

Johnson was joined at the private August meeting by Mayor and Acting City Manager Domenick Mucci; 1st Ward Councilman Gerald DiLoreto, who also serves on the Jefferson Metropolitan Housing Authority; JMHA Executive Director Joe Costantini; JMHA Chairman Les Zapor; Police Chief Bill McCafferty; retired Drug Enforcement Agency agent Jim Mavromatis, who conducted a security study for the JMHA; Mike Florak, Franciscan University of Steubenville director of community development; Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce President Sue Hershey; business community representative Geary Teramana, JMHA tenant representative Liz Smith.

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