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What a time for the boss to leave town
December 5, 1996
What a time for the boss to leave town.
But that's what he did. Dominic Nessi, who directs the Department of Housing and Urban Development's Office of Native American Programs, left Washington, D.C., in a rental truck last week on a cross-country trip to Denver site of the program's new headquarters.
Most of the people in Nessi's office departed around the same time for the Mile High City. A small group stayed behind to keep a presence in the nation's capital.
Nessi and other Indian-housing officials say the move makes perfect sense: Transfer the head office to a city closer to the bulk of the tribes. Cut down on travel. Deal with Washington by e-mail.
Many Indian leaders disagree. They say Nessi's organization already had an office in Denver; he didn't need another one. Some tribal-housing officials make frequent trips to Washington and they don't like the idea of stopping off in Denver to see Nessi. They note, too, that Nessi must commute now to deal personally with Congress and HUD.
Cost estimates of the move are hazy, but HUD's relocation experts say shifting 13 people from Washington, D.C., and other points to Denver should cost about $500,000, not including miscellaneous office-moving expenses.
Some accuse Nessi of having personal motives. Nessi and his wife lived in Denver for 10 years before he went to Washington, D.C., to take the helm of the Indian-housing program. Nessi said his wife had grown tired of the hot and humid weather in Washington and that they had wanted to move west for some time.
But Nessi insists the move isn't personal; it's part of a HUD initiative to decentralize operations. He's just the first HUD official at his level, so far, to pack up and leave.
"This was not because of what any one person wanted to do," said Michael Janis, Nessi's supervisor, second in command of public-housing programs at HUD. "This really came out of a much broader initiative looking for ways to serve our clients better."
Several tribal organizations protested when word of the pending move spread in June. The National American Indian Housing Council passed a resolution opposing it, and the Northwest Indian Housing Association said in a letter to HUD Secretary Henry Cisneros: "All tribal leaders travel to Wash. D.C. This is where business is done. What would be the advantage for them to stop off in Denver?"
Nessi blamed the criticism on a disaffected member of his staff who has since been transferred to a different HUD department.
Nessi and his supporters have persuaded several Indian-housing leaders to change their minds. Kris Anderson, president of the Association of Alaska Housing Authorities, said Nessi convinced him that Denver is more convenient.
Others remain opposed: "If you look at it nationally,
Washington, D.C., is more appropriate," said Patsy Cohoe, head of
the Southwestern Indian Housing Authority Association. "But, like I
said, HUD does what it wants."
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