Faced with the recent resignation of former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Alphonso Jackson and a stalling economy, President Bush has been under considerable pressure to put forth a nomination for Jackson’s replacement.
During the announcement of his resignation, Jackson referenced his desire to spend more time with his family as the reason for his steeping down from office. However, given the precursory letter from Senators Patty Murray (D-WA) and Chris Dodd (D-CT) requesting Jackson’s removal from office, citing allegations of political bullying and corruption, the timing was beyond suspicious. Now, urged by cities throughout the nation to appoint a responsible and competent individual to lead the HUD, the Bush administration has a chance to show America that it is determined to turn around the flailing housing sector in their last year of office. Unfortunately, many suspect that the president’s nominee, Steve Preston, is not the man for the job.
Preston’s ties to the Bush administration go back to 2006 when he was appointed to head the Small Business Administration (SBA). Before this position, Preston was executive vice-president of ServiceMaster – a multibillion-dollar housekeeping and lawn care corporation bringing American families Merry Maids, Terminix, and TruGreen ChemLawn. Lacking entrepreneurial experience, and bearing connections to a corporation that had been known to bully small business, Preston was repeatedly criticized for inexperience in the field of small businesses. With his most recent promotion to HUD, many are again asking if he has the experience necessary to turn around a housing crisis at the forefront of an economic slump.
According to an April 18 report by The Hill, a statement released by the office of Senator Dodd raised concerns of Preston having “no apparent housing background.” The statement went on to warn that the current housing crisis “calls for a leader with expertise in housing issues.”
Faced with increasing charges of inexperience, reminiscent of Preston’s 2006 SBA confirmation, the White House has released a fact sheet detailing Preston’s credentials, attempting to deter arguments that he is not qualified for an administrative position at HUD. Speaking on behalf of their nominee, the Bush administration has argued that “During his tenure, Administrator Preston managed loan guarantee programs similar in structure to those run by the HUD, and he has made those programs run more effectively.”
The administration’s release also presented a potential aim of a Preston lead HUD. “If confirmed, Administrator Preston will lead the Department of Housing and Urban Development in its mission to support homeownership and community development and increase access to affordable housing free from discrimination.”
Many democratic lawmakers, although hesitant to confirm a potentially under qualified candidate to such a sensitive position, are just waiting to hear one promise of Preston – that the solution to the current housing crisis is increased government involvement.
If approved by the Senate, this position will be new territory for Steve Preston. Originally helping families maintain their homes at ServiceMaster, as the head of HUD, Preston will have to put families in a home before he can sell them a greener lawn.
The New Argument