Board Squashes CHA Drug Testing Plan


Public housing tenant leaders were pleased with Tuesday’s announcement from the Chicago Housing Authority that it has dropped plans to drug test all residents. CHA Board Chairman James Reynolds abruptly proclaimed that the Board would not try to approve the drug testing policy during the Commissioners public meeting today at the Charles A. Hayes Family Investment Center, 4859 S. Wabash Ave.

“We killed it,” he said.

CHA Board Chairman James Reynolds announcing the Commissioners decision to "Kill" the CHA's proposal to drug test all pubic housing tenants, during the CHA Board meeting at the Charles A. Hayes Family Investment Center on June 21, 2011. Photo by Mary C. Piemonte

After the Board meeting, Reynolds told reporters that the decision was made against drug testing all tenants by the Commissioners while they were in their closed executive session before the public meeting.

Reynolds added that it was a “permanent” decision, and then explained why the Board decided against the CHA proposal:

“We thought this was kind of close to violating on civil rights, and right now it wasn’t an issue that we wanted to deal with,” Reynolds said.

In addition, Reynolds said the Board also decided to change the process of how the CHA notifies the Board about things they plan to do.

In the past, the Board heard proposals to amend CHA’s policies and procedures during the meetings.

“We’ve also changed the policy of items. Now have to go through the Board before they got out for public comment,” he said.

Currently, some public housing tenants at several of CHA’s mixed-income properties have been undergoing drug testing as a condition for occupancy. Asked whether those tenants would continue to be drug tested, Reynolds said, “That one we haven’t dealt with yet.”

The drug testing plan was proposed and advocated by former CEO Lewis Jordan, but was fiercely opposed by hundreds of tenants who packed a recent public hearing for the policy. Jordan was forced to resign June 14 after it was revealed that he made a number of questionable charges on CHA credit cards.

Tenants Response

Only a few tenants showed up at the early morning CHA Board meeting, but those that did were pleased with the board’s announcement. Shashak Levi, the former Local Advisory Council president for the now-demolished Robert Taylor Homes “B” section, told RJ that the Board’s decision to kill the CHA’s drug testing plans was “an exceptionally good idea.”

Shashak Levi, the former tenants' Local Advisory Council president for the former Robert Taylor Homes "B" Section, said the CHA's proposal to drug test all public houisng tenants was "unconstitutional" and said the CHA shouldn't have decided to propose such a thing in the first place. Photo by Mary C. Piemonte

Levi added, “I feel first of all that the senior residents have already paid their dues to society as well as the fact that it’s unconstitutional for them to have decided to do something like that, or even thinking about doing something like that. When you’re talking about the federal, state and the city all under budget constraints, where was this type of money going to come from for the drug testing kits as well as the rehab?”

Carole Steele, president of the Local Advisory Council at the CHA Cabrini-Rowhouses, was delighted to hear the news that the Board squashed CHA’s drug testing proposal.

“Right now, I feel that James Reynolds is a good Board Chair. He cares about the residents. It would have been a lot of innocent tenants lost, having nowhere to live,” she said after the Board meeting.

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