Public housing is either a salvation or a cancer, depending on your point of view. But five years ago the federal government took a major step toward improving public housing by implementing the one-strike provision that removes residents when they or a member of their family living in public housing is arrested for a drug violation. That single federal policy at long last gave public housing administrators a tool to remove drug offenders from the government-funded housing complexes.
As expected, a removed family took the issue to court and a lower court ruled in their favor. But on Tuesday the Supreme Court decided to take up the issue and we're optimistic the one-strike mandate will be reinstated. And well it should be.
I have long felt the way to rid a community of drug scum is to attack their housing. Local housing officials seem to agree with that premise though it takes diligence on a daily basis. Though it may seem unfair to penalize all members of a family for the criminal activity of just one, it is the only way to send the strong message that drugs are killing our society and will not be tolerated.
To their great credit, both the Clinton administration and now the Bush administration are strong advocates of the one-strike provision. If a community agrees to host a public housing population, there should be guarantees that violators can be removed. Otherwise a community - including Sikeston - should voice opposition to public housing itself. That may not be the right approach but it takes guts to fight thugs on any front.
We urge our local public housing officials and the Department of Public Safety to renew efforts to remove violent and drug offenders from our local public housing. The drug arrest does not have to occur on public housing property - it can occur any place at anytime. If one-by-one we eliminate those who flaunt the laws, our public housing will be better and populated by better citizens. Any effort to look the other way should be met with stiff opposition from the community. We deserve nothing less.