Staff are being asked to submit their own drafts after the housing secretary’s new version dropped a call to fight discrimination
Ben Carson has asked staff at his Department of Housing and Urban Development (Hud) to come up with their own mission statement, after his suggestion was sharply criticised for its silence on discrimination.
“If inspiration strikes, please consider writing your own mission statement for the department and submit it by replying to this email,” Carson said in a message to Hud staff on Thursday morning, adding: “We promise to read each one we receive.”
Carson alarmed some Hud staff and civil rights activists this month by proposing that the department shorten its mission statement and remove references to fighting discrimination.
He said Hud’s ethos should be to “ensure Americans have access to fair, affordable housing and opportunities to achieve self-sufficiency, thereby strengthening our communities and nation”.
The proposal fed fears among campaigners about Carson’s conservative views on housing. He was reported on Thursday to be freezing the US government’s anti-discrimination enforcement and scaling back efforts to enforce fair housing laws.
Hud’s mission statement currently states that it will “create strong, sustainable, inclusive communities and quality affordable homes for all”. It adds: “Hud is working to strengthen the housing market to bolster the economy and protect consumers; meet the need for quality affordable rental homes; utilize housing as a platform for improving quality of life; build inclusive and sustainable communities free from discrimination, and transform the way Hud does business.”
Carson’s email on Thursday cited Hud’s existing mission statement and did not quote his own new version. He stressed, however, that he still wanted a more concise statement and one that “captures our work to help families become self-sufficient and economically independent”.
Carson has been under pressure for several weeks following a series of missteps. A senior official alleged that she was demoted for refusing to break a $5,000 spending cap on redecoration of Carson’s office. It then emerged that his office had ordered a $31,000 dining set for the rooms.
One Hud staffer, who was not permitted to speak to the media, described Carson’s email on Thursday as “kind of a cop-out” and complained that it was not clear whether suggestions from the rank-and-file would end up being used.
“There’s no clarity of what kind of process or reviews will be done on any submissions,” the staffer said.
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