Thursday, November 22, 2007

Special "Why Bother?" issue of my housing co-op newsletter (and why endangering Section 8 is a bad thing)

"Jane," said a fellow resident of Savo yesterday, "you haven't put out any newsletters lately. What's up with that?"

I guess it's just my new "Why Bother" attitude. I just got back from spending three weeks in Iraq embedded in Al Ambar province with the Marines. We were in Haditha, out in the middle of nowhere, sleeping on cots, living in bunkers, without even a latrine. Eating goat with the sheiks and sitting in smoke-filled rooms with Iraqi Army generals trying to keep the momentum for peace talks going on. Coming back to Savo after that and listening to Savo Board members bicker over how they can keep their market-rate rents down at the expense of the co-op, move themselves around between units, get maintenance to do favors for them and plot out new and better ways to mess with me? It all just seems so petty. "Why bother."

Last month, six whole years after I installed a window in my unit, a Board member actually went down to the City of Berkeley permit office and turned me in for not having a building permit! So I took all the necessary papers down to the permit office and told them that I hadn't realized that I needed a permit to install a residential window. They said they would give me a retroactive permit, end of problem. But then at the very end of the process, they discovered that I didn't own the building -- the Board did. So they fined the Board for not having the permit. Way to shoot yourself in the foot, guys. Now Savo has to pay for the permit and the fine. And the Board still wants to shingle over my window. And it's been almost a year since I filed my fair-housing suit regarding said window and we are still getting it mediated but HUD says I'm not allowed that window because the Board didn't approve it. Of course they didn't approve it! Since when has the Board approved anything that didn't directly benefit them????

"Why bother."

Another resident is thinking about applying for a lateral transfer here at Savo due to disability needs. "But Jane, that's illegal according to the bylaws." Nope. Not any more. The Board set a new precedence when it voted to allow one Board member to score a lateral transfer even in spite of the bylaws. So now if they allow a Board member to have a lateral transfer but deny one to you, then you have grounds for a lawsuit. What's with this Board? They apparently can vote themselves lateral transfers and all kinds of other perks yet they won't vote to allow me to have a window installed or approved? "Why bother."

The November Board meeting was just postponed because, according to a notice they sent out, "there wasn't a quorum". But nobody I talked with on the Board had been asked if they could make the meeting or not. But it turns out that the meeting had actually been postponed because one Board member had wanted to go off to New Orleans that week. But this is actually good news. This Board member had been so disabled previously that she had required a new disabled unit and now she could go off jet-setting. Thank goodness for this Board member's miraculous recovery! Hey, I'm disabled too. Should I get a disabled unit also? "Why bother."

You shoulda gone to the last Board meeting. Lots of yelling and screaming. Good grief! And one Board member actually had the nerve to complain that new residents at Savo don't want to attend the meetings? WHY BOTHER.

As for status of our re-hab? At the last Board meeting, they were actually discussing the need to find a new contractor. At this late date? And at the meeting before that, they were arguing because we haven't paid our new project manager, who is threatening to quit in disgust. The re-hab was scheduled to be completed in 2003. But guess what? We're no closer now than we were back in 2001. And I hear that the bank is fining us for the delay and possibly even planning to back out of the loan. I guess that they too figure, "Why bother."

And at the September meeting I made a motion to raise market-rate rents based on recommendations from HUD and our latest management company, but nobody even seconded it even though Savo is deeply in debt. Apparently the market-rate Board members don't want their rents going up so the rest of us will just have to suffer. Should we complain about the roofs when they leak this winter and there is no money to fix them and we have to use black plastic garbage bags to cover the leaks? "Why bother."

And other Board members who receive Section 8 are over-housed at HUD's expense but do said Board members volunteer to downsize so that other families who desperately need housing here at Savo can move in? No. "Why bother."

And I just got an e-mail from a HUD expert who said, "One other thing I heard is that the co-op has failed the last two HUD inspections. This is not good. It puts HUD in a position where they feel something needs to be done. As far as I know, the only thing HUD could actually do to punish the co-op is to eliminate the Section 8. That would be a disaster to the lower-income residents but who seems to care?" Actually the market-rate Board members seem to care a lot. From what I have heard at Board meetings, they would just LOVE to see Savo lose Section 8 -- so that they could tell all their friends that they now live in garden apartments and not in "The Projects". How embarrassing that must be! Everyone in America knows that status is more important than helping low-income working families avoid homelessness. Without Section 8, America would look like some third-world shanty-town country overnight. But why bother worrying about that.

So. As you can see, nothing I say or do at the Board meetings or in my newsletters makes any difference. The Board members keep on doing exactly what they want to do with Savo Island no matter what I say or do. Hence the lack of a newsletter these past few months. "Why bother."

PS: I'm still looking for someplace to house-sit. I've gotten lots of wonderful offers but I'm looking to house-sit someplace that's WARM! And has lots of windows....

PPS: The photo above shows an example of the type of outfit one should wear when planning to attend a meeting of our Board.