Tuesday, January 06, 2009

The special "Everybody Hates Jane" issue of my housing co-op newsletter

(Photos are of Savo Island at night, including the set where we filmed the famous board room scene, baby Mena smiling and the sign outside my door that I painted myself at Camp Tuolumne)

You've heard of the television show "Everybody Hates Chris"? Well, I think I'll start my own TV show too -- and call it "Everybody Hates Jane"! But this sit-com will take place at my Berkeley, CA, housing co-op instead of in Brooklyn. The first episode will take place at a Savo Island board meeting. Here's the script:

Me: "What! You are going to change management companies AGAIN? What is this, the 13th or the 14th time?" As soon as a management company gets on board here at Savo and demands that our co-op's board of directors actually starts following HUD Section 8 regulations and obeying their own bylaws, then that company always gets fired -- and the current management company is no exception.

Board member [using hilarious sit-com logic here]: "No, Jane, you've got it wrong. Again. Four of those companies don't count -- because we were working with the same company manager each time but when he changed jobs we just followed him around to different companies because we liked him." Oh. But if you liked him so much, then why did you sue him?

Me: "So it's only 10 management companies you've fired?" Whew that's a relief. Only ten.

Board member: "And HUD has approved this new change."

Me: "HUD did approve it? Are you sure about that?"

Board member: "Are you calling me a liar?"

So I called up HUD to check and it turns out that HUD didn't approve it per se. HUD merely stated that our bylaws allowed the board to make management changes -- but only if the board could find a new management company that was HUD-approved to replace the old company. HUD also told me that they weren't too happy with the decision but there was nothing legally they could do about it. In addition HUD also said that, contrary to what the board president wanted us to believe, a change of management company at this critical point in time would definitely delay our desperately-needed re-hab (this whole place is falling apart).

And HUD also informed me that it was sick and tired of dealing with my housing co-op and wanted to take Savo off of Section 8 entirely so that they wouldn't have to deal with us any more. I guess that after watching this untrained, uneducated and self-involved board make bad decision after bad decision for the last fifteen years, they are sick of having to pull our chestnuts out of the fire again and again and again while board members desperately try to cover their tracks with what appear to be lies and half-truths.

HUD also indicated to me that if the shareholders of Savo Island didn't finally start speaking up and standing up for themselves, then our HUD Section 8 subsidy was toast. But I digress.

"Jane," you might be thinking, "this is becoming more like a soap opera than a sit-com. Where are the laughs?"

Okay. Back to the board meeting....

Well, this next bit is funny [more sit-com circular humor!] At the meeting before this one, the board had already voted to fire our current management company -- although there hadn't been a board member quorum present at that time. But that didn't stop this board! They went ahead and fired the management company anyway. But then someone called them on the fraudulent vote, so they were forced to have another meeting to vote on the issue again. How awkward it must be for this poor board to be forced to adhere to the bylaws [Laugh track here maybe?]

Me: "We need to hold an annual board-member election. We have to hold one every January and it's January now. Let's set a date and get this done." The last annual election was supposed to be put off until April of 2008 because of the re-hab delays that the board has caused for these last seven years but the board managed to somehow put the elections off until last September. So. Did the board actually set a new date? No way!

Me: "You've put off holding the annual election before -- one time it was put off for almost three years. If you don't hold your annual elections soon, the co-op will lose its non-profit status." That should be good for a laugh.

Board member: "Jane, you've had your turn to talk. We've listened to you enough. We don't want to hear anything more out of you." And then some of the other board members started yelling at me and I had to leave because I had my one-year-old granddaughter with me and she was enjoying watching everyone yell at me far too much.

"Everybody Hates Jane." Not you too, baby Mena!

And here's the punch line: When HUD finally does get sick and tired of our board's innumerable mistakes, errors, self-interest and lack of judgment and HUD actually does throw everyone out on the street and shuts Savo down, who will the residents all blame? Not the board! And surely not themselves for doing nothing -- even after I have begged them and begged them and begged them to vote this terrible board off before the roofs fall down on our heads. No, I can almost guarantee you that everyone here at Savo will blame ME!

"Everyone Hates Jane."