A simple descriptive of an action it is. The process of standing up is nothing more than righting your legs into a standing position. However the phrase can have so much more of a deeper meaning when applied in context. So, I did something several months ago.
I stood up against abject corruption in my work place.
Now you are asking, where do you work that this really warranted a diary?
I've worked on this diary for the last three days, knowing the information that was going to come to light today. Please, stand up with me after the big orange fold and roll with me with as I spin you a yarn of government corruption, city politics, and one persons view of how a government program can fail the very people it was meant to help, but not for the reasons republicans would love for all us to think.
So, where do I work then?
I work for the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Or more specifically, I work for a private entity that is granted HUD funds to administrate one of HUDs many programs. Yes I work at a Housing Authority.
Our particular Housing Authority is what is considered a mid-size PHA. We administrate around 800 units directly and service around 2000 plus housing choice vouchers as they are now called...Section 8 for the old school folks.
I don't feel comfortable enough yet disclosing who I am there, mostly because the winds haven't blown the storm completely gone, so those of you out there are just gonna have to guess. Although I would wager you sleuths out there can figure it out enough. I'd ask that maybe you just keep that to yourself for at least a little while. The town location is easy enough to figure out, just look at previous diaries of mine.
For the last 6 years while I worked I had started to see corruption. Although not the corruption Republicans love to rail on. They would have you believe that the single mother with 3 kids who just signed a lease on one of our units is nothing more than a welfare queen. Living it up on the dole and getting a free roof over her head. Lets correct that real fast before we move onto the meat of this diary.
The truth of said situation above will smack you in the face like a wet salmon the first day you work here.
The single mother has had the following life.
No access to birth control let alone any form of real sex education.
No ability to finish high school
No way to really take care of her children after moving out of an abusing male house
Can barely put food on the table, let alone house her kids
Those children of that mom, well it gets bleaker and bleaker the more you extrapolate their life. I don't accept the republican argument of 'That was her choice' but fine, lets use another example that I saw every day.
His name was Mr. K (name redacted). Everyone loved Mr K. He was an elderly gentleman living in one of our units and often would walk the properties gathering laundry for people, fetching items, and just in general keeping spirits high. Because honestly when you are so poor that you can barely afford 25 dollars in rent....spirit is all you got.
Six months ago, Mr. K lost his leg to diabetes. Not really his fault, it was genetic and was a natural progression because of his age. He was active, watched what he ate, took his medication religiously. The disease just caught up with him is all. As is standard, Mr K was offered a transfer to another unit that has easier wheel chair access.
He refused it.
You wanna know why he refused it?
Our units are falling apart. Literally, not figuratively.
You see the unit that Mr K was offered was in a multistory high rise. This particular high rise is pretty old, and is definitely in need of some tender loving care. The plumbing is going on 40 years old. The electrical is out of date and needs redone. The interior is in disrepair. Hell, our elevator service company had to custom lathe a part from a local machinist (at no small cost mind you) just to get the lifts working again.
We could have fixed, or at least gotten started on a lot of these repairs awhile ago. You see, we were the recipient of at least 2 million dollars in ARRA funds. It was a winfall really, HUD already only subsidizes around 85% leaving the remaining 15% up to a PHA. This squeezes the capital budget and makes large projects hard to get off the ground since capital also has to go towards repair and rehab of a unit once a tenant moves out.
But we didn't spend those funds on this building in interior disrepair. No, it was spent on replacement siding and windows. Metal siding that had not even begun to leak. Windows that were not drafting except in the few spots where a simple repair would work. No we replaced EVERYTHING exterior and totally ignored the interior building, a building designated as an elderly and disabled property.
Yeah, go ahead and read that over for a minute.
Now you are asking why?.....now we get into the nasty business.
Essentially contracts were for years before that being steered towards specific businesses. It was loose at first and really hard to notice, but eventually it got to a point where despite ourselves having a maintenance department, the maintenance department did almost jack nothing on maintaining the units. It was all farmed out to local contractors, contractors that just happen to be personal friends of specific people. Those previous mentioned rehab of units? Never done from maintenance staff, completely and wholly contracted out.
I won't detail the specifics here, but we are talking very dirty work. Promises of business here, appliances being delivered there, units broken into with no forced entry, just....its a bevy and it runs the gambit. One of the juicier ones? Vendors that would go to a unit and recommend replacement of appliances. They then would pick up the appliances, deliver and install said appliances, and then deliver us an invoice for the work. Not a single staff person ever would see, check, or follow up on the work. Yeah.....no wrong doing going on there. Either this place was criminally stupid, or stupidly criminal.
I had enough. I had enough when I saw Mr K. struggling to get up a small hill while on a sidewalk that was wrought with trip hazards. I saw this while walking out on my lunch break. I had enough. I went to his aid, asked if he wanted help and wheeled him to his unit a some yards away.
I decided that day to stand up.
I did not however, have any idea what I was stepping into.
I decided the first place I could strike was to write an anonymous letter to our board of directors and the Mayor of the city. Fire a salvo across the bow of the ship and warn them "Do something, or else". This garnered some response from what I could gather. But still, the steering continued and now they were working on cementing for the following a year, a contract. This contract would award all work to a single vendor, that same vendor they were in bed with. This same vendor that had possibly been accused of corruption by an independent auditor and that same auditor silenced from talking to the board of directors. Essentially they now were trying to legitimize their corruption.
I stepped up efforts.
Teaming up with a local occupier, they were able to connect me with ears that would listen. Ears within the agency that would go beyond the local field office and put pressure for change. You see, its a den of thieves in this city...neigh its a den of thieves everywhere it seems.
The city council is in bed with department heads, the department heads are in bed with agencies, and agencies are in bed with businesses. It's just a giant good ole boy system here, and cash is bled off at every angle imaginable. It's so bad, I could write another ten diaries just detailing some of the information I've learned in the last six months.
But its changing.
The fire chief....force retirement
The police chief....resigned
Codes enforcement....many firings and a likely head department firing
City Attorney office...possible demotions
And just recently today.
Housing Authority Executive Director...resigned
I have no idea if my decision that day to not take it anymore after I went to help Mr. K was the match that struck the fire. I don't really...but I'd like to think it was. The polly anna in me thinks that yes it was. That one lone person in a corrupt organization, an organization that had been perverted beyond its original goal, an organization that could effect so much positive change in a community, that this one lone person doing the simple effort of standing up. Of standing up and saying "Enough is Enough"
And really?.....I honestly would like to thank you Kossacks the most. It was here I learned that standing for change is important, it was here I learned of Occupy, it was here I learned the power of physical presence, and it was here that gave me courage to take these risks. This community has given me the strength to stand and say "I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take it it anymore". And trust me when I say, I mean that phrase as a physical one....not just some random 1's and 0's as you read my ramblings.
I'd also like to thank my local occufolks, without them I wouldn't have been able to have been shielded so well from forces that were attempting to root me out. One really strong shout out to one of our warrior women of our local Occupy, she has been on a crusade like mother effing Joan of Arc to assist me.
So there you have it. I may diary more specifics of the corruption, but I really do still have to protect my identity to some degree still. I know the chances of this finding its way to those who might still do me harm is small, but still....best not to jump to far into the deep end....right?
Because honestly, this is just one domino. Even though the wicked witch might be dead, there is still a whole hell of a lot of winged monkeys causing damage here.
Its time to keep standing.