Friday, August 8, 2014

Horse Sense: For the HHA, now the hard work begins

The epitaph for one "destined for greatness" Carmelo Garcia has yet to be written.  The political class within the HHA (yes there is one) will sing his praises and remember his favors for their unyielding support but if the damn is not broken, the seams are already tearing.

There's going to be one big mess to clean up at the Hoboken Housing Authority.

It's day four since the former Executive Director's termination and the problems covered up are already beginning to pour forth. In the weeks and months ahead, revelations will come to the fore. For a few, this will not be a surprise. For others, a quick disavowal and forever shall their mouths cease uttering the name Carmelo Garcia.

They didn't like him much. Once he couldn't deliver on the million dollar profits of Vision 20/20, the Hoboken Sopranos had little use for a guy who'd throw them under a bus on a whim to advance himself. Everyone knew it and if they'd forgotten, Mister Carmelo's little tape recorder reminded them.

Carmelo Garcia, former Hoboken Housing Authority Executive Director on Monday night in council chambers.
The truth of what's been transpiring in the HHA is only beginning to emerge. There's far more coming.

Some of the problems leaping out of the HHA will certainly keep Richard Fox the interim Director very busy for the foreseeable future. The upside is he brings enormous institutional knowledge he can exert in the short term while a national search is launched for a permanent HHA Executive Director.

Trouble brewing from the lengthy list of publicly available audit findings, reported here on MSV revealed a serious list of trouble but our local media didn't pause to dig into it. The coverage of the meeting Monday has been beyond abysmal, reading more like Middle East election campaign copy for a single candidate running for the title of "dictator for life." Horrid isn't a worthy description.

PolitickerNJ summed up the political fallout for the Assembly seat Garcia holds. The local political columnists covering Hudson County will be offering some lackluster milquetoast with obligatory paeans to the potential Carmelo Garcia represented in the he could have been a contender mode and it's Mayor Dawn Zimmer's fault. As if.

Let's look to a positive with mention of a very bright young man in Carlo Davis, a talent passing through the doors of the Hudson Reporter. Early on he seemed impressed with the astroturf political operation and not knowingly so. His visible distress when repeated threats within feet of him to this editor during one stoppage must have matured him some. (He's captured on the left of the man making less than mundane threats to MSV.) 

So as truth may be somewhat scarce in these parts after the at least partially astroturfed political operation Monday night. In the coming days evidence of the monumental failures, some intentional, some due to incompetence, indifference or worse will be making themselves known.

In Washington, HUD was reportedly scrambling almost a month prior to Garcia's termination, trying in vain to get him on the phone for answers to serious issues uncovered in its Section 8 Housing program. Garcia made himself scarce and is said to have hid from their conference call.

That's just one among a a number of issues, some highlighted recently in the audit findings. That was in some respect a scratch at the surface. Once the professionals finally get a chance to look under the covers, there's going to be some real horror stories coming to light. Is the HHA actually running multi-million deficits on a $17 million annual budget?

Wednesday night, the City Council passed a certificate of need following a similar approval by the Hoboken Housing Authority board. Lots of moaning and gnashing of teeth about the timing but it was already on the agenda. Pointedly, there was no trust whatsoever with Carmelo "the Wire" Garcia.

For Hoboken, a stable HHA with all its residents being treated with respect and compassion is better for the entire Mile Square City. It's going to take some doing. HHA Chair Dana Wefer however will continue to carry the torch and divert her professional capabilities to aiding the new HHA leadership. There's good people in the agency who just need a chance and some direction.  

Political cynics will continue to cast the change at the HHA as mere politics. They clearly have no knowledge of how Hoboken works. Mayor Zimmer is not your typical Hudson County mayor and she didn't call the shots here. HHA Chair Dana Wefer was driving the process from the time when she requested a cursory review of HHA contracts. It led to a cascade of events culminating in the necessary termination of Carmelo Garcia. That decision did not come easily or quickly and was in the end overdue.

Now the last major public budget in Hoboken will see reform for the betterment of all the citizens it serves. Let's get to work.

Before the meeting began Monday, HHA counsel Charles Daglian gives a friendly wave as HHA commissioners
Rob Davis and Jeanne Rodriguqez look on. Is he waving goodbye?

This Horse Sense editorial is dedicated to the long suffering Jessica Coco. Growing up in Hoboken gave her zero support or protection from Old Guard officials once she was suspected of skepticism about an undocumented land deal called Vision 20/20.  She was cavalierly tossed out as chum for the Vision 20/20 land whores - every one of them. The "faithful four" Sigsby Cheatham calls them.

Beyond their ugly cynicism, our officials and institutions on every level failed Coco as she was repeatedly victimized with vandalism, break-ins, cybercrime and death threats. Authorities brought no pressure to bear whatsoever to stop the obvious source of the attacks. A disabled woman was disgracefully abused and many of the voices competing with hers were solely focused on million dollar Vision 20/20 profits and were not merely cavalier to her plight but indifferent and worse, hostile.

Councilwoman Beth Mason's is one name which immediately comes to mind.

Coco sought justice for her friends and neighbors throughout the HHA. She repeatedly asked where were the written guarantees promised residents before Vision 20/20 would see approval? Many returned the favor with scorn and more abuse eager to please their landlord. In total, the collective Old Guard abuses and the allies of same almost killed her.

Thankfully she's lived to see this day, a modicum of justice for her and a silent majority in the HHA. 

Talking Ed Note: An eyewitness report says when MSV passed by Carmelo Garcia entering council chambers before the meeting Monday night, a hand raised in the telltale signature of a gun placed behind the head followed. 

There were at least several incidents with Garcia clashing with people before the second half of the meeting. Troubling reports of instability have followed since Monday. 

An appropriate police report will be filed.