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The special "Savo Island, the Movie" issue of my housing co-op newsletter

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Message Jane Stillwater
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(To see photos of my son and his daughter actually living at Savo Island and of someone who might or might not be named Julia,  holding baby Mena next to my infamous window, go to my blog)


What if Hollywood made a movie based on the dramas that go on every day at my HUD Section 8-sponsored housing co-op? What would that movie be like? Perhaps it would be called "Little Housing Co-op on the Prairie"? Or even "Harold and Kumar Escape to Berkeley". Let's just keep our fingers crossed that they don't have to call it "Nightmare on Stuart Street."

But if Hollywood DID make the saga of my housing co-op into a movie, would it get rave reviews from the critics -- or not? Would Ebert and Roeper give it thumbs up or thumbs down? Let's watch as Robert and Tony express their opinions on this new flick.

"The acting wasn't so bad," said Tony, "but the screenplay was an embarrassment. This was some of the worst screenwriting that I've ever seen."

"I agree," replied Robert. "The script was totally unbelievable. How do they expect us to believe that a duly-elected group of co-op board members could actually be allowed to get THAT far off track for the entire 15-odd years that they controlled this co-op and still stay in office. I mean, c'mon."

"If I'd lived in a housing project like that where the interiors were falling apart, it looked like dog dookie from the outside and was facing eminent bankruptcy," said Tony, "I would have voted those board members out in the first 15 minutes -- not just wait around for 15 YEARS. And how do you expect me to believe that none of the other residents spoke up when HUD gave the board a 60-day notice to make all the necessary repairs to the units by June 16 or else lose their Section 8 program completely? Or even that any sane board members would let it actually get to that point? That's crazy. That's messing with people's LIVES. That's bad screenwriting. Just watch this clip."

[Scene shows a desperate co-op resident, wringing her hands.] "If they take away our rent subsidies, I don't know what will become of me and my family! I bet that if HUD backs out and the place is sold, the first thing that the new owners will do is raise our rents to $2,000 a month in order to have the same market rate as the rest of the neighborhood."

[Resident sighs heavily and a tear silently rolls down her cheek.]

"Do you have any IDEA what I would have to do in order to make that much rent per month? All of my family and half of my friends would have to come live with me just to help pay the rent. I'll have 20 people living here in a three-bedroom apartment! And if HUD gives me a voucher to move elsewhere? Get real. Most landlords don't take HUD vouchers anymore, I won't be able to find a new apartment, time runs out, the voucher expires and I'm screwed. This just can't be happening! What should I do! What should I do...." The camera then zooms out to show shots of broken plaster and leaky plumbing.

As the screen goes blank, Robert makes a face. "I couldn't agree with you more, Tony. The plot of this movie is just too unrealistic."

"And how about that whistleblower character who keeps putting out those newsletters that everyone just ignores? And did you see the way she just keeps her mouth shut during all of those board meetings? I find it totally unbelievable that in real life someone would actually sit through board meeting after board meeting for 15 whole years -- just sit there and say nothing while she is threatened, harassed, unjustly called terrible names and has her reputation trashed at a board meeting of an officially-registered State of California non-profit organization. And outside the meetings, she's been threatened with eviction, had her rent raised illegally and was even threatened with JAIL -- yet she still just sits there and takes it? If Julia Roberts had been playing that role, she would have at least cried."

"Here's another clip from the movie." [Scene opens at a board meeting where board member A's girlfriend is castigating poor Julia, calling her a liar and a fraud.] "Your son and his family don't even live with you," claims the girlfriend. And her boyfriend agrees.

"I never hear them."

And another member speaks up too. "Her son lives down on 54th and San Pablo and not only that but her foster care license expired last year!"

Julia just hangs her head and remains silent. Of course her son's family lives with her! Don't they hear her son and daughter-in-law taking turns walking that colicky baby at all hours every night? And who in their right mind takes a tiny new-born outside in the middle of freaking WINTER just so the board members can see her out in the rain every day, standing around waiting to be noticed. And Julia's son hasn't lived on 54th Street for years now and her foster care license is current and....

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Stillwater is a freelance writer who hates injustice and corruption in any form but especially injustice and corruption paid for by American taxpayers. She has recently published a book entitled, "Bring Your Own Flak Jacket: Helpful Tips For Touring (more...)
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