Thursday, September 23, 2010

Condemnation Update

I have a long list of things to do here in service to Monster Halloween. Instead, the entire morning has been devoted to a series of conversations with city employees about what needs to be done to turn the municipal water back on in my house, to avoid a condemnation order. I am terrified of that order. I am afraid it is a juggernaut that, once rolling, cannot be stopped, which will roll right over me. I want to do what needs to be done to stop it. All I want is to have a reasonable conversation, about the "Estimated" water charges for water I have not been using, and to arrange a payment plan so I do not have to pay a large sum up front.

Most of these conversations, with inspectors and the mayor's office, were calm and reasonable. It is the conversations I have had with people at the city water department, the only department that really matters in this circumstance, that have left me with a feeling of sadness, bitterness and frustration. These are the words I will use to describe some of the city employees I have had conversations with: condescending, arrogant, obtuse, unfriendly, unintelligent. One woman openly mocked me. I hung up on her. That's when I called the mayor's office, and was referred to a woman who is the only one in the city water department who has been pleasant to me. She offered me a slightly better deal - about $60 less up front - but not really a better deal, because she called me back and said her "higher ups" overruled her, that there would be no deal. I told her that I felt the city water department was holding the condemnation order over my head like a bludgeon. She said, "yep, they'll do that."

I have heard these "higher ups" referred to as "Supervisors," and "Bosses." They are otherwise nameless. They will not talk to me. The unpleasant people I have dealt with talk to them while I am on hold, then come back and say there will be no negotiating, there will be no discussion, basically, that I am not worthy of the bosses time, even to give me the message that there will be no negotiating, themselves. It has the essence of cabal, rule by fiat. Civil servant is not a phrase that applies to this energy. More like: I'm in this for myself, I don't care about service, I'm going to retire at fifty with a fat pension. I don't know if that is actually the case, but that's what it feels like.

So, I get to take time off work to go downtown to the city treasury department and pay $726 to have my municipal water restored. Plus, arrange to pay for a new meter, and $3000 for the new stop box. Then take more time off to meet the people who will inspect the meter, and then more time off for the people who will change it out. Even if the house was fully off-the-grid, with ten thousand gallons of water in cisterns and no need for city water, I would still have to pay. I would still have to take time off I cannot afford to take off.

It has been my own negligence that has brought this difficulty upon me. It is also an excellent example of all that has gone wrong in the growth of government. Government existing of and for itself. And the prevalence in government of genuinely bad people, who wield a power they do not deserve, in jobs they believe they cannot lose.

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