Tuesday, March 11, 2008

This Simply Won't Do

Somebody needs to lose their job right away:
After Philadelphia's housing director refused a demand by President Bush's housing secretary to transfer a piece of city property to a business friend, two top political appointees at the department exchanged e-mails discussing the pain they could cause the Philadelphia director.

"Would you like me to make his life less happy? If so, how?" Orlando J. Cabrera, then-assistant secretary at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, wrote about Philadelphia housing director Carl R. Greene.

"Take away all of his Federal dollars?" responded Kim Kendrick, an assistant secretary who oversaw accessible housing. She typed symbols for a smiley-face, ":-D," at the end of her January 2007 note.

Cabrera wrote back a few minutes later: "Let me look into that possibility."

The e-mails, obtained by The Washington Post, came to light as a result of a lawsuit provoked by HUD's decision last September to strip the Philadelphia Housing Authority of as much as $50 million in federal funds. In December, it declared the agency in violation of rules that underpin its ability to decide precisely how it will spend federal housing funds. Kendrick was the official who formally notified the authority that she had found it in violation.
There is some temptation to write this off as merely another example of the fact that politics ain't beanbag. However, this is ultimately at least a couple of feds using the power of the federal government for their own gain.

Two things to take away from this:
  • Transparency makes this sort of thing go away. In this case, it took a lawsuit and a pile of discovery to bring these emails to light. There is simply no reason why all non-classified email shouldn't be accessible to the public at any time, any place.

  • This is why a weak federal government is a good idea. The fact that it was so easy to screw up Carl Greene and the city of Philadelphia is simply not acceptable.
Good catch by the WaPo.

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