Wednesday, September 19, 2012

How one tea bagger nearly destroyed an entire neighborhood

This is a tale of the city of Madison.  It is a tale of contempt and corruption.  It is a tale of destruction and rebirth.  It tells the story of how one semi-literate tea bagger nearly destroyed an entire East Side Madison neighborhood and the lengths that decent citizens had to go to, to stop him.

On Madison’s working class East Side, tucked behind the Gardner’s Bakery lie’s the Hawthorne neighborhood.  Built out of filled marshes after the Korean War, the area is a mixture of owned and rented properties.  Anchored by the Hawthorne Middle School it is a quiet and peaceful working class neighborhood.  It is a safe neighborhood where people can let their children play and get along with their neighbors.  A tranquil, affordable place to live, raise children and be content with life.  Well…….at least it used to be.

Two miles away on the near North Side of Madison is Graedel Court, more of a driveway than a street.  Only about a hundred yards long and with only a few homes on it, it lies just off of Northport Drive.  And it is home to the tea bagger that nearly destroyed the Hawthorne neighborhood.  He certainly did a lot of damage to it as well as changing the lives of many people who live there.  Which is amazing considering that he only owns one rental property in the Hawthorne neighborhood.  A small side by side duplex, one of three identical one’s, sitting non-descriptively on a corner.

I am aware of all this because this is my former neighborhood, and I love it dearly, friendly place where most everyone knows everyone else who lives there.  The neighbors gather every evening after work to discuss the matters that fill their lives.  They help each other with leaf raking in the fall and snow shoveling in the winter.  And they all know the name of Jeffrey Pulley, the tea bagger who lives on Graedel Court.

Somehow in his own mind, Jeffrey D Pulley probably considers himself to be a good person, a responsible landlord and a reputable small business owner and a responsible citizen.  Which is amazing considering that dozens if not hundreds of residents of the Hawthorne neighborhood consider him to be a crack head, a slum lord and a criminal of the lowest possible character.  They see in Jeff Pulley as a one man wrecking crew that lowered their property values, flooded the neighborhood with crime and have made them afraid to walk the streets at night.

Pulley runs a one man plumbing outfit out of an old mini-van and his home.  He used the profit from that business to help him purchase interest in the rental duplex mentioned above as well as a few other properties around Madison.  And the troubles started nearly from day one with his rental business.  The duplex in the Hawthorne neighborhood was registered with the city as just that, a duplex.  Two – two bedroom apartments contained within a single structure.  Immediately he went to work in the basement of the structure, framing out two new apartments which he never intended to license for human habitation. 

  One of those basement apartments was never completed.  The other a small one bedroom unit, he didn’t manage to basically complete, although it fell far short of building code and safety regulations required.  But codes and laws and safety regulations mean nothing to a tea bagger.  Pulley tried advertising the illegal basement apartment, which had rodent and insect issues.  In the spring when the snow thawed, or whenever a heavy summer rain would hit, water would flow across the apartment floor from the cracked and dilapidated foundation.  Unabashed, Pulley simply decided to make the most of the situation; he rented out the apartment to some undocumented workers that had helped him in his plumbing business.

But undocumented or not they quickly began to complain about the terrible living conditions.  At only fifty dollars a person per month they tried to make the most of it.  At times upwards of a dozen migrants used the apartment as a place to briefly sleep and shower before heading off to a twelve or sixteen hour workday.  They tried to stick it out there, needing to save their wages to send home to their families, not to spend it on more suitable and expensive living arrangements.  And so they tried to make do, fixing what they could themselves, asking Pulley for help with some things they couldn’t fix.  That help never came though from Pulley.

Whenever they brought up conditions in the apartment they were threatened with serious legal repercussions and so they kept quiet.  They kept quiet as the mold grew within the walls making the air nearly unbreathable.  They kept quiet as the water flowed across the floor and they kept quiet as the inadequate heating system failed to keep the temperature above fifty degree’s in the winter.  They kept quiet as they made other arrangements and moved out, one by one, to more habitable accommodations.  And all the while the neighbors watched and wondered, but for some reason never reported what they saw happening.

This is what allowed Pulley’s activity to continue on for so long.  They minded their own business even though they were aware that things were not quite kosher.  After all they have told me, they felt no need to intrude in someone else’s business and it wasn’t affecting them, not very much and not just yet.  The apartment sat empty for awhile until good fortune fell upon him.  A business associate knew someone desperately looking for an apartment…any apartment that he could afford.  We will simply call this person “Rich” and he was in a bit of a bind.  He was dependent on Social Security as his only form of income, having been diagnosed with paranoid-schizophrenia.  He was trying to escape the crime and conditions at Braxton Place, the end of the line housing for many people with nowhere else to turn in Madison.  Government run, if you could call it that, it was somewhere between a prison and a asylum in its living conditions.  Crime ridden, dirty and violent with a long history of such, it was an unfortunate home for many people with no other option.

Rich moved in aware of the conditions, but feeling that he could improve the situation and make the dark and dank basement apartment into a home.  After all he was content to live simply and without many conveniences, he just wanted a place to live in and be left alone.  Meanwhile the folks who had inhabited the upstairs apartments had become sick and tired of the illegal conditions in the building and decided to move out in search of greener pastures.

Unfazed, Pulley found some new tenants for the two ground floor, two bedroom apartments.  First he moved in a recently paroled felon, just released from prison for drug trafficking.  This person quickly went back to the only life he knew and within a week the duplex became a 24 quick stop crack house, quiet and unnoticed in the little neighborhood by the elementary school.  Confrontations between crack buyers and residents of the neighborhood soon escalated though, as can be easily predicted.  Soon matters were so out of hand and the criminal activity so blatant and rampant that the police took notice.  And so the dealer aware of his probation situation, moved out to stay away from all the legal commotion.

He was quickly replaced by another young couple that was also in the business of dealing drugs.  Less than a month later this person was shot in the face during a deal gone wrong.  Lucky to still be alive although missing an eye and looking at years of reconstructive surgeries, he continued to operate out of the duplex.  Meanwhile Jeffrey Pulley moved another dealer into the next door apartment in the duplex.  After legal troubles caused them to flee back to Chicago, Jeff Pulley moved even more crack dealers into the building.

And so things went on, month after month, year after year.  Squad cars and ambulances became a common site.  One afternoon residents returned from work to find the neighborhood cordoned off with a police SWAT team moving in.  The next door neighbor to the Pulleys rental found a sniper on their roof as a federal warrant was being served against a high profile drug trafficker.  And the crack dealers came and they went.  Sometimes moving out in the middle of the night, sometimes being hauled off in handcuffs.

And the neighborhood suffered and suffered at the hands of Jeffrey D Pulley.  Cars and homes were broken into, vandalism became rampant.  Fences were installed as well as security systems and video cameras and lights.  Property values went down even as property taxes were going up.  Police patrols increased exponentially as the once quiet neighborhood became listed as a “neighborhood in distress”  The gang units rolled through in unmarked squad cars at all hours.  Screaming and fighting in the streets became a nightly occurrence, all because of one lone tea bagger….Jeff Pulley.

Neighbors once content to let sleeping dogs lie, were now calling the police regularly.  And crack dealer after crack dealer was brought into the neighborhood by Pulley.  It soon became apparent that it was always crack, which made people finally start to realize the nature of Pulleys motivation to always have a dealer available on his rental property.  Police talked to him, a citizen’s watch group was formed and confronted Pulley, still nothing ever changed, he had to have his crack dealers around.  But not of course on Graedel Court where he and his family lived.

Finally even Jeff Pulley had to admit that the situation he created was getting far out of control.  And so he did what any tea bagger slum lord would do….he blamed somebody else.  He claimed to Rich the victim of schizophrenia living in the little basement apartment that it was his entire fault.  He blamed Rich for telling other people in the neighborhood what he overheard happening above his head in the crack apartments day after day, night after night.  He blamed the police calls on the neighbors who had spoken with Rich.  He blamed Rich for the police calls.  He blamed Rich’s friends for the calls that were made to the police because they were afraid for Rich’s safety and well-being.

Rich being schizophrenic and not having many options just tried to stay as quiet as possible and keep his head down.  And Pulley having finally cowed Rich into near paralysis took matters even further.  He told Rich that if he wanted to avoid serious trouble that he better stay locked up inside his apartment.  He was told that he couldn’t have family or friends over to see him, out of fear of increased police calls that were threatening to have the slumlords property claimed and shut down as a hazard by the city of Madison.

When I learned of what was happening with my friend Rich from my old East Side Madison neighborhood I contacted the Tenant Resource Center and they were very helpful.  I also contacted the city housing inspector and the police and told them that Rich was nearly a prisoner of Jeff Pulleys.  I called the Department of Trade and Consumer Protection and had they look into Jeffrey D Pulley.  And lo and behold Jeff promised to stop his illegal retribution against Rich, he promised the police and the government agencies that had all been alerted to his awful activities. Not surprisingly these groups all told me that they had previous experience with Pulley. I and my old neighborhood seemed like they had been saved, that life would return to its peaceful norm in the little East Side Neighborhood.  That children could safely play outside again and that folks could safely walk down the street at night.

I went back for a visit last week to see my old friend Rich, there was a sign taped on the door from Jeff Pulley which read “Nobody is allowed to see the tenant in the basement apartment” That lying tea bagger Jeff Pulley, up to his old tricks again.  I have to admit that once I saw it, although my hopes were dashed, that I wasn’t really surprised.  Expecting change from the tea party radicals and the greed driven agenda they follow without regard for the laws of the land or their fellow man, is like expecting the sun not to set or water to flow uphill.

Phone calls were made again, but not to the health inspectors, not to the building inspectors and not to the police.  And they were not made by me. The neighbors got together and took a van down to Graedel Court.  They commented on Pulley the tea baggers house, on how vulnerable it looked as it sat there.  Surrounded by dried up debris left over from the summer’s drought and heat wave, they commented on how all that dried up material just looked like a serious fire hazard waiting to happen.  They discussed the crime ridden area surrounding the house on Graedel Court and the likelihood of something occurring there.  They discussed the irony of something terrible happening at the house on Graedel Court, after all the terrible things that had been inflicted on them for years due to the owner of the house there.  I have to admit that I was surprised when they told me about the discussion they were having.  But there was nothing much I could say to these people who had been through so much. The situation had escalated beyond my ability to influence it in any positive way. It would just seem karmic for the tables to turn on the tea bagger Jeff Pulley, Scott Walkers number one fan.  Who will still tell you to this day that he is the victim in this situation, and that only a governor willing to make tough decisions can save decent landlords like him from abuse at the hands of tenants who have all the rights in Wisconsin.

To answer the obvious question of why "Rich" doesn't just move somewhere else, it is because in the midst of all this ugliness, he found something beautiful and sometimes rare in life.  He found a home, a neighborhood where he feels that he belongs.  Where he likes most everyone else and they like him and accept him for who he is.  It is something that he is working on maintaining and protecting.  Something that decent Wisconsin citizens deserve, and something the greed and anger driven members of the tea party simply are incapable of understanding.

It is truly an ugly situation that Jeffrey Pulley has created, and one that is very representational of the future of Wisconsin when radical extremists like Scott Walker are added to the picture and the law and constitution hating tools & fools of the tea party are added as well.  One tea bagger has nearly destroyed an entire neighborhood, and now the neighborhood is considering destroying the tea bagger.  That is the terrible and divided state we are in, one in which nobody is going to come out the winner if things continue as they are going.  I hope things get better for my friend Rich, I hope things improve in my old neighborhood, I hope that Jeff Pulley see’s the error of his illegal ways and changes, I hope…….

On Wisconsin!    FORWARD!!!!

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