i am a civil service employee.

(a rant)

i have been a civil service employee for what’ll be 4.5 years as of this coming sunday. i work in an office where depending on what’s happening, we hear dead last about the wild shit employees do. i’ve heard tales of fist fights at health centers, ppl in full work dress brawling on the msb concourse, social workers knocking over file cabinets mid-fight, and (my personal favorite) the dude who was slinging rocks out of the city vehicle he used to drive medication to different city health centers. there’s been a lot. the civil service workforce, for 20+ years, has been built on one idea: they have to catch you fucking up before they can call you guilty. it happened during the goode and rendell administrations, and we all remember john “i’m one of the worst mayors in america” street. let me just tell you now: i’m accustomed to the bullshit. in so many regards, the stereotypical city employee exists. and then there are people who rise far above that generally sub-par status quo to do better than just doing their jobs. there’s a huge gray area, too, of folks who really don’t even know how it is that they woke up and were marking 10 or 15 or 20 years with the city, possibly in the same position they had when they arrived.
i call it ‘that philly shit.’ but that’s quite possibly another post altogether.
we have a new mayor. he doesn’t play that shit; people have been jumping ship altogether or getting canned consistently since he was inaugurated in january. but, there’s much to be done and so much to assess. he’s essentially trying to walk with his shoelaces tied together in some regards. it’s the job of the deputy mayor of health and opportunity to make some things run more smoothly

(this is where the post gets iffy, so if you can’t handle graphic language or images, please do NOT read this post . . . just find something else to do with your eyes)

and that brings me to the unfortunate death of danieal kelly. if you live in philly (or within a 3 hour drive of philly, for that matter), you already know: she died in august of 2006. she was starved to death and had cerebral palsy, was covered in maggots and flies and feces . . . and that she was one of nine children living in her mother’s two-bedroom apartment. there are layers of dysfunction involved in this situation, the likes of which i only wish i could say i’ve never seen. it’s really easy to wag a finger at every fully grown person (nine of whom are being criminally charged) who had a hand in her neglect and eventual death, particularly her parents and the four social/ case workers (two civil service, two contract) who were supposed to have intervened at the first sign of danger.

the grand jury report on danieal’s death and everything leading up to it smacks of one thing to me: broken people, functioning as best they can (for lack of a better term), and only really being flagged or stopped cold when it likely too late. to examine it from all sides through or past my rage doesn’t give me peace. but it shows me that as terrible as this situation was/ is (andrea kelly has 9 other children if my count is right), it’s a major symptom of an immeasurably sick community.

i know that these are individual community members who were responsible for the lives and wellbeing of children. that doesn’t change what bothers me the most: every terrible thing that led to danieal’s death was in play long before she was even born. her mother and father did not magically become fucked up and/ or crazy on january 3, 1992 (her birthday). dana poindexter, laura sommerer, mickal kamuvaka and julius murray? all of these folks were comfortable with doing what they did, and there’s no way to assume that these behaviors weren’t old hat for each of them. the same applies for every person at the upper levels who let the DHS employees’ shit go unchecked. and carmen paris, the former health commissioner? preposterous. there’s no word (in the print media or in the various city worker gossip pools) on why she’d have gone and meddled in some shit like that. clearly, she felt like it was okay to do that and didn’t hesitate in doing so. that is, again, some shit that had been in play for a hot minute.

so what’s my real point? i’m gonna try to dig one out, since this is a rant and they usually don’t have really well-defined points. actually, i feel like my point is twofold:

the things that need to change administratively within the ranks of philadelphia’s city government are going to happen regardless. michael nutter, don schwarz, and the managing director are not in a position to play around with folks’ lives; they’ve shown themselves to be dedicated to cleaning all of this mess up. and that’s wonderful. if we can’t depend on people whose jobs are to provide adequate government services to us, then i daresay we don’t really have a city.

but this city is eating itself alive. there’s just some deep, old, long-standing muck that seems to be what most of my fellow philadelphians are dealing with. it’s something many of us have inherited and will pass onto our progeny. i don’t have a name for it. it’s the unnamed beast that allows our murder rate to be so high continually, it’s the thing that seems to have eaten the best/ most humane parts of andrea and daniel kelly, it’s the same monster that leads “friends of the family” to perjure on behalf of someone they know has done wrong. it’s not so simple as moms wanting that social security check. i don’t know what it is.

but if people who see the disease don’t do something to keep themselves steeled against it, and do what they can to demonstrate a better life to those around them, there won’t be anything but stories like this. it’s all connected; this link is evidenced in the fact that the family members/ friends of andrea kelly and the social workers are being charged for the same ass-covering and lying, etc. regarding danieal’s neglect. she had cerebral palsy. not a brain tumor. not hiv/ aids. she wasn’t born with anything terminal. and all it would have taken was for someone to decide to stay on top of this shit — even loose monitoring, as per the grand jury report, would have made an impact.

i don’t believe for one minute that i’m “like” these other folks, the ones who end up before grand juries. i know i’m not; but the bottom line is that i’m in it even if i’m not of it. and it’s my job the same as it is that of anyone else in the ranks to pull this shit together once and for all. i’m just glad there’s an actual consensus and work being done to make it happen. it’s not gonna be easy, and it can’t be done by one team of ppl w/ six-figure salaries and their staff. it really is going to take the work of everyone who wants that change and will put in the work.


i could be writing forever. i’ll probably revisit this sooner or later; i just have to make sure i won’t get fired for doing it. accountability. it’s what’s for dinner.


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. PretaMulatta
    Aug 04, 2008 @ 10:42:00

    oh honey. but u’re only purging because u’re CLEANING HOUSE. this will all be behind u so soon.

    sooner than u think, babycatcher.


  2. creatrix
    Aug 07, 2008 @ 20:19:00

    babycatcher…i love it.

    this is a sad story, and you know there are ones like it all over.

    i also think city employee malaise is something that every major city is dealing with.

    the bureaucracy has gotten outta hand. there has to be–needs to be–a better way to do business.


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