Boston Housing Authority employee slights the city in letter to residents

Recently, someone mentioned that perhaps the Boston Housing Authority needs a consumer advocacy group made up of tenants and other partner agencies. This group could advise  BHA on problems such as it’s ponderous orientation program and interview process. But after a recent and undoubtedly colossal mistake by the agency, maybe it’s time to just start the whole damn thing from scratch.

Last week an employee at the BHA sent a letter to residents that didn’t exactly show Boston in a positive light. The letter read:

“In early 2019 the Boston Housing Authority will launch a new pilot program: the Expanding Choice in Housing Opportunities Program or ECHO-dedicated to expanding neighborhood choices for current voucher families. The program is intended for current voucher holders who specifically want to move their family to a community in Greater Boston with high performing schools and low rates of violent crime. The pilot is motivated by recent research that demonstrates the long term economic, educational, and health benefits that results from growing up in one of these neighborhoods.”

As I said, this letter, which is signed by one Jonathan Tarleton (who is also listed as the director of this ECHO program) paints the city, specifically its school system and its poorer neighborhoods, in an unflattering light.

There are other ways this letter can be taken. It be seen as a way that people of color can be convinced to move out of neighborhoods so more of the monolithic buildings that are being built downtown can expand to places like Roxbury, Dorchester, and Mattapan displacing people who grew up there. Which would only add to Boston’s already unwanted reputation as one of America’s most racist cities. It could also be taken that the city has all but given up on it’s troubled school system.

I’d like to give BHA the benefit of the doubt and chalk this up to  an employee who just overstepped his bounds. Still, you gotta wonder how this mid-level employee, as the director of the BHA described him, was able to just slip this highly damaging letter to residents and let the press get hold of it. Who’s minding the store down there? Bill McGonagle, the BHA director, said he wasn’t even aware of the letter until he got a copy from the mayor, but by then it had already been seen by the press and unfortunately social media sites. Somebody missed the memo.

I don’t know about you, boys and girls, but if something disparaging had been sent to our donors and it got out to the press and social media, I’d be getting late night phone calls from board members. Am I saying someone needs to lose their job over this? Let’s just say that if I or anybody employed by Spare Change were to throw a vendor under the bus… well, it’s good to have options.

Whoever this Tarleton guy is, he at least owes the people of this city, especially neighborhoods of color and everyone from the Boston Public schools, an apology. Let’s hope we at least get that.






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