The Boston Globe reported in February that Eulalia Rodriguez and her extended family receive government assistance payments totaling nearly $1 million a year. Rodriguez, who's been on public assistance for 26 years, has 14 children on welfare, 74 grandchildren, and 15 great-grandchildren. Said she, "I'm sick of people acting like I'm some crook. We've got a lot of kids to feed." Rodriguez lives in a six-bedroom, three-story apartment in a gated Boston community called Harbor Point.
Government in Action
In March the Providence Journal-Bulletin reported that the Internal Revenue Service office in Rhode Island was specializing in pursuing tax underpayments by pizza parlors. The office calculated a standard amount of flour in a pizza, divided that by the total flour the restaurant purchased, found the number of pizzas made, and then determined the likely income of the store, which was often more than what the store reported.
Reading, Pennsylvania, fire department official Michael J. Moyer was suspended for a day without pay last October 12 for having violated a directive not to drive his department car in the town's Labor Day parade. Moyer wasn't paid that day for his regular 8 to 6 shift, but the person called in to replace him had to be paid overtime. Moreover, regulations required that person to give up his own subsequent shift, and the person who filled it, also paid overtime, was Moyer--who thus earned $313 for his day's work instead of the $155 he would have made had he not been suspended.
On March 8 the New York City Division of School Facilities finally attached doors to the stalls in the girls' restroom at Public School 206 in Brooklyn, following years of complaining by the principal. The doors had been requisitioned on May 25, 1989--1,747 days earlier.
Vice President Al Gore's National Performance Review of federal government practices revealed recently that the Pentagon spends $4.3 billion a year on travel--$2 billion for the travel itself and $2.3 billion to process the paperwork.
In April a Senate subcommittee found that the number of drug and alcohol addicts who'd signed up for benefits under the Supplemental Security Income program for the "disabled" had tripled in three years, in large part because the government doesn't verify whether the benefits are spent on addiction counseling or merely to buy more drugs. A quarter of a million addicts receive $1.4 billion a year under the program. And Cleveland, Ohio, sheriff's deputies disclosed in January that 91 of 330 fugitives rounded up during stings in 1993 were on welfare, receiving an average of $330 a month. Regulations prohibit cross-checking fugitives' records with welfare records.
Among the projects cited in an April Denver Post article on the ten "worst ideas in modern U.S. environmental history": a plan by a Department of the Interior official in the 1960s to flood the Grand Canyon for a hydroelectric plant; a plan by then-Atomic Energy Commission chairman James Schlesinger to dispose of nuclear waste by shooting it into the sun on a space shuttle; and a plan that was actually carried out: the World Health Organization's 1960s program to kill mosquitoes in Borneo with U.S.-made DDT, which so disrupted the food chain that the island was soon overrun with rats--until the U.S. parachuted in cats to control them.
At a recent Jacksonville, Florida, City Council discussion of new park sites a councilman told a councilwoman that she could "kiss my posterior," and she responded by threatening to "beat the hell" out of him.
In April in Easthampton, Massachusetts, a four-foot-long iguana got out of its cage while riding in a car driven by Joann Colby, causing her to lose control of the car, which fell down a 25-foot embankment. She and the iguana received only minor injuries. The next week in nearby Northampton, Massachusetts, another iguana left its terrarium on a jaunt through Sheri A. Dilks's apartment and accidentally triggered an alarm that brought fire fighters to the scene.
On April 30 a driver, unidentified by police, was found in his car at the end of Interstate 8 in San Diego with a map in his hand and a "perplexed look" on his face, according to a California Highway Patrol spokesman. The man explained that he'd come from New Mexico and was looking for Arizona.
Gun-safety instructor Ronald Paolillo, 43, and his 13-year-old son were injured in January by fragments of a nine-millimeter bullet just before a class at the Branford, Connecticut, Gun Club. Paolillo was headed for the firing range when the bottom fell out of a box of ammunition; as the bullets hit the floor, one exploded.
At a September dress rehearsal in a Swansea, Wales, theater, actress June Slavin of the English Shakespeare Company rushed along the balcony where she was to deliver the "wherefore art thou Romeo" line, tripped, and toppled over the railing, falling ten feet and spraining her wrist.
The Weirdo-American Community
In March a manager at a Kroger store in Columbus, Ohio, apprehended a suspected shoplifter, who was charged with grand theft. Concealed in his clothing were more than $300 worth of vaginal products, including 18 tubes of cream made by three different companies and five packs of Monistat suppositories.
Least Competent Criminal
Michael Antonio Davis, 24, was arrested in Savannah, Georgia, in April sitting inside a squad car that was parked in front of the Precinct 1 station house. According to the officer who discovered him in the backseat with a "most disgusted look" on his face, Davis had entered the car looking for guns without realizing that the back doors of police cars automatically lock, from inside and out, when closed.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): illustration/Shawn Belschwender.