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Who’s in Charge?




Voting Has Closed

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“What? That can’t be right!” Jayleen held a Notice to Quit from Mallum Properties, LLC in her hand. It was signed by an Edwin Perez, Esq., but didn’t name the law firm.
Throwing it on the kitchen table, Jayleen gathered her things and hurried off to work at the Chili Shack. By the time the midday crowd came in she had made ten gallons of chili, five of cold slaw, and five of potato salad. With Bob and Layla working the counter, she took out her phone and sat on the picnic table behind the Shack.
“Hey, Anita. I got an eviction letter this morning. You get one?”
“Yeah, babe, and so did everybody else in the building. Old Mr. Kolbe from upstairs was here and he ain’t happy.”
“What’s going on? My rent’s paid. Why they kicking us out?”
“Dunno. Kolbe says maybe they gonna upgrade. Evict us and rent to rich people.”
“What? I never been late in 12 years. I’m gonna see Mallum!”
“Good luck with that, honey. That man be bad!”
While Jayleen hastily washed out the pots and cleaned the tiny kitchen, she wished again she owned her own restaurant.
“Bob,” she told her boss, “I gotta run. I got an eviction notice. I’m going to see Mallum.”
“Hoo, boy,” he replied, “that ain’t good!”
The conversation with the girl at the office only served to jack up Jayleen’s frustration.
“I’m sorry, Mrs. Hawes, but all the tenants at 39 Dyer Street are month to month and can be terminated at any time. Mr. Mallum has plans for the building and wants it vacated ASAP.”
“What plans?”
“I couldn’t say. You’ll have to talk to him”
Jayleen leaned on the counter. “Tell him I want to see him.”
“I’ll have him call you when he gets back next week.”
When the queen of chili got back to the comfortable old six-family, Anita called down the hall, “Jayleen, come!” Sybil from 3A and Mr. Kolbe from 3B were there. Nobody was home downstairs, so the four of them got down to business.
“Everybody got letters?”
“Yeah. Can he do that — kick us out?”
“I don’t see how,” Jayleen answered. “But the girl at the office says Mallum wants us out ’cause he’s got plans.”
“What plans?” demanded Sybil, her black eyes smoldering.
Jayleen shrugged. “She couldn’t say.”
The three women tried to guess what he was up to. Mr. Kolbe said quietly, “He don’t own it, you know.”
“What?” cried Sybil. “You sure? How you know that?”
“Couple years ago the city was talking about redeveloping. Nothing come of it, but they mentioned the owner on the news. It wasn’t Mallum.”
“How can we find out?” Jayleen asked.
“City Hall,” said the old gentleman. “They got the names of all the building owners.”
The next day Jayleen left the washing and cleaning for Layla, called a taxi, and went to City Hall. At the tax assessors office the clerk wrote on a slip of paper: “39 Dyer St. — Christopher Godwin,” and an address in Indiana.
Back home her daughter asked, “Mama, where you been?”
“Honey, I been on an errand of mercy, so we don’t have to move — I hope.” She explained the situation to her daughter over their dinner of fried ham and beans. “Now you start your homework while I go to Anita’s and we do some homework of our own.”
The tenants from all six apartments squeezed into Anita’s cluttered living room to write letters to Christopher Godwin. Mr. Kolbe insisted they say nothing personal about Mr. Mallum, just the facts. When the letters were signed and ready, Mrs. Salvatore from 1A dropped them in the box across the street.
Monday of the following week someone tucked a folded piece of Mallum Properties letterhead under everyone’s door with orders to move out by the end of the month. Mr. Kolbe spent thirty minutes on the phone with Legal Aid, only to report that the owner could, in fact, evict, but it would probably take longer than Mallum expected.
Two days later who should show up but the sheriff. He delivered official notice to every door and informed each family they had 30 days to vacate or their belongings would be put in storage and the locks changed.
Jayleen tried but couldn’t hold back her tears. “I feel like a common criminal,” she sobbed. “I’ve never felt so ashamed.” The families shared their plans with each other and began packing. She, Anita, and Mr. Kolbe met for some serious praying.
When she got home from the Chili Shack of Friday, she saw an official looking letter in her mailbox. She groaned. But on examination she discovered it was from CG Realty Holdings, Inc. Three pages of legalese seemed to suggest that the evictions were on hold. Hardly daring to hope, she went to see Mr. Kolbe.
“That’s right, Ms. Hawes,” he beamed, “we don’t have to move. And look.” He pointed at the last paragraph, which announced an informational meeting at 7 Dyer Street the next morning.
Jayleen got to the office early to find it jammed with people — not just from number 39, but other neighbors as well. A girl she had never seen ushered folks into the crowded meeting room.
Silence fell as a tall man introduced himslef as Christopher Godwin of CG Realty Holdings. The company had terminated Mallum Properties and now managed its own buildings. Evictions were canceled and tenants were invited to sign a one year lease at their current rent. But the most surprising announcement was that a complex of offices and stores was being built on the vacant lot across the street. CGRH would soon offer retail space and low-interest loans for new enterprises.
A year later Jayleen opened her very own TEX-Mex eatery with throbbing music and fluttering flags. She pointed out the name of the new buildings for the local TV camaras: GODWIN’S ON DYER.

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