Paul Graziano has been housing commissioner of Baltimore City for 3 administrations, and after nearly 15 years of service, many in Baltimore are now wondering what they have to show for his tenure besides broken promises and dereliction of duty.
Communities throughout Baltimore have presented two distinct reasons why Mr. Graziano should be fired. First, it is the job of the housing commissioner to develop a strategy to effectively deal with blight and vacant housing, yet Black Baltimore continues to decay. There has been no significant progress made on these fronts even though he has been commissioner for three consecutive mayors, only flourishes of gentrification and displacement spun as “urban renewal”. These failures have real material consequences for people in our communities. A 78 year old woman in Park Heights named Ms.Convington was hospitalized due to the stress of the ineffective communication and administration on the part of the Department of Housing , whose botched relocation plan left her without water and electricity for days.
Another major incident is the controversy around maintenance workers in the Gilmore Homes public housing complex, where Freddie Gray lived and tragically died, demanding sexual favors in exchange for doing maintenance for residents. While there have not been any convictions or settlements yet, it is my assessment, one shared by many in the community, that Mr. Graziano’s lack of response to the complaints, which were filed for years, shows gross negligence and should cost him his job. The use of institutional leverage in order to solicit sex is not a new, but what is frustrating is the fact that often Black women have no effective recourse to respond to these advances, left to suffer due to the failure of those in power to respond with appropriate urgency.
This is just another example of why it is necessary that the people who operate the institutions which govern our lives are immersed in the culture/history of, and materially invested in, the communities they claim to serve. It is hard for me to understand why Mr. Graziano is not being more severely scrutinized for such major incidents. But again, in a society that is structured by racism/White Supremacy, it makes sense that the lives of Black people are deemed not worthy of appropriate outrage.
I don’t know what kind of leverage, or dirt Mr. Graziano has on our political leadership, but when will they be brave enough to urge the firing of Paul Graziano?