Who’s On Welfare? They’re working on it . . .


So I was trying to get information from the Dept. of Social Services about the population that receives Welfare or Medicaid.  This search for information had taken me to the Dooher family, who work for the county, which had led me to a learned discourse on How to Beat the Civil Service System.  I had learned this from Comptroller David Elleman. 

He told me that one of the things you do if you want to hire a specific person—not the best qualified person according to Civil Service testing, but the one you want for whatever reason—then the first thing you do is stall until the last day before the deadline.  While you stall, the most qualified people get jobs elsewhere; they don’t know that there’s an opening in your department.  Then you send out letters to the people who are still on the list and you start doing negative interviews.  When a qualified person comes in, you act like a really mean boss and portray the job as something unpleasant, in other words, you make it so nasty that the applicant turns down the job.  You work your way down the list until you get to the guy you had already chosen.

One of the purposes of the Civil Service system is to prevent nepotism, i.e., hiring relatives regardless of merit.  Nevertheless, when I worked in the comptroller’s office, the girl next to me said she got her job because her mother went to school with the deputy comptroller, and another girl in the office was the daughter of the director of Van Duyn nursing home.  One of the reasons county services are so bad is because county employees are so bad, and one of the reasons county employees are so bad is because county administrators are giving jobs to friends, relatives and financial contributors, not to the best qualified applicant.  Taxpayers are not getting the qualified employees for whom they are paying.

So George the Younger Dooher is working as an intake specialist in the Dept. of Social Services where his father, George the Elder Dooher, is the assistant commissioner, and maybe both men have superior qualifications and are doing splendid jobs.  I have no personal knowledge of either man.  I do, however, know a bunch of things about how the Republican Party and the administrators in the Onondaga County government have corrupted the system.

So I call George the Elder and ask him about my request for information.  He says he forwarded it to DSS Commissioner David Sutkowy “a week or two ago.”  So I call the Dept. of Social Services, press 1 for the commissioner’s office, and listen to silence.  The phone isn’t ringing.  I patiently listen to silence, thinking that it’s one thing not to answer your phone when people you don’t want to talk to call you, but wouldn’t it be an altogether superior thing not to have your phone even ring?  You could program your phone with the numbers of people you don’t want to talk to and then program it not to ring when they call.  Wouldn’t that be super?  Stay tuned—somebody’s sure to develop the idea.

So I re-dial and accept the proffered opportunity to leave a message for Commissioner Sutkowy, who calls me back within the hour, however, I am sick and I am sleeping when the phone rings.  I can’t find my glasses, pen and paper, or the phone, and I’m trying to listen to Sutkowy while my breathing machine is hissing away, so I’m not entirely sure what he said but the gist of it is that he has referred my questions to Manny, Moe and Jack, or Curly, Larry and Moe, or—at any rate—two other guys, one of whom is “financial” and one of whom is not.  They will write reports and send them to him and then he will send them to me.  This is the speed of government lite.

In my befuddled state I make some noise, which causes Sutkowy to get defensive and say that this information isn’t just lying around.  And I wonder why not?  Let’s re-visit the information requested:

1.      Demographics of people receiving Medicaid/Welfare:  Sex, race, age, marital status, geographical area, level of education.

2.     How much is in the Onondaga County budget for direct Medicaid and Welfare payments?  How much is paid by the state or federal government?  What is the average monthly payment to a person on Welfare?

3.     On average, how long does a recipient receive Welfare?

4.     Are Welfare/Medicaid payments made to (a) healthy single men; (b) non-citizens; (c) drug addicts; (d) people with criminal records (felony or misdemeanor)?

5.     How have the figures changed over the past five years?

Question number one requires adding up the numbers from the questions that are answered on the application (with the possible exception of level of education).  I would think that a computer program would be routinely cumulating those numbers.

Question two wants seven numbers, which certainly ought to be in the budget, and which the County Legislature votes every year.

Question three is one number.  Question four is simple yes/no policy answers that should be known to every frontline intake worker.  Question five would require going to the archives and getting the same information for five years ago.  That might be a challenge.  Anyway, what I’m looking for is one page with a couple dozen numbers on it.  I expect that what I will get from Mr. Sutkowy’s report writers is something between six and forty pages of words.

But I’m an activist, which means I find ways to get things done, like gathering information.  Check back real soon for another way to do this.

About annecwoodlen

I am a tenth generation American, descended from a family that has been working a farm that was deeded to us by William Penn. The country has changed around us but we have held true. I stand in my grandmother’s kitchen, look down the valley to her brother’s farm and see my great-great-great-great-great-grandmother Hannah standing on the porch. She is holding the baby, surrounded by four other children, and saying goodbye to her husband and oldest son who are going off to fight in the Revolutionary War. The war is twenty miles away and her husband will die fighting. We are not the Daughters of the American Revolution; we were its mothers. My father, Milton C. Woodlen, got his doctorate from Temple University in the 1940’s when—in his words—“a doctorate still meant something.” He became an education professor at West Chester State Teachers College, where my mother, Elizabeth Hope Copeland, had graduated. My mother raised four girls and one boy, of which I am the middle child. My parents are deceased and my siblings are estranged. My fiancé, Robert H. Dobrow, was a fighter pilot in the Marine Corps. In 1974, his plane crashed, his parachute did not open, and we buried him in a cemetery on Long Island. I could say a great deal about him, or nothing; there is no middle ground. I have loved other men; Bob was my soul mate. The single greatest determinate of who I am and what my life has been is that I inherited my father’s gene for bipolar disorder, type II. Associated with all bipolar disorders is executive dysfunction, a learning disability that interferes with the ability to sort and organize. Despite an I.Q. of 139, I failed twelve subjects and got expelled from high school and prep school. I attended Syracuse University and Onondaga Community College and got an associate’s degree after twenty-five years. I am nothing if not tenacious. Gifted with intelligence, constrained by disability, and compromised by depression, my employment was limited to entry level jobs. Being female in the 1960’s meant that I did office work—billing at the university library, calling out telegrams at Western Union, and filing papers at a law firm. During one decade, I worked at about a hundred different places as a temporary secretary. I worked for hospitals, banks, manufacturers and others, including the county government. I quit the District Attorney’s Office to manage a gas station; it was more honest work. After Bob’s death, I started taking antidepressants. Following doctor’s orders, I took them every day for twenty-six years. During that time, I attempted%2
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