Peter Jack is 74 years old, broke and possessed of a short fuse.

The Santa Fe Civic Housing Authority is remodeling the complex where Jack pays $101 a month to rent a publicly subsidized apartment. He says a bumbling construction crew kept cutting off the water without notice.

“I’ve been in construction all my life. I know the rules and regulations,” Jack said.

He was in the shower one day when the spigot went dry again. Jack admits he crossed a line by threatening the supervisor of the crew that’s fixing up the Villa Consuelo Apartments, 1200 Camino Consuelo.

Ed Romero, executive director of the housing authority, has a more vivid description of what Jack told the crew chief.

“He said, ‘I’m going to kill you,’ ” Romero said.

“Grossly exaggerated,” Jack said. “I did say I’d knock his head off.”

Jack estimates the man he threatened is 20 or 30 years younger than he is. Could Jack have won a physical confrontation with him?

“Quite honestly, yeah,” Jack said.

He didn’t again threaten the contractors, but they have clashed more than once.

Jack said he grew tired of the remodeling crew hogging parking spaces in the complex. He taped a message over a sign near his unit. It said parking was only for residents and their guests.

Romero’s staff was not impressed with his rule-making. It wrote up Jack for misconduct.

Jack’s threat against the contractor brought another violation notice from the housing authority.

Jack said he interpreted the second letter to be a letter of eviction. He said he was told to be out by Tuesday, despite the novel coronavirus pandemic.

“I don’t have any place to go, and I don’t have any money,” Jack said. “I’m not leaving.”

Romero said the housing authority would have to go to court to evict Jack, a step it has not taken.

“We don’t throw seniors out, but sometimes you have to threaten them to get their attention,” Romero said. “We could choose to proceed with court hearings, but we haven’t done that.”

Romero said he had planned for a member of his staff to meet with Jack this week.

“How we do that becomes a tricky thing during a pandemic,” Romero said.

The agency doesn’t want to risk exposing anyone to infection. Still, Romero said, it has to deliver a message to Jack. His threat cannot be discounted as idle.

“If he doesn’t want to be evicted, he must behave,” Romero said. “He takes it to another level. He has had a history of losing control of his temper. We’ve been through this six, eight, 10 times.”

Jack summed up his reaction in two words: “Grossly misrepresented.”

Jack said the contractors had been inconsiderate. In turn, he sank to threatening bodily harm.

His remorse has limits.

“They don’t try working with the residents whatsoever,” Jack said.

Romero’s agency last summer received heavy public criticism for telling senior tenants at another complex to remove plants and flowers outside their apartments or be hit with violations. Tenants said this was a step toward forcing them out.

The property manager ordered one woman, a master gardener, to cut down trees that buffered her unit from a playground where vagrants gathered. One stranger broke her window with a rock.

Under written threat of eviction, the woman authorized cutting of her prized trees.

Romero called it off moments after I phoned his office. The trees could stay. All they needed was a trimming, he said.

The woman later moved out of state, and the housing authority chopped down the trees.

Jack’s case is more confrontational. Romero said the housing authority intends to be reasonable with him.

“We’ve only had two or three evictions of seniors in 20 years,” Romero said. “And those were cases of younger relatives moving into to the units and then causing problems on top of it.”

Jack, an Englishman with legal immigration status, has lived in the United States for 46 years.

He says he’s promised himself to keep his emotions in check and steer clear of trouble with the housing authority. His reasons are obvious.

Jack has no interest in moving across town, much less across the pond.

Ringside Seat is an opinion column about people, politics and news. Contact Milan Simonich at msimonich@sfnewmexican.com or 505-986-3080.

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(6) comments

Khal Spencer

People change. In 1968 I ran around our high school with a Nixon's the One button. In 1972, I registered as a Democrat. Lately I feel like registering as an Independent but would get iced out of the primary.

Big deal.

Mike Johnson

True Khal, lots of things change after you are gung ho ROTC, and then you get sent to 'Nam.......[rolleyes]

Richard Reinders

In New Mexico you need to be a Democrat if you want to have some say so and at least pick a candidate in the primary that will keep the party centered and vote the way you want in the main election.

Jim Klukkert

It is indeed illuminating that you have at least one reason to register as a Dem. Your unrelenting support for our 'duly elected' President, though through an undemocratic system where the Frump lost the popular vote, made me suspect you were a republican,

But feel free to leave the Democratic Party at any time.

William Craig

Yes, party-swapping seems to suggest slipperiness. Remember Harvard MBA Michael Bloomberg switched 3 times — first to the GOP to run for NYC mayor just before 9/11 (he won riding Giuliani’s coattails), then becoming independent halfway through his 12-year mayoralty, then switching back to Democrat in 2018 to run (sort of) for POTUS.

Slippery Sen. Arlen Specter was a Democrat on the Warren Commission (where he promoted the “magic bullet” story of JFK’s death), but he had become a Republican by the time he was Ira Einhorn’s lawyer. (Einhorn, who claimed to be the founder of Earth Day, left the body of his girlfriend from Texas decomposing in his apartment for 1½ years — Sen. Specter helped him escape to Europe in collusion with prosecutor Ed Rendell who set a low bail, and socialite Barbara Bronfman who extended financial largesse.)

Despite all that, Specter thought he should be the Republican to beat Bill Clinton in 1996. (Specter is no relation to producer Phil Spector, who killed a woman in his mansion.)

Mike Johnson

Yes of course, the "Unicorn Killer". He died in prison while serving a life sentence about 6 weeks ago, not COVID related.

Welcome to the discussion.

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