Probe: May 29, 2002

May 29, 2002

QUESTION: A group of county employees went to Pizza Hut for lunch the other day. On the window there was a sign: buffet — $4.99. I didn't order a drink. When I got my ticket it was almost $6. I complained and the cashier said there is a 50-cent surcharge to offset the increase in the minimum wage and energy cost. Isn't it misleading to advertise one price and charge another?— Overcharged, El Centro

Of course it's misleading. Had you ordered a drink, your $4.99 lunch could have set you back $7.31 with tax, according to Pedro Arguellas, a Pizza Hut employee.

That kind of discrepancy between what a customer expects to pay and the final tab could have some diners helping with the dishes after lunch, and others vowing to never set foot in the door again.

QUESTION: My 8-year-old twins and I lived with my mother until she died. I could not make the payments on her house so we had to move out. I moved in with my grandmother. My brother lives there, too, and it's awful.


In October I applied for Section Eight assistance and was put on the waiting list. In April the Imperial Valley Housing Authority told me I was 102nd on the list. When I checked again in May they said I was 134rd on the list. Why am I dropping back instead of moving forward? — Living with Grandma, El Centro

Housing Authority Director Andrea Roark insisted she couldn't discuss your case with us but since you were sitting at our desk, she said you had your position on the waiting list wrong.

You could be in an affordable place of your own in three or four months — less than a year after you applied. That's because you belong to an income bracket that's 30 percent of the area's median income.

Federal rules require 75 percent of Section 8 housing must go to the lowest income bracket. If your income were more than 30 percent, you would have to wait on a list for only 25 percent of subsidized housing vouchers. As you might expect, that list moves more slowly.

The Imperial Valley Housing Authority, with subsidies for 1,600 renters, has applied for money to issue vouchers to 100 more applicants.

But there never seems to be enough housing for the poor.

A GIFT — PEACE OF MIND — I was right that if you couldn't solve my problem, you could point me in the right direction. As you suggested, I contacted Carol Starr in Congressman Duncan Hunter's office.

I found her to be knowledgeable, kind and compassionate. A week after contacting Mr. Hunter's office, I received a reply from him with the results of his inquiry of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service.

Not only were our fears dissipated but we can now expect to hear from INS shortly. Words cannot express my gratitude to you, Ms. Starr and Mr. Hunter.

Stress aggravates my mother's illness and the three of you, along with the staff of the INS congressional inquiry unit, have given us an invaluable gift: peace of mind. — No Longer Anxious Daughter, Calexico

We're glad you have peace of mind. We also called INS and learned if INS sent a receipt after it received your application, you have no worries.

Having said that, we still don't know why INS can't spare the time to check a computer to put an applicant's mind at ease.

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