Obama's Real Record: Public Housing
Obama helps rich friends but hurts communities
By Kevin Holtsberry Posted in 2008 | 2008 Presidential Campaign | Barack Obama | Obamafiles — Comments (17) / Email this page » / Leave a comment »
Need proof that Obama's Hope and Change rhetoric is all symbolism and no substance? Look no farther than this devastating Boston Globe investigation:
As a state senator, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee coauthored an Illinois law creating a new pool of tax credits for developers. As a US senator, he pressed for increased federal subsidies. And as a presidential candidate, he has campaigned on a promise to create an Affordable Housing Trust Fund that could give developers an estimated $500 million a year.
But a Globe review found that thousands of apartments across Chicago that had been built with local, state, and federal subsidies - including several hundred in Obama's former district - deteriorated so completely that they were no longer habitable.
Grove Parc and several other prominent failures were developed and managed by Obama's close friends and political supporters. Those people profited from the subsidies even as many of Obama's constituents suffered. Tenants lost their homes; surrounding neighborhoods were blighted.
Shockingly it all comes back to friends and money. Read on.
Guess who benefited from this scam:
Among those tied to Obama politically, personally, or professionally are:
Valerie Jarrett, a senior adviser to Obama's presidential campaign and a member of his finance committee. Jarrett is the chief executive of Habitat Co., which managed Grove Parc Plaza from 2001 until this winter and co-managed an even larger subsidized complex in Chicago that was seized by the federal government in 2006, after city inspectors found widespread problems.
Allison Davis, a major fund-raiser for Obama's US Senate campaign and a former lead partner at Obama's former law firm. Davis, a developer, was involved in the creation of Grove Parc and has used government subsidies to rehabilitate more than 1,500 units in Chicago, including a North Side building cited by city inspectors last year after chronic plumbing failures resulted in raw sewage spilling into several apartments.
Antoin "Tony" Rezko, perhaps the most important fund-raiser for Obama's early political campaigns and a friend who helped the Obamas buy a home in 2005. Rezko's company used subsidies to rehabilitate more than 1,000 apartments, mostly in and around Obama's district, then refused to manage the units, leaving the buildings to decay to the point where many no longer were habitable.
Campaign finance records show that six prominent developers - including Jarrett, Davis, and Rezko - collectively contributed more than $175,000 to Obama's campaigns over the last decade and raised hundreds of thousands more from other donors. Rezko alone raised at least $200,000, by Obama's own accounting.
One of those contributors, Cecil Butler, controlled Lawndale Restoration, the largest subsidized complex in Chicago, which was seized by the government in 2006 after city inspectors found more than 1,800 code violations.
[. . .]
And although he has distanced himself from Rezko, Obama has remained close to others in the development community. Jarrett participates in the campaign's senior staff meetings. And Obama chose another close friend, Martin Nesbitt, as his campaign treasurer. Nesbitt is chairman of the Chicago Housing Authority, one of the key overseers of the shift toward private management and development.
Read the whole article. It is damning. Close friends, critical campaign fundraisers, and important supporters make a bunch of money off of government subsidized housing projects while the projects themselves fall into disrepair and the tenants suffer. Obama claims to know nothing about all this money being wasted and his friends bilking the system.
Instead of development and growth it is just another story of Chicago politics where the powerful and connected make money and poor people are left to suffer; where the government pours more and more money into projects with the same results. This is hope and change? This is Obama's home turf. This is supposedly one of his passions.
And yet look what the people working on this issue are left to say:
Jamie Kalven, a longtime Chicago housing activist, put it this way: "I hope there is not much predictive value in his history and in his involvement with that community."
They are left to hope that Obama's rhetoric has more meaning than his actual actions and history. This is a recipe for disappointment and disaster.
Ignore his words and look at his record. That is the only way we can avoid a repeat at the national level where the stakes are even higher.
Cross posted at the Stop Him Now blog.