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July 01, 2008

Barack Obama, Ghetto Lord

Kaus calls this "Obama's Katrina," explaining that if Obama is running on his record as a community activist and advocate, it's a pretty big deal a housing project he had his hand in is an almost-unlivable slum.

Dropping a bomb into a neighborhood and getting shot down by incompetence isn't a qualification for the presidency either. Is it?

The squat brick buildings of Grove Parc Plaza, in a dense neighborhood that Barack Obama represented for eight years as a state senator, hold 504 apartments subsidized by the federal government for people who can't afford to live anywhere else.

But it's not safe to live here.

About 99 of the units are vacant, many rendered uninhabitable by unfixed problems, such as collapsed roofs and fire damage. Mice scamper through the halls. Battered mailboxes hang open. Sewage backs up into kitchen sinks. In 2006, federal inspectors graded the condition of the complex an 11 on a 100-point scale - a score so bad the buildings now face demolition.

Grove Parc has become a symbol for some in Chicago of the broader failures of giving public subsidies to private companies to build and manage affordable housing - an approach strongly backed by Obama as the best replacement for public housing.

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.

...

The campaign did not respond to questions about whether Obama was aware of the problems with buildings in his district during his time as a state senator, nor did it comment on the roles played by people connected to the senator.

Guess who benefited from Obama's schemes?

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.

...

"They are rapidly displacing poor people, and these companies are profiting from this displacement," said Matt Ginsberg-Jaeckle of Southside Together Organizing for Power, a community group that seeks to help tenants stay in the same neighborhoods.

"The same exact people who ran these places into the ground," the private companies paid to build and manage the city's affordable housing, "now are profiting by redeveloping them."

Perhaps Obama had good intentions here. Trouble is, he has a decidedly thin resume, and one of the biggest bullet points on it reads Miserable Failure.

Not that it matters. Obama is not only post-ideology, he's post-competency. Whether he's an incompetent hack promoted beyond his merits by the corrupt Chicago Machine is just a distraction.

How will asking about how Obama's meager legal initiatives have actually worked or not possibly help Michelle Obama's kids?


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posted by Ace at 09:24 PM

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