The candidate endorsed subsidies for private entrepreneurs to build low-income units. But, while he garnered support from developers, many projects in his former district have fallen into disrepair.
By Binyamin Appelbaum – Globe Staff / June 27, 2008
CHICAGO – 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.
Some of the residents of Grove Parc say they are angry that Obama did not notice their plight. The development straddles the boundary of Obama’s state Senate district. Many of the tenants have been his constituents for more than a decade.
“No one should have to live like this, and no one did anything about it,” said Cynthia Ashley, who has lived at Grove Parc since 1994.
Obama’s campaign, in a written response to Globe questions, affirmed the candidate’s support of public-private partnerships as an alternative to public housing, saying that Obama has “consistently fought to make livable, affordable housing in mixed-income neighborhoods available to all.”
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.
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.
Go to the Boston Globe’s newstory to finish reading this article and see the video of residents interviewed, and remember, Obama wants to give us a healthcare program, and based on this housing project and it’s outcome, I don’t think Mr. Obama is capable of pulling off all the Hope and Change he’s pushing.
I was listening to Dave Ramsey’s radio show during my lunch hour last week and heard this rant and felt it sizes up my feelings about America, the free market and the way of life I grew up with. It is also why I feel the Fair Tax is the best option. I have pulled the transcript from Dave’s site and it is well worth the read.
Butt Scratching and Bass Fishing
A couple of weeks ago, I worked late like I sometimes need to do to run my business. It was a nice Tennessee summer evening, and I was enjoying the drive home. About 7:30, as I pulled to a stop light a few blocks from my office, I noticed a light on in the corner office of a friend’s office building. Through the twilight I could make out my friend’s silhouette as he bent over his desk. Being a fellow entrepreneur, I knew what he was doing.
He was looking over some receivables. Some turkey hadn’t paid him, and he was trying to make his accounts balance so he would have the cash to make it another day. In that instant, I had a flashback to some of the ridiculous statements I’ve been hearing on the talking-head news channels and from some individuals during this political year. And I’ll be honest—I instantly felt the heat of anger flow through my body.
Let me tell you why. You see, my friend who I saw working late—we’ll call him Henry—is a great guy. He’s what you want your son to grow up to be. He loves God, his country, his wife, and his kids. He didn’t have the academic advantage of attending a big-name university. Instead, he started installing heating and air systems as a grunt laborer after he graduated from high school. He was and is a very hard and diligent worker, and before long, the boss taught him the trade. But when he was 24, after 6 years of service, the company he was working for got into financial trouble and laid him off.
Henry still had his tools, so he bought an old pickup to haul around his materials and tools, and suddenly he was in business. He knew about heating and air-conditioning, but not about business, so he made a lot of mistakes.
He persisted. He took accounting and management at the community college to learn about business. He started reading books on business, HVAC, marriage, kids, God, and anything else someone he respected recommended. Today he is one of the best-read men I know. Soon, because of his fabulous service and fair prices, he developed a great reputation, and his little business began to grow.
Henry started 15 years ago, and now he has 17 employees whose families are fed because he does a great job. He is in church on Sunday and seldom misses his kids’ Little League games. Sometimes he has to miss a game because some poor soul has their AC go out in the 96-degree Tennessee summer heat, but Henry makes sure they are served. He is, by all standards, a good man. He is, by all standards, what makes America great.
Henry and I are friends, and so he asked me some financial questions last year. I learned in the process that his personal taxable income last year was $328,000. I smiled with pride for this 70-hour a week guy because he is living the dream.
At the stop light that evening, I also thought of another guy I know—and that is where the anger flash came from. We will call him John. While John does not have the same drive Henry has, I can say that he, too, is a good man.
John also graduated from high school and did not attend a big-name university. He went to work at a local factory 15 years ago. When 5:00pm comes around, John has probably already made it to his car in the parking lot. He comes in 5 minutes late, takes frequent breaks, and leaves 5 minutes early. However, to his credit, he is steady and works hard.
Over the years, due to his steadiness and seniority, he has worked his way up to about $75,000 per year in that same factory. He seldom misses his kid’s ballgames, but
… most nights you will find him in front of the TV where he has become an expert on “American Idol,” “The Biggest Loser,” and who got thrown off the island. When he is not in front of the TV, he spends a LOT of time and money bass fishing on our local lake. He never works over 40 hours a week and hasn’t read a non-fiction book since high school.
This is America, and there is nothing wrong with either set of choices. Nothing wrong, that is, until the politicians and socialists get involved …
Being a history nut and a recovering pack-rat, I absolutely found this story interesting and fun to read. Oh if those walls could talk… and judging by the volume of documents and writings found… they almost do! It’s from an Associated Press story, found on Comcast.net News.
CENTREVILLE, Md. — For four centuries, they were the ultimate pack rats. Now a Maryland family’s massive collection of letters, maps and printed bills has surfaced in the attic of a former plantation, providing a firsthand account of life from the 1660s through World War II.
“Historians are used to dealing with political records and military documents,” said Adam Goodheart, a history professor at nearby Washington College. “But what they aren’t used to is political letters and military documents kept right alongside bills for laundry or directions for building a washing machine.”
Goodheart is working with state archivists and a crew of four student interns to collect the documents, which were found stuffed into boxes, barrels and peach baskets.
“Look at this: ‘Negro woman, Sarah, about 27 years old, $25,'” Goodheart says, reading from a 19th century inventory. “It was as though this family never threw away a scrap of paper.”
The documents include maps, letters, financial records, political posters, even a lock of hair from a letter dated Valentine’s Day, 1801. There’s a love poem from the 1830s (in which a young man graphically tells his sweetheart what he’d do if he sneaked into her room on a winter’s night), along with war accounts and bills of sale from slaves and crops.
The papers come from several generations of the Emory family, prominent tobacco and wheat farmers who settled here on a land grant from Lord Baltimore in the 1660s.
The former Poplar Grove plantation is still in family hands, though the mansion now is used only as a hunting lodge. The documents were moldering in an attic until students touring the house started sorting through them this spring.
“I don’t believe any of us knew these papers were there,” said Mary Wood, an Emory cousin whose son inherited the plantation in 1998. “We didn’t go there all that often, and when you do, you don’t go up in people’s attics and look around.”
Washington College has had access to the plantation for years, but Goodheart said he assumed the papers in the attic weren’t old or important.
They aren’t in any particular order, and some are mouse-eaten tatters that look like something out of “The Da Vinci Code.”
“You really get a sense of the range of America through these papers,” said Edward Papenfuse, director of the Maryland State Archives, which will eventually house them.
Perhaps most strikingly, letters tell of a family’s torn allegiances during the Civil War. The Emorys lived on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, across Chesapeake Bay from Baltimore, where the plantation economy of the South ended and the abolitionist industrial North began.
It was a conflict the Emorys catalogued, anti-slavery petitions stacked alongside records of slaves sent to Natchez, Miss., and a packet of letters, still tied in silk ribbon, titled, “Correspondence with W.H. Emory and wife in regard to his resignation from U.S. Army, 1861.”
The Emorys owned slaves, but some signed an 1832 petition to the Maryland legislature calling for the gradual eradication of slavery.
One family member, William H. Emory, was a colonel in the U.S. Army when the Civil War began. He wrote out a resignation of his post, then changed his mind and fought for the Union.
Two sons also fought in the Civil War — one for the Union, one for the Confederacy. Bundles of letters from all family members detail their divided feelings. The family kept not just personal letters, but political posters about the conflict.
“These are things that usually do not survive,” Papenfuse said, pointing to a broadside blasting then-President Martin Van Buren for favoring voting rights for “every free negro.” “After the heat of a campaign, this printed matter was thrown out or put to other uses, including the outhouse.”
Not so at the Emory house, where even small scraps of paper were kept alongside military uniforms and other family heirlooms.
The collection also includes notes on an aspect of slavery historians know little about: the practice of renting slave labor to neighbors and plantations farther south.
“Scholars have not paid a great deal of attention to it, but this is something that helps recreate and draw back together the lives of these people who were considered chattel,” Papenfuse said.
Relatives are also curious to know what historians find.
“I can’t believe they didn’t throw this stuff out,” Wood said with a chuckle. “I mean, it’s kind of weird. It’s fascinating, though. I can’t believe that something might come out of it.”
Washington College Poplar Grove project: http://news.washcoll.edu/events/2003/06/fieldschool
Anyone who reads much on this blog, knows that my co-blogger and I are “dog people”. This post is about my best girl and angel dog whom I affectionately named “Annie” after the little Orphan chronicled by comic strip artist Harold Gray in 1924. She came to me when I was a single mother living in a rougher neighborhood with my son, who was then in kindergarten. On the day Annie “choose us”, my son was playing with his friend from Montessori school out in the front yard, and they came in the house excited, “Mommy, come see the dog we found”!! Out in my front yard was a gorgeous, black retriever. She wouldn’t come to us, but she didn’t go away. I went inside and got a bowl and put serveral cans of tuna in it and got another bowl and put milk in it. Then I opened the gate on the fence and put the milk on the patio and took the tuna around front and showed it to her. I let her follow me around to the back patio and put the bowl down, instructing the boys to go inside along with me so she’d come in the backyard to eat. After about 3 days of feeding her, she got to where she’d be in the backyard when we returned home from school and work. On day three she came inside the house. We cleaned her up, gave her a collar and she became a part of the family. I could tell, she had been a mommy as her breasts were still stretched from nursing and had been dumped. She was afraid of older, gray haired men and wouldn’t let them in the front door, she was terrified of thunderstorms and would shake if you raised your voice or arms above waist level. She was about 2 years old when I took her to the Vet to have her shots done and to get her spayed.
We worked through her fears that obviously stemmed from her being abused, and she was absolutely a joy around children. She helped me teach my young son the lesson of total love and loyalty and that sometimes you get so much better than you give. Annie became a part of our small family and always gave us love and joy without fail. Yesterday, we said goodbye to our sick angel as she peacefully passed on to the “Rainbow Bridge”. Thank you Annie for all the years of happiness and “best friendship” you gave us. You are sadly missed and will be lovingly remembered for the rest of our lives.
My mother died in 1997 and my father died in 2001. I find myself thinking back at the enormous impact they both had on my life, so I thought I would share a memory or two that I highly prize and invite you to do the same. I have very strong feelings about how all children need a lot of involvement with their parents and I was richly blessed because I have so many fond memories, that when I think back on the warmth of their love and concern for so many years of my life, it fills me with comfort and gratitude. Even now that they are gone, I still have those wonderful memories and it is a gift I so very much hope my own son’s will have when I am gone.
The one thing that I remember most about my mother, was the sense of pride I felt when she walked into a room. She was a working mother, a telephone operator at Indiana Bell for many years while I was growing up. One thing mother always did was allocate some of her “days off” to do things with us kids at our schools. She would work at one of our parties and sometimes just come to the school to have lunch with us. One memory that stands out in my mind was when she came for lunch when I was in 2nd grade. She was working split shifts at the time and decided to come have lunch with me before she went home to do housework and take a “nap” before going back to work another 4 hours that evening. She walked into the classroom in a very nice, classy dress, her hair and makeup meticulously done, but not over done and I felt so proud that she was my mother. We had lunch and talked and laughed, my teacher let her see some of my work and when we went to recess Mom walked the playgroud with me and many of the girls in my class walked with us and some held her other hand. Mother’s compassion and kindness lent her an aura of magic. When mother passed away, there were so many people that came for visitation, so many who hadn’t seen her for 30 or 40 years, but relayed some wonderful stories about her and why after so many years, they felt compelled to come and share them with us. I will always, in my mind and heart, carry her memory with me and have the comfort it gives me until I myself pass on. What a wonderful gift it is.
My father was a former Marine and a die maker for GM. He spent about 9 years coaching little league, was a tremendous joker and prankster, and you couldn’t go anywhere with him that usually serveral people would approach and greet him with great enthusiasm. Dad had the heart and soul of a saint as well. I remember when I was little, before I started school, he would get me up in the morning, dress me and put me in a ponytail, (usually he wasn’t too concerned whether my clothes matched, only that they were clean and pressed, and the ponytail was always crooked but neat) and we would go to run errands… the bank, the grocery, the post office and sometimes we’d meet Mom for lunch at the Beacon Pharmacy lunch counter or we’d just stop off at the gas station to see the older man who owned it and I would sit on the counter drinking a soda pop, listen to Dad tease the patrons and Bill would give me a handful of penny Tootsie Rolls! Dad had a way of making me feel like the Center of the Universe, so I understood from a young age why Mom married him. He was the most honorable, funny, trustworthy, man one could ever have for a Dad, a husband, a family member or a friend. He always valued his integrity and that value served him well always. And like my Mom, I was always proud to call him Dad (except maybe when he evil eyed my dates in high school????) LOL! That was my Dad!
Please feel free to share your valued memories of your parents. Sometimes, it can just improve the day to put them out there and smile. …musings of HoosierArmyMom